A Prayer for Your Children

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It was about 15 years ago that Kerry came across a “Daily Prayers for Your Children” article from Focus on the Family.  Since then, she has made copy after copy for us. She has also implemented those daily prayers as a guide for the teachers at her school as they pray for their students. She has even made copies to hand out to parents in our Bible Study classes.

What I appreciate most is that my wife not only realizes the importance of prayer, she is gifted by the Holy Spirit and is a dedicated prayer warrior. Since Samantha was an infant, we have prayed over our children daily. For their future spouses, for their protection, for them to get caught in lies or deception. Most of all, we have prayed for their salvation through Jesus Christ. That they will live for Him, first and foremost.

So I will share with you the prayer plan we have adopted and made our own, originally from Focus on the Family.

Monday                                                                                                                                    -Place a protective, solid hedge around them so satan can’t reach in and lead them into temptation and so they will be safe from harm.  2 Thess 3:3, Ps 33:20

Tuesday                                                                                                                                  -They will use Godly wisdom in selecting friends and that they will make a positive difference in their lives. Give them discernment of people and knowing right from wrong.  Prov 1:10, 18:24, Deut 13:6,8

Wednesday                                                                                                                            -Stay pure in their thoughts and deeds. Ps 24:4-5, Job 17:9

Thursday                                                                                                                                 -They will be caught if they cheat, lie, or are mischievous. Heb 13:18-19

Friday                                                                                                                                     -They will be alert and think clearly in school and activities. Help them to be motivated to do their best.  Col 3:17, 1 Cor 10:31

Saturday                                                                                                                                 -Their future spouse. That they will come from a Godly background and desire the life you want from them. That their goals will be the same and their homes will be one that seeks holiness first.  Deut 5:29

Sunday                                                                                                                                   -They will live for Him and that He will use them for His Glory. That they will fully mature spiritually.       Ps 78:1-8, 103:17-18, Is 54:13, Eph 3:20-21

5 Questions That Should Be Asked….

Kerry and I spent this past Saturday on a date night. Anyone that knows us well knows how much we advocate “Date Nights” for husbands and wives. This is a time to focus on one another and continue the pursuit of both romance and well as intimacy in your growing marriage. Yet, last week I came across an article that opened my perspective on “Date Nights.”
The article came from Intimate Marriage. They talked about two types of Date Nights. The first one was the one that I always think of, the “Fun Date Nite.” This is the one that is reminiscent of those dates you had when you were courting each other. Very light hearted and a getting to know each other in a fun and creative way. You both took time to enjoy one another’s company and create memories from that date. They introduced another “Date Night” that I feel should be a vital and necessary date time with your spouse: The Working Date.
A “Working Date ” is a regular hour block each week when a husband and wife come together to work on their marriage. In contrast to a “Fun Date Night” where no business is allowed, the working date is set
aside to do the business of marriage. This is the time to ask the 5 questions to one another and instead of justifying your answers or manipulating the conversation, stop and listen to your spouse and ask God to guide you to fulfill the answers shared by your spouse.
This is not an easy task at hand. The questions require prayer, thought, and transparency. Fulfilling those answers requires humility, obedience to God’s will, and a willingness to grow closer to your spouse; the one God ordained for you.

Here are the 5 questions:
1. How did you feel loved this past week? How did you feel hurt this past week?
2. What does your upcoming week look like?
3. How would you feel most loved & encouraged in the days ahead?
4. How would you best feel pursued in sex / intimacy this week?
5. How can I pray for you this week?

Kerry and I spent the entire night asking and answering those 5 questions. Yes, some of the answers were hard to hear and there were times we felt we both needed to justify the “why’s,” however, we knew that this was the time to capture our thoughts, make them obedient to Christ, and serve one another by fulfilling those answers. It turned out to be one of the best “Date Nights” we have had in many years.

So are there any other questions you may add?  What are your thoughts?

