Category Archives: parenting

Why I don’t want my kids to be successful

I turned on the TV for a couple minutes last night to see Bear Grylls and Nick Jonas try to conquer a mountain. Nick gets a rat put down his pants. I let my kid play Marvel Lego Superheroes on the TV at this point.

But not before Bear and Nick had a conversation. Bear gave Nick a great chance. He opened the door for him to talk about his faith. And purity rings, etc. I don’t know where Nick Jonas is. But I know where he came from and his “I’ve developed my own worldview from back then” was to me deeply saddening. Not because I dislike Mr. Jonas. But I happen to be among those who believe in his parent’s worldview. And I’m not really sure what Nick Jonas’s worldview is.

By all outward signs, Nick Jonas is successful. But if that’s what success is, I’m not sure I want my kids to be successful.

I don’t want them to play pro ball of any kind. The pressure, the public adulation, the hubris.

I don’t want them to start an internet start up and make millions in their early 20ies. The decisions, the worldview at that age.

If success means abandoning the faith, I don’t want my kids to succeed. I have no control over whether my children choose to remain in the faith as they grow. Each person’s faith is ultimately individual. But my goals and aspirations for them, that I can control.

If success means learning that money is more important than people, I don’t want my kids to succeed.

Power, prestige, influence. In the right time and place, with the right character foundation, these are still dangerous.

What I want is for my kids to be deeply committed to Jesus. To their faith. The one they embraced willingly. The faith that connects them to generations of believers who have given over pursuing success to pursue eternity. That’s something I want to invest into them, because I believe their success hinges on it.

But ultimately, what I want is only part of the equation. They will define success on their terms as well. As a parent though, my definition of success is something that I must realize I pass along as well.

Success for me is remaining in the faith.

Success is being a person of moral character and integrity

Success is healthy interpersonal relationships

Success is a growing self knowledge and understanding.

Financial skills, my kids need those. Fame, not so much. Empowerment for living a full life, absolutely.

I wish the best to Nick Jonas. I hope things turn out well for him with all the decisions he is making as his own man. I respect him for making his own decisions, don’t get me wrong. We don’t need a world of automatons. AND

If my children walk away from my faith, I’ll still love them. Desperately.  They are mine. I will always be proud of them. They may be successful.

But in my worldview, I won’t be.


IMG credit:


Accidental parenting genius

My parents are great. Loving, affirming, invested, they were great. Not perfect though. They were still annoying, out of touch, awkward and all those things that good parents are required to be by some strange law of nature.

Take for instance my dad. Dad doesn’t go to movies, but he likes to watch them at home. Usually, that meant that we kids were exposed to movies long before they came out on VHS (yes, those were the days). As a teenager, I consistently remember my dad asking us whether or not he should see a movie.

Think about it. Normally, parents are advising their kids on what movies they should or should not see. Here I was, a 15 year old kid, advising my dad on whether or not he should see a movie.

I was sharing this story with a friend today and when I realized what my dad had been doing, I called him up on the way home and asked him:

“Dad, was that on purpose or just accidental?” It was accidental he assured me. I’m going to make it intentional.

Just telling us, or even advising us, on the correct choices would never had helped us grow our moral and character choices. But by putting his trust in our choices, he actually did two things.

First, he trusted us to make good decisions with our media choices. That’s the top level.

But the accidental genius was forcing us to make moral choices for him that would reflect the values he had taught us. By placing his choices into our hands, he empowered us in an entirely different way. We had to be able to make decisions not based upon our friends’ value systems, or the value system the school taught us (we watched most movies on buses headed to sport’s competitions), but upon the values that dad held, and hoped that we would as well. If we made poor choices, he would “suffer” the consequences.

We were now the guardians of our parents. Not only were we responsible for our own choices, but we were resposbible for their choices too.

Powerful parenting.

Totally accidental. But something I’m adding to my intentional mix.

3 things that Great parents teach that good parents don’t.

3 things that great parents teach that good parents don’t.

what great parents teach

Loving your kids is what average parents do.

Caring for your kids needs is what average parents do.

Appropriate physical affection is what average parents do. (Give your kids hugs. Its not rocket science, though it is simple, good science. ) Grounding your kids in their faith. Basic assumption.

After working with young adults for the last 20 years, I’ve found that young people who start their adult lives with these 3 skills lead healthier, better lives than their counterparts, who come from “good families.”

  1. Great parents teach their kids how to manage money and build wealth.

Many families struggle with money. The expectation, it seems, from children at least, is that education through a bachelors degree should be paid for. However, credit card companies target young adults because they know if they can get them in a cycle of debt, they will keep them there for a long time. Great parents give their kids a firm understanding of the real costs of living, helping them to understand budgeting and money management. Even more helpful would be teaching them to invest. My first job offered a company matching 401(k). I had no idea what that was, and turned down the opportunity to begin early. How I wish I hadn’t, 22 years later. Again, buying a house early means the possibility of a paid off mortgage in your early 40ies.

