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Listen as Don and Suzanne share snippets of conversations with their kids that will help you shift your mindset to building an amazing childhood for your kids.


As we wrap up our May series on Building a Great Childhood for your kids, Suzanne and I went back and listened to the previous podcasts to find three key points – three mindset shifts – to help you build an awesome childhood for your kids! It was so interesting for us to listen to their renditions of their childhood so we – and you – can hear it from a kid’s perspective instead of the adults! Sometimes our memories are a little different!

Here are the Three Key Points:

  1. Let Them Be Kids
  2. Encourage Independence
  3. Invite Them to Something Better

Let’s look at these a little deeper…


1. Let Them Be Kids

As we’ve ministered to many parents over the years, we keep seeing this pattern: Parents are emphasizing protection and performance more than play. At younger and younger ages, kids are going to select-sports, getting tutors, and going to practice after practice. More and more, parents are hypersensitive to anything that might harm their kids, which leads to a tendency to want to be in constant control of every situation.

Some of these things are good. Kids are getting more (and better) instruction in their activities than ever before, and they are safer than ever before. But our own kids didn’t remember the sports they played as much as they remember just playing! Maddox and McCade share a few memories. In the playroom, in their bedrooms, outside in the yard, over at friends’ houses. Playing dollhouse, being superheroes, making up games, using their imaginations. Just being kids!

With a large family, we had to work hard to find ways for our kids to have margin in their lives to simply play. We had our share of running to ballgames and church and other activities but in the midst of all the chaos, we were very intentional to make downtime for them to simply be a kid.

What are some things we did? Here are some examples:

  • They only played one sport at a time.
  • We homeschooled for a season.
  • We set aside Sundays as a day of rest…aka naps and play.
  • We created playdates with friends.

What are you going to do in your home to emphasize play for your kids? It will build them up and build your family relationships.

2. Encourage Independence

Small children – and big children too – create tons of work. Their rooms, their laundry, their bathroom, their activities, their homework, their school projects. We are a taxi service, a laundry service, a bank, a tutoring service, just to name a few. So often it seems we spend all our time doing things for them that we don’t have time to invest in our relationship with them.

How do we fix that? We train them to do things for themselves. As they become able to do more, we will have more time to invest in them. What if we flipped our thinking to where our goal was independence instead of us working ourselves into a frenzy to meet their every need?

But I know…they won’t do it right, or we always have to remind them because they forget. Both of those statements are true. But if we are committed to independence in tasks, over time they will get it, and they will remember more often. And yes, often their room may be a little messier than you would like, and yes, sometimes you are going to have to remind them to take out the trash…again!

Which is more important? The outcome of the task or the outcome of their heart? Is the grade on the sixth-grade math test more important than their connection to you and their connection to God? Teaching our kids independence helps build their confidence and lessens our work so we have more time to invest in their hearts instead of their tasks.

What are some things we trained our kids to do?

  • Fix meals for themselves
  • Do their own laundry
  • Take care of their own homework and grades
  • Take out the trash
  • Do lawn work
  • House cleaning tasks

When we talked to Macy in the podcast and asked her if she resented doing things on her own, she said, “It just felt like freedom“ and “I don’t think I knew what was happening.” She talked about how she feels like parents holding their kids’ hands too much hurts them more than it helps them.

It’s the more difficult, messy road, but in the long-term, it’s best for your kids. What can you do to teach your kids to be more independent?

3. Invite Them to Something Better

Mollie and Michael share great insight into our family which we hope will happen in yours as well. So often parents are more concerned with protecting (there’s that word again) their children from bad outcomes rather than inspiring them toward great outcomes.

If we want our kids to follow Jesus, we have to convince them to see Jesus as He truly is – the greatest person to follow in the world! As Mollie said, “There were a lot more conversations about ‘This is who Manning’s are and what they do’, not ‘This what Manning’s don’t do.’ Mannings were leaders, and Mannings were beloved sons and daughters, and Mannings chose life with their words.”

This concept of your family name comes to life in Chapter 12 of our book, Crazy Cool Family. The point here is not the family name but about pointing your kids toward what they are becoming instead of always pointing them toward what they should avoid. We don’t want a God of “don’t do that.”  We want a God of life and hope and love, and our kids do, too. It is our job to show Him to them.

Jesus is the better way, and the invitation as we invite them in is the why.

  • How do we train our kids to love going to bed? By telling them the why of sleep? When we sleep, we grow and get strong and get rested and get energy and our brain gets stronger.
  • Why are we good to our brother or sister instead of taking things from them? Because God will make that relationship awesome for us as we invest in them and they won’t be so annoying anymore.
  • Why don’t we do drugs? Because the high that God gives is so much better – without hangovers – than the world’s high of drugs?
  • Why don’t we have sex in high school? We stay pure because God has an amazing marriage for us, and we want to sacrifice now for a little while so we don’t bring a lot of baggage into our marriage for the rest of our lives.

We are always inviting our kids into the better things of life that God shows us. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. God has better ways, and the more we invite them into something better, the more likely they are to make the right choices in life.

Let’s take our kids up to their destinies instead of trying to keep them out of the ditch all the time.

What are you going to do to inspire your kids toward the best in life?

Start with letting them be kids, encouraging independence that leads to freedom, and inviting them into understanding Jesus (something better).


If you have a question or a parenting issue that you’d like us to discuss in a future podcast, email us at [email protected].

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