Stay True Advice…Baylee’s list of roughly 55 things all teenagers need to know

We shared this 2 years ago when our youngest daughter graduated from high school. Since it’s that time of the year again, it seemed appropriate to share again.
Baylee, as well as the other graduating Seniors from our Youth Group, were asked by our Youth Pastor to share some wisdom and advice to those still in the Youth Group.  In her usual fashion, Baylee took this time to truly share what was on her heart and what she has learned these past 7 years as a Youth.  Both Kerry and I, as well as Pastor Bill, were so touched by her reflections on life and God, we just had to share.
Parents, go through the list. Whether you agree with it or not is not the issue, instead listen to the heart of a young lady who loves the Lord. You may learn something about your own child.
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Stay True Advice aka
A list of roughly 55 things that Baylee thinks is important for you all to know:
•Make it a point to say a prayer before you even step foot out of bed, I promise it’ll help your day.
•Never be friends with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable (for any reason, whether it’s your beliefs or actions or something they say.)
•Love yourself so much that when someone treats you wrong, you recognize it.
•Never underestimate Gods grace in the midst of your brokenness.
•Boys, girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out. The friend zone is not a real thing.
•Falling in love with yourself first doesn’t make you vain or selfish, it makes you indestructible.
•Boys, if you want to get a girls attention learn to compliment her on things OTHER than her beauty.
•Just because someone desires you, does not mean that they value you.
•Boys, If your not going to marry her take your hands off another mans future.
•Girls, If your not going to marry him take your hands off another womans future.
•Don’t act like someone else. Don’t waste time on pretending.
•If they won’t hold your hand, don’t let them hold your heart.
•If you aren’t walking with God maybe you aren’t right for the person that’s right for you.
•There is no way to follow Jesus without Him interfering with your life.
•When entrusted with a secret, keep it. I don’t care if you and that person are mortal enemies now, you still don’t tell a soul.
•It’s never too late for an apology.
•If you’ve made your point, stop talking.
•Learn to admit when you’re wrong.
•Be understanding. If someone has a different opinion than you, listen to them. Don’t just sit there ignorantly, plugging your ears and screaming your opinion to the world.
•Set goals. Set them high and learn to accomplish every goal you set for yourself.
•Alcohol does not make you cooler.
•Girls, never EVER send boys naked pictures. The boys asking for them are the boys that should not be trusted.
•Never beg someone to stay in your life. If they choose to leave, let them.
•Discover your passion and run with it.
•Dance a LOT!
•High school dances are overrated.
•Girls, never spend more than $7 for mascara.
•If you’re ever uncomfortable in a situation you’ve ended up in, call your parents. I promise they’d rather you be safe and they will forgive you.
•Go to as many concerts as possible.
•Just because you turn 18 does not mean suddenly you can do whatever the heck you want. If you’re under their roof, you’re still under their rules.
•The stupid cliche “you can’t be loved until you love yourself” is so false. Listen to what others love about you and learn to love that about yourself too.
•Stop underestimating yourself. If you’re walking with the Lord He’s got your back!
•Eating a whole tray of brownies while watching Grease with your best friend can and will help you feel better. Trust me, I’ve tested this one out multiple times.
•If your parents don’t like you hanging out with a certain person, listen to them. They are smarter than us.
•Comparing yourself to others is NEVER a good idea.
•If you can’t say it to their face, don’t say it to them over text.
•Changes don’t happen overnight.
•No one can live a perfect Christian life, but you CAN intentionally decide that next time you are faced with a choice, you choose the one that glorifies God.
•When somebody hurts you, don’t try to hurt them back.
•Learn the importance of calling your friends out if they are in sin. It may feel awkward but they need it, and you’re called to do it.
•Save your money every chance you get. Future you will be thankful.
•Your mental health is so important, and if you’re ever struggling please find someone you can talk to.
•Your value is NOT based on the number of likes you get on Instagram.
•You are going to mess up, and you’re going to regret some choices you’ve made. But you have to learn how to forgive yourself, and decide to grow from the situation and not let it destroy you.
•Reading a book is more fun than reading your Twitter feed.
•One day you’ll realize how much your parents have sacrificed for you. Thank them over and over and over.
•Like people’s selfies. It takes guts to post them.
•Every time before you read scripture, pray and ask God to reveal something new to you. He’ll blow your mind every single time!
•Take pictures. So so so many pictures.
•Don’t take yourself too seriously.
•Breakups hurt. And they are allowed to hurt. They suck and knock you on your back, but the key is not staying down on your back. Look to God, use Him to fill up and repair that broken heart.
•Never diminish other’s feelings.
•Deciding to live your life completely surrendered to God is the best decision you’ll ever make!
~Baylee Vivian – Class of 2015