I’m not getting any kickback (though I’m open to it 🙂 ) But start here with Dave Ramsey’s stuff. 

  1. Great parents teach their kids about relationships

My first week of college, my new roommate latched on to a young lady. Merely a couple days later, I heard him on the phone trying to manipulate her.

“Maybe you don’t love me as much as I love you!” I remember him crooning over the phone.

Three days later? Even my 18 year old self knew that was pure manipulation. Yet the girl let this creep hang around.

Great parents teach their kids how to recognize manipulators, how to deal with difficult people, and how to extricate themselves from unhealthy relationships. Good girls don’t fall for bad guys because they like bad guys, but because bad guys know how to manipulate good girls. They same works the other way around. Start here. 

  1. Great parents teach their kids self-discipline.

I was amazed during my years in college at how many of my fellow students slept in and had to drop out because they stayed up late every night playing video games, and then didn’t make it to class. I used to joke that my dad would kill me if I lost my scholarship for bad grades. I’m sure he wouldn’t have done so, but I also know that self-discipline was something that many young people have never had to have. Helicopter parents have scheduled their lives to the minute. At the first moment of freedom, young people who have led an overly scheduled life can fall apart.

On very practical area is eating habits. I, like many people, grew up in a home where salad was on the menu every night. My mother worked hard at providing good, nutritious meals. What I, like most others my age, failed to get was the whole idea of portion control. Cafeteria food is not only not as nutritious, but it is also abundant. The “freshman 15” reflects someone who has not had to make self-discipline choices until away from his/her parents.

This is particularly true for many who were student athletes in high school. Competitive athletics means, by necessity, consuming volumes of calories. That reduced demand in young adulthood leads many of loose their way. I know I did. 🙂

Here, in random order, are things you can help your young adult figure out.

1. How to buy stock in a company.

2. How to save money on cars.

3. How to use a hammer.

4. How to rewire an electrical socket.

5. How to shop for a mortgage, and pay off a mortgage in 7 years.

6. How to make wise eating choices.

7. Sleeping in is not an adult habit.

8. How to break up with a girl/boy.

9. How to do a job interview.

10. A practical skill (carpentry, masonry, electrical work, plumbing). These alone will save thousands and thousands of dollars.

11. How to make a 5 year financial plan.

What other things do you think parents could help kids with to better prepare them for life as an adult?


And Open Letter to all the Bad Moms on Mother’s Day

To all the bad moms out there
Kitty rebelling against authority
The mom’s who lost their temper

Who yelled, and didn’t always get it right

To all the mom’s whose cooking wasn’t like grandma’s,

Or mother in laws

And whose advice wasn’t always the best.

To all the mom’s who didn’t know what to do

And still don’t.

Who didn’t have the money to be the supermom

And didn’t teach their kids everything they needed to know

To all the mom’s who feel like you weren’t “the best”

Or even in the running for runner up

Grace to you today.

We love you anyway.

We love you not for your perfection

Or for being Betty Crocker
We love you because you gave life

To a being in the image of God.

You gave 9 months of your life

You gave you body, your nutrients, your health

To bring a life into this world.


Perhaps not even by your own choice

But you made the choice

That another would live.

And that’s honorable, and noble.


Maybe Facebook isn’t gushing about you,

And your mailbox is empty.


Just remember

God chose you. He honored you to be a participant in his plan to place on another person His image, a unique gift to humanity.


Let it be. His grace is what you need. Trust me, there aren’t really any perfect moms.

Or dads. Or kids.

Forgive us for setting unrealistic expectations. You are mom. Not God. And that’s ok.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s who struggle with guilt

About not measuring up.

Forgive us for setting unrealistic expectations. You are mom. Not God. And that’s ok.

So be yourself. That’s what we need.

3 things my son lost with his disability

Recently, our son began needing a wheelchair. It’s a journey thousands face.

In this process, we’ve received lots of love and support from friends and family. Yet at the end of the day, we often feel like people don’t know what to do with Joshua because of his disability. Here are three things we’ve noticed that he has lost. Continue reading 3 things my son lost with his disability

An open letter to dads of terminally ill children

Dear Dad

Welcome to the club. In your worst nightmare, this club isn’t a club you’d want to join.

You are a no deadbeat dad.

You are a great dad.

You’ve been there, and you plan on being there. At all the ball games. All the extra curricular events. Every major event.

Except now you don’t know if there will be any ball games.
Child in Lexington Cemetery

Continue reading An open letter to dads of terminally ill children

Jesus and the Naughty List

Jesus Vs Santa

My 4 year old was worried about the naughty list. Her, shall we say, “impulse control” is sometimes missing. After one little altercation in the car on the way to church, her little voice piped from the back row of the minivan.