Top 10 Items for Your Bedroom

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We received some very interesting comments from last Monday’s blog post-Sleep Naked with Your Spouse.  As an overall response, most felt that sleeping naked was too awkward and uncomfortable. O.K, Kerry and I agree that initially it can be uncomfortable and maybe, even make matters worse in your marriage. So, instead, we decided to invest this time into a Top 10 list for your bedroom.
Through the past 2 ½ decades as husband and wife, Kerry and I have attempted to make our bedroom our personal, private oasis of intimacy.This not only includes physical intimacy, but emotional and spiritual too. We have experienced some amazing times of sexual encounters as well as times of deepened purposeful communication and growth in our bedroom. We also have shared on many occasions how God is working in our lives and what we are doing to apply it into our marriage and family. So once again, your bedroom should be well taken care of and as husband and wife, there are some items you should invest in to keep and use in your bedroom.  Kerry and I would at least like to share with you our Top 10 list of the items in our bedroom that we feel increases the Intimacy in our marriage. Also note, this is a broking list and for all we know, item can change by next week, but at least this is a start.
  1. Black Dry Erase Marker: We use this to write messages of encouragement, scripture that God spoke to us directly or that we are applying in our lives, as well as flirty messages on our bedroom dresser mirror and our bathroom mirror. Again, make sure it is Dry Erase and Black.
  2. Essential Oil Diffuser and Oils: This is a great addition to the bedroom. We will run Peppermint Oil or Eucalyptus in the mornings we are getting ready for work. In the evening either a Lavender or Sandalwood Oil as we are going to bed. The aroma and atmosphere is very relaxing and just helps to enhance the special oasis you are trying to create.
  3. Ecotones Sound +Sleep Machine: We have always had a sound machine since the girls were born. It helps to create a background noise that will block out other noises and allow us to sleep without distractions. However, this sound machine has a unique feature that we find invaluable. The louder the room gets the louder the sound machine volume will increase. In other words, for those of you that may be inhibited in having sex because the kids may hear, this is your sound machine. It works like a charm,it will drown out the bedroom intimacy noise and the anxiety you may feel will reduce greatly.  Great investment!
  4. Rock Salt Bowl Lamp with Wood Base: This simple lamp not only supposedly “purifies” the air, it creates a romantic glow throughout the bedroom.
  5. Q & A Book:  This great 3 year journal will ask a simple question for every day of the year that you both will give either a one word or one sentence answer.  During the next three years, you will gain insight and share experiences as a couple. It gets fun when you begin to loop around into the next year and read the previous year’s answers.
  6. Liberator Pillow/Wedge:  If you are not aware of what this is, click on the link to find out. Yes, it is a sex pillow but for most couples that struggle to experience a vaginal orgasm, this pillow is so helpful. You may not think the investment is worth it; however, it is. Just adjusting the angle by those few inches can make all the difference in the world for her.
  7. Set of Soft, Luxurious Bed Sheets:  If you think you need silk bed sheets to be romantic, you’ve been watching too many B-Class movies. Instead, take time to get a good set of soft, cotton bed sheets. They do not need to be expensive or made from Hand Woven Egyptian Cotton. Instead, make sure your bed sheets are comfortable and breathable.
  8.  Love Talk Devotional:  We each have our own copy and will share with each other how that day’s devotion spoke to us individually and into our marriage. We may not hit each day, every day, but we do try to be as consistent as possible with our time together to share where God is taking us in our marriage.
  9.  Lubricant with Applicator:  Seriously, this is so essential as well towards sexual intimacy.  Most women, especially as they get older, suffer with vaginal dryness. This will inhibit physical intimacy due to the pain and friction that can occur. Having a good water based lubricant and also investing in an applicator, can make sex more pleasurable for both wife and husband.
  10.  An Adult Toy/A Vibrator: This may be a taboo or uncomfortable last item for some of you. A vibrator may mean that it is now a focus of self and takes away the intimacy between a husband and wife. That will only occur if the vibrator becomes the only focus of intimacy.  It is a tool for the husband and wife to explore and understand each other’s bodies. The husband will have the opportunity to learn from his wife as she shares with him the places to touch and massage, both vaginally and with her breasts.  The woman can use it to stimulate her husbands penis and increase his arousal as well.  Many women struggle with a vaginal orgasm, so with a vibrator, the husband can bring her to an initial orgasm, then enter her while she uses it to build to multiple ones during intercourse, or she may not need it at all.  Again, it is a tool to learn and have fun with as a husband and wife.  It will bring a sense of oneness.
Finally, there is one item that is not on the list but it is the priority of the intimacy in your bedroom. It’s a question that should be asked everyday before you leave your bedroom as husband and wife. Either right before bed or as you are getting up and getting ready for the day. Daily ask each other, “How can I pray for you ?”  That’s it. Once you do, listen, share and do it for each other. That one question will tie up the three facets of Intimacy: Physical-Emotional-Spiritual.
You may have another list or feel that you could add to this list. So please share. We would love to hear from you!
Joe & Kerry

“MY CHILDREN WON’T LISTEN!” 9 STRATEGIES FOR A BETTER PARENTING JOURNEY 

“MY CHILDREN WON’T LISTEN TO ME!”

As a Children’s and Families Pastor I’ve seen a lot of different personalities and temperaments over the years. I’ve seen kids who have faced significant life challenges and show incredible resiliency. On the other hand, I have witnessed children burst into tears because they didn’t catch the ball in gym because they’ve rarely been allowed the opportunity to try and to fail in life. I’ve witnessed so many parenting styles that look good on paper but fail miserably in the long run.

When we as parents try to make things “comfortable” for our children, when we focus on “fighting” their battles for them, when we “shelter” them to the point of emotional stagnation…we begin to set up our children towards failure as they approach adulthood.

Instead, we as parents need to take time to invest into our children and guide and facilitate them in a positive and loving strategy towards emotional, physical and spiritual maturity. This takes sacrifice or our time and of our agenda. This means that we will place a priority on allowing our children to shape our souls as we in turn parent them as God guides us.

1. LEAD BY EXAMPLE:

Your actions are the biggest influence in your child’s life. They are looking to you to see how you interact with the world and respond to life situations. If you tell them to be kind but they see you demeaning the waiter when your order is wrong, they are more likely to follow your example than heed your advice. If you tell them that God is a priority in your life, yet they see you make excuses for lack of Bible study or not going to church as a family. “But we have an important tournament for you to compete in…” Know that little eyes are watching and YOU set the example of what your children will grow into. 

2. FRAME REQUESTS IN THE POSITIVE: 

Instead of saying, “Don’t hit!” say, “We use gentle hands” or “Hands are for high fives.” Current research states that when we frame our requests in the negative, most kids will only actually hear “hit” and disregard the “don’t.” When we frame requests in the positive we are not only telling them what NOT to do, we are telling them what TO do as an alternative. Your tone will also go a long way in making sure the request is not only heard but applied. Remember to Interact not Overreact.

 3. FOLLOW THROUGH:

In the heat of the moment, we’ve all threatened consequences we have zero intention of actually following through with. When you start a sentence with, “If you do that one more time…” whatever comes next must be practical, reasonable, and connected to the offense. When we don’t follow through, our children see no reason to stop what they are doing. If our follow through is unreasonable they lose their trust in us. Our response must be proportionate to the situation and act as a firm boundary to encourage positive choices in the future.

4. GET DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL:

Yelling across the room will rarely generate the result you desire. Kids are often so wrapped up in their activities, they’re often not intentionally ignoring you – they really don’t hear you. If you want their attention, turn off any competing electronics, crouch down, look them in the eye, and make your request.

5. CALL OFF THE RESCUE MISSION!:

Let natural consequences play out. Not doing their homework has a natural consequence of low grades. Not putting their toys away in time to go to a playdate has a natural consequence of not being able to attend. Constantly bailing your children out of difficult situations creates a false sense that someone will always be there to clean up their mess when they make poor choices. More importantly, it inhibits their ability to cope with bigger life challenges. As parents we never want to see our children suffer, but allowing them to solve their own problems will equip them with the self-confidence necessary to manage difficult situations in the future.