“Will I not get any presents for Christmas?”

The frustrated father in me wanted to tell her, “That’s right, little miss! You better straighten up and watch yourself!”

But somewhere from deep within another voice broke through my parental frustration.

“Honey, mommy and daddy will get you gifts whether you are good or not.”

Her shock was apparent “ What?”

“Honey, Jesus died for us, despite of that fact that we were very much on the naughty list. It’s called grace. You get what you don’t deserve.

Honey, mommy and daddy give you gifts because we love you, not because you are naughty or nice.”

I’ve often wondered how to teach my children the concept of grace. I think I stumbled onto something that day.

The message of Christmas is that we were all on the naughty list. We were all destined to get far worse than a lump of coal. Yet born in a manager that morning was a gift we did not deserve, the greatest gift of all.

We were all on the naughty list

Now I just have to get them to be nice some other way.

5 gifts every father can afford and can’t afford to not give his children

note: First delivered as part 5 in a Series of lectures at the Ocean International Community Church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

#Blackfriday came and went and I purchased nothing. Ziltch. Nada. I had the commercial pressure to define us by our stuff. Having been broke many times, what are gifts that I could give me children, even if we don’t have cash in the bank?

Christmas at the Porter house growing up, at many houses growing up, revolved around a number of small gifts under our Christmas tree, but there was usually 1 large gift for each child. Something that cost a lot. Here are 5 gifts that every father, regardless of financial status, can afford to give his kids.

Fathers gift


Gift 1: Proclamation:

In the ancient Hebrew world, there was a custom called “The blessing.” A Father, sometime later in life, would call his children to him. It was often near the time of a Father’s death, but as we see in the life of Isaac, not necessarily so. The Father would do a number of things. First, he would give gifts. There was a birthright. That came from birth order. Then there was a blessing. A blessing was words. Simply that. A Father would speak into reality, almost in a prophetic act, the future that he felt that child would have. We see this in Isaac’s case, and we see this in Jacob’s case.

They believed that their words had power to imput identity into the child. I believe every father needs to speak praise and destiny into the life of their child.

Now, let’s clarify something here. There is a self- help, positive feeling, wishy washy mushy psychology out there that many of our children are falling victim to today.

That is simply lazy parenting and lying to your kids. I’m in my middle to late 30ies, and there are things I haven’t been able to do, even though I worked really really hard at them. There is a tribe in southern Tanzania, that have some sounds in their language that unless you learn them as a child, you can not learn them. Period. You just can’t do it.

What I am talking about here is speaking value into a child’s life. Speak purpose. Not the lie that…

“You can be anything you want to be if you try hard enough.” That’s simply not true. But…

“You are unique. God has a unique destiny and purpose for your life.” Affirm Character: You are strong. You are gentle. I respect the way you treat other people. You are courageous.

Every night before going to bed, I ask my son Joshua “what are you?” I’m strong, I’m brave, I trust Jesus. I am reaffirming God’s identity in him. Proclamation.

Gift #2: Preparation:

Father’s, your job is to prepare your children for life. There was a time when a man took his sons to work with him, and mother’s took their daughters with them. Today, parents feel their job is to provide an academic education for their children. But Dar es Salaam (and the larger world) is full of unemployed, lazy, incompetent college graduates. That alone is proof that academics is only a fraction of what education is really all about.

Father’s, how do you prepare your children for life?

The answer is Discipline. Yes I know, but teach them they can’t always get their way. Don’t break them, but don’t give in to their every whim either. Because life won’t always baby them. Prepare them by discipline. Spare the rod, spoil the child, the scriptures say. It doesn’t say beat them to a pulp. It doesn’t say hurt your child. That scripture says correct bad behavior early, and you won’t have to correct it later. Fathers, the toughest time to parent your kids I believe is when they are below 5 years of age. And I see a ton of Dads that are basically like

“Here. Take it, feed it, clean it, teach it to talk, and when we can play football together, bring it back.”

By that time, it may be too late.

Preparation:later, teach them to manage money. Time. To make good decisions. To choose their friends wisely. And if they aren’t choosing wisely, be their Father. Remove them from the situation. Ban that boy from being in your house. Have the uncomfortable conversations. They will hate you now, and love you later. You are the Father. Your God given responsibility is prepare your kids for life. Bring them to church. Make them be part family devotions.

Gift # 3: Provision:

Your job is to provide for you family. Now, I want to be careful here, because there are times when dad’s loose their jobs. When money comes from mom, not dad. But money is not all there is. Making provision for your kids is planning for their future. In good times, you are looking ahead. Guess what? You have to pay school fees every year. For every one of your kids.

Provision: The biggest thing you can provide your kids, or one of them, is a good model to follow. Give them a good example.

Gift #4: Protection:

Fathers, this is your job. Protect those kids. The funny thing here is often you have to protect them from themselves. My little ones would always head to electrical sockets. We are not born knowing how to make good decisions. We simply aren’t. We have to be taught. Dads, protect your girls from the boys. And these days, protect your boys from the predatory girls. We joke a lot about in the states about getting a shotgun to run off the boys. We should be more serious I think. With the amount of date rape, of sexual abuse by teachers, we need some men to stand up and protect their little boys and girls. Protect them from themselves. I don’t care. Turn off the stupid TV for a while. Make them do their homework. Trust me, they won’t break.

Protect them from manipulators, from people who would make them feel inferior because of money, or status in society, or any other reason.Take control of their online life. Cyber-stalk them. You won’t regret it, but you might regret not doing it.  Stand and fight for your family.

And Finally, the biggest gift you can give your kids, bar none.


A Dad in the home. In their lives. Some of you dads work so long, you leave before the kids get up, you come home after they are in bed. You are the law enforcer, you are the policeman. When you have a rare day off, you wonder why none of your family wants to spend time with you. Who wants to spend time with a stranger?

You don’t understand Charles. My job…. My schedule. Whatever. Love is spelled TIME. And there are people who say that you can make up for quantity by quality. Just spend quality time with your kids. Quality comes when there is lots of quantity. You need lots of time, lots of trust, so that when the moment comes where your kid is ready to open up to you, you are there. If you had to make half the money, move to mbeya, farm, and you could keep your family together, its worth it.

And let me say this. I’ve heard this before. Marriages in trouble, and the parents split up and divorce. And they say “its better for everyone involved. Especially the kids.” The only time its better for the kids is if there is physical or abuse danger to one of the people in the home. But men, be honest. If you don’t want your wife there anymore, it’s not better for her. It’s not better for the kids. It’s better for you. A child’s worst nightmare is their parent’s divorcing. Fighting parents are frightening to children.

You have to be there.

I want to finish  by return to Luke 15. I want to reread the story of the Father, and I want you to notice how in this story, the Father longs to give every one of these to his sons.

Proclaim: THIS IS MY SON



PRESENCE: He was there with him. Remember week whatever, when we talked about King David and how lousy a dad he was. When he was estranged from Absalom, he brought him back, but he refused to be in his presence with him. That must have been insanely painful for Absalom. My dad won’t let me be in his presence.

Here is the bible story.

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger

and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

This morning, I want to take one last stab at this. To show you that your heavenly Father is not like your Fallen Images. Your heavenly Father is ready to give you all 5 gifts this morning.


Here is what God says

John 1:12 I am a child of God (Romans 8:16).

John 15:15 I am Christ’s friend.

John 15:16 I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit.

Romans 3:24 I have been justified and redeemed.

Romans 5:1 I have been justified (completely forgiven and made righteous) and am at peace with God.

Romans 6:7 I have been freed from sin’s power over me.

Romans 8:1 I am forever free from condemnation.

Romans 8:14,15 I am a son of God (God is literally my “Papa”) (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).

Romans 8:17 I am an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ.

Romans 11:16 I am holy.

Romans 15:7 Christ has accepted me.

1 Corinthians 1:2 I have been sanctified.

1 Corinthians 2:16 I have been given the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 I am a temple (home) of God; His Spirit (His life) dwells in me.

1 Corinthians 6:17 I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.

1 Corinthians 6:19,20 I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God.

2 Corinthians 2:14 He always leads me in His triumph in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 I am a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:18,19 I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:21 I am the righteousness of God in Christ.

Galatians 2:4 I have liberty in Christ Jesus.


Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

2 Timothy 2:21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Provision: Matthew 6

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field

grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Psalm 59

8 But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.

9 You are my strength, I watch for you;

you, God, are my fortress, 10 my God on whom I can rely.

Presence Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your presence? The highest of heights to the depths of the seas. He is there. Nothing like the presence of your Father.

Always available. Always reachable. Always emotionally connected. Always forgiving, accepting, loving, caring.

Father’s covenant:

Men, stand up. Before God and the community, before our children, our wives, and our families, charge you to be

Proclaim. Provide. Protection. Prepare. And Be present.

Finally, forgive our Fathers for not being what they can not be. Father God.

A great post on teaching children to apologize

During our 40 life lessons before 40, I wrote about why the way you apologize is wrong, or the anatomy of a good apology.

In the current vein of parenting tips, I ran across an article by a teacher who taught her class a 4 step method for apologizing and restoring relationships.

Here it is.

’m sorry for…
This is wrong because…
In the future, I will…
Will you forgive me?

Read the whole post here. Its worth your time.

Have a good day.