6. PROVIDE CHOICE WHENEVER POSSIBLE:

When we demand compliance, kids are more likely to rebel. Engaging in a power struggle is rarely effective and often damages your relationship. Instead of demanding they wear the outfit you picked out, give them a choice between two. Instead of demanding they clean up their room this minute, set a reasonable amount of time in which to clean it up. I’m not inferring that you should always give choices in every situation, there will be times that there is only one option and that’s the one they need to follow. What I’m trying to convey is that by seeing what situations: menu selections, clothing, play/activity options-These are great times to strengthen your child’s ability to make good decisions. Remember this, don’t Lord over your children…Love over your children instead.

7. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS:

Kids are not little adults. It’s unreasonable to expect that they will never make a mistake or be anything other than the perfect child you had envisioned from their inception. It’s up to you as their parent to recognize that they will mess up, and love them through it anyway. Practice unconditional love on your children and recognize their current emotional and physical abilities.

8. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES:

When children don’t know what the rules are, they will continue to push up against the boundaries until you tell them what’s okay and what’s not. They were born to do this. Expect it. Plan for it. Kids feel safe and secure when they know where the line is and exactly what will happen if they cross it. I use the picture of a highway and guardrails. Initially, our children need to be on a one way road with super high guardrails. Then as they get older, the road becomes a two lane road then in time becomes a 3 lane to then even a four lane highway, all the while maintaining the guardrails so they will not go over the edge. Establish those boundaries, those lanes and guardrails for your children today.

9. FORGIVE OFTEN:

Kids make unadvisable choices every day. By extending grace and forgiveness you are teaching them empathy. It doesn’t mean there aren’t still consequences. It just means that you’re not going to define them by the mistakes they make. Kids need to know that you’re not going to hold their poor choices over the their heads for the rest of their natural life. Learn to let it go, and let them move forward. And likewise, if you need to ask forgiveness from your children, and you will-I promise you that, then seek forgiveness from them. You will be reflecting Christ in such a genuine and loving way.

Parenting is about the journey. It’s not a straight road, and you’ll have to take several detours along the way. If we as parents do our job right, seeking God at every turn and twist, allowing His Spirit to speak to us during those scary times where we feel we are traveling next to a cliff, then our kids will enter and engage this world just a little bit better than the day before.

Joe & Kerry

3 Keys for Your Boys in A Sex Saturated Culture

 

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The first time I saw a Playboy magazine, I was about 12 years old and hanging out at a friend’s house. My buddy had covertly collected a secret stash of magazines under his bed. He had gone to great lengths to acquire the contraband, and his bedroom stash became the stuff of legend among our adolescent crew of hormonally-driven friends.

I had been brought up with parents and church leaders who taught me about the sacredness of sex and the dangers of objectifying women. Still, my raging hormones and weak willpower got the best of me and I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the airbrushed images. Those magazines became a “gateway drug” of sorts and ultimately led me down a dark road towards more graphic pornography.

I’ve been porn-free for a little over two decades, but I’m still living with some scars in my mind and my marriage. Thankfully, God’s grace and my wife’s love (plus some important accountability measures) have helped me escape from the grip of porn.

Kerry and I know we have a sacred responsibility to our children to teach them about sex and protect them from all the ways the misuse of sex can harm them. We raised two daughters; however, we also know what we were praying for and longing for in a man for our daughters.

So let’s share with you parents raising sons. The first step is obviously teaching your sons to have a deep and abiding respect for women, but respect alone isn’t enough to help them overcome the bombardment of visual temptations out there. If you’re looking for some practical ways to get started, here are three simple ways parents of boys can equip them to live with sexual purity in a sexually-saturated culture.

3 keys to raising boys in a sex-crazed culture:

1. Don’t just have “The Talk;” have many talks about sex and purity.

Instead of having one big talk about the birds and the bees like many of our parents did when we were growing up, open up an ongoing, healthy dialogue about issues related to sex and porn. Ask questions and encourage your son to ask you questions too. Be as transparent as possible in your responses. Kids don’t expect you to be perfect, but they need you to be real. If you want some practical tools to help guide you through those conversations, check out Jonathan McKee’s book, More Than Just the Talk.

2. Try to understand your son’s thought process.

If you’re a man raising boys, you already know all about the male thought process and mental wiring that makes visual temptation so powerful, but your son is living in a different world than ours, so keep the dialogue open to learn how he’s thinking. If you’re a mom and you’d like to understand more about how and why males react so instinctively to visual images of sex and sensuality, I’d encourage you to read the new book, “Through a Man’s Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men”, which is written by Craig Gross and Shaunti Feldhahn. The research in the book is eye-opening, and their insights made me think they’d somehow installed hidden cameras in my brain! This book and accompanying video series could help you understand your son—and your husband, too—on a new level.

3. Monitor every screen in your home.

The average kid sees porn by age eight. Sometimes, kids are exposed to porn on accident, and other times, they’re deliberately looking for it. Parents must be constantly vigilant by setting parental controls, downloading porn-blocking software, and using every tool at our disposal to protect our kids from unwanted images. Know where your kids are going online and let them know you’re watching. Tell them what’s off limits, but also follow up by inspecting. Kids aren’t usually as interested in what you expect as they are in what you’ll inspect. Remember this bit of advice, Don’t Overreact-Interact when you discover your son viewing pornography.

As you get started…

You may be intimidated by the thought of even beginning these conversations with your kids. That’s completely understandable. I think we all feel that way at first. This aspect of parenting is indeed one of the most difficult, but also among the most important. As parents, we must conquer or own fears and feelings of inadequacy to give our kids the help they desperately need.

Don’t feel like you have to do it alone, because there are many great resources to help you and your family. Don’t be passive in this process. Be present. Your kids don’t need you to have perfect answers to all their questions, but they need you to be present and transparent with them. If you’re willing to do those things, and to use the tools and resources at your disposal, you will navigate these complex issues with great success.

 

Joe & Kerry

More Than a Parent’s Rage…

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4  
In our Sunday morning Bible Study we have been going through the book of Ephesians, applying its principles and instructions into our marriages and families, as well as into our personal lives. These past two Sundays we have spent time in one verse from Ephesians, 6:4. 

Verse 4 instructs us not to “provoke or exasperate your children.” The Greek word for provoke is parorgizo. This simply means to provoke to wrath or to exasperate another. Both wrath and exasperate come from the root word anger. It would not take too much of an in-depth study of human and family behavior to shed some basic insight on how we might exasperate our children and provoke them to anger. We so often will see this as an extreme outburst towards our children, an uncontrolled momentary burst of anger, then it’s done. However, as we truly step back and evaluate our parenting, we may just see this picture of “provoking and exasperating” in the minutia of our everyday parenting. The following examples will give us a good starting point for understanding the command that Paul shares with us in verse 4. This is not an end all list, nor is it meant to “guilt” you as a parent or grandparent. Take time in prayer and reflect on the following list, take time to ask God to reveal to you as to which of those 8, or maybe you have another one, you are in the habit of doing towards your children.  Ask God to help you stop in that behavior/action and then move towards reconciliation with your children and then begin a new path of Biblical discipline and instruction in the Lord.  

1. Overprotecting Children: Parents who do everything for their children and do not let them gain any degree of independence or self-determination.

2. Over Disciplining Children: Parents who overly restrict where children can go and what they can do, who never trust them to do things on their own, and who continually question their judgment. Certainly, a proper amount of this is necessary. We are talking about overdoing it.

3. Expecting More Than The Child Can Ever Perform: Perfectionistic parents for whom the child’s performance is never good enough.

4. Expecting Less of Them Than They Can Perform: Parents who discourage the child’s decisions and dreams—never approving, affirming, or encouraging.

5. Failing to Sacrifice for Their Children: Parents who make the children feel as though they are an intrusion and burden.

6. Verbal and/or Physical Abuse: Parents who abuse their children, either by actions, negligence, words, or attitudes.

7. Legalism: Parents who use the Bible, religion, or God to browbeat the children into behavior that is not required by scriptural teachings.

8. Imbalance: Parents who fail to balance affirmation and discipline, who affirm without discipline, who discipline without affirmation, or who do neither.

These eight things will provoke a child to anger; they will exasperate a child, and we would be well-advised to avoid them.

Joe