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How to give the gift of responsibility, year by year!

This is the easiest, rubber meets the road way I’ve seen to build responsibility in children that I’ve come across.  The idea is that on birthdays from ages 11-18, you give your child a freedom/responsibility in the form of a gift.  Read on for “How it works,” as well as “How it’s worked for my family.”


How it works: (as explained to the pre-teen/teen)
(Click to download this explanation.)

Each year, you will receive a freedom in the form of a responsibility. If you handle it wisely, then you will be on track to receive the next gift from the responsibility box on your birthday. If you are not responsible with your freedom, then it may be revoked for a time and/or you may not be ready to receive your next gift. Remember that these are privileges that you earn, not rights.

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I
will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Matthew 25:23

The Responsibility Box is a reminder that

  • We know you want to be independent and we are giving you these steps to help you reach that.
  • We want to help prepare you to leave home.
  • We are on your side.
  • We are rooting for you!responsibilityboxboxes

This visual depicts how the responsibility grows as the child ages.
Ultimately, the child will be out of the home…and out of the box,
having been given the tools to make good choices
in handling the freedoms and responsibilities of being an adult.

TIP:  If your child is older when you begin this plan, you can make the box with 6 month increments instead of 1 year

Sample Gift Wording – 

Freedom: No Bedtime!!!

Be ready to be in your room, settled down at appropriate time.
Wake up on your own at an appropriate time.
Get yourself ready on time.
Keep your grumpiness to yourself if you didn’t get enough sleep.


Other “Gift” ideas:
babysitting, staying home alone, bedtime, waking up, feeding pets, choosing clothing, getting a phone, mowing, pumping gas, driving, homework, curfew, shaving legs, managing own laundry, etc.

Things to consider when picking the “gifts”:

  • What issues cause the most friction in my relationship with my child?
  • Is there a way to give him “ownership” of something within family parameters?
  • What are some small “gifts” (pumping gas) that will help build toward bigger “gifts” (driving a car).
  • What is my child ready for according to his maturity?
  • What should my child be able to do for himself at this age, but may need incentive to grow?
  • What do I want for him to be able to handle for himself when he leaves home and how can I map out these “gifts” through the years so that he can be successful?
  • “Lord, please give me Your wisdom for what my child needs?”

How has this worked for my family?
God’s timing is perfect, as always!
We were approaching my daughter’s 11th birthday when I went to a parenting class where the concept of the “Responsibility Box” was explained.

Our wonderful Associate Pastor, Jim Allen, and his lovely wife, Trish, had successfully used this approach with their children years ago and have been sharing it ever since.  To give full credit, Jim and Trish originally heard about it from an Christian speaker named, Ken Poure, in the 1960’s-70’s.  Jim built on Ken’s basic idea, including coming up with the helpful visual of the nesting boxes shown above.  I’ve tweaked it further to meet the needs of our family.

It resonated with me when Jim and Trish pointed out that often, the things that cause the most conflict are the areas where the child is needing to stretch his own wings and take on responsibility.

It’s a WIN-WIN! 
Child gets freedom in the form of a responsibility.
Parents get peace and can quit badgering!

Such has been the case in every single instance since we started this 3 years ago.
For example, our sweet Kalli is every bit as much of a night owl as Tim and I are.  Bedtimes were always a challenge.  I can’t tell you the relief it was to let that rest in her court!  We all agreed that she needed to be in her room at an appropriate time, but it was up to her when she actually went to bed.   FREEDOM FOR ALL!

When responsibility kicks in…painfully
Then came the year that she got babysitting as a freedom.  She had worked hard, taking the online Red Cross babysitting class and making business cards in preparation for turning 12 and being able to officially sit.  She could hardly wait and already knew this would be one of the freedoms in her Responsibility Box on her birthday.

However, pretty much as soon as she had her birthday, she lost this freedom.  Why?  I will protect her and not share the details.  However,  it related to #1 item under the responsibilities associated with the freedom of babysitting.  “Be trustworthy in even the little things so we can trust you with this BIG responsibility.”  You may note that this echoes the Biblical principle of Matthew 25:23, on which the Responsibility Box is founded.

Therefore, it was no surprise to her that she lost the freedom.  And, the beautiful thing was that it wasn’t a battle.   It was indeed disappointing, embarrassing, and painful for her to have to tell people she couldn’t currently sit when she was asked (we let her simply say she was grounded so she didn’t have to go into it).  But, it helped her really digest that if she couldn’t be trusted with little things at home, it wasn’t at all appropriate for her to be trusted with other people’s children!

As with many growth experiences, I’m thankful she went through this because now I know she’s that much more trustworthy as a result of this trial. 

When the responsibility kicks in…positively
After watching his older sister gain freedoms for a couple of years, our son, Jake, couldn’t wait until he turned 11 so he could get his own Responsibility Box.  However, as every parent knows, each kid is different!  Tim and I struggled and prayed to find things that he would be excited about but were at a level that he could handle.  We had to get quite creative.  We knew that he was so eager to have great responsibilities and freedoms but didn’t have the maturity yet.  How could we help get him there?

We took a look at what we had to pester him most about…one of them being watering the dogs.   Hmmmm….how could we turn that responsibilities into a freedom?  Well, we figured he didn’t care to be badgered anymore than we cared to be badgering him!  So, we went heavy on discussing with him about how know he was ready to show us the independent dude he could be.  We knew this “empowering” kind of talk would appeal to his desire to be a “man”…and sure enough, it worked!

This boy, who previously had to be reminded every. single. day to water the dogs, was now taking initiative to do it on his own!  (Insert lots of positive praise reinforcement from parental units here!)

The Responsibility Box has over and over proven to help us back off and help him step up! 

I hope this idea blesses you as much as it has blessed our family! 
Happy Parenting!

For more help with Christian parenting, check out Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments. 




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Mothering with Scripture

Mothering with Scripture…
that sounds lovely, doesn’t it?!

But how do we go about that in our daily lives in practical ways?

My mom did this beautifully and set the course for me knowing how to mother with Scripture.

She fed herself.
I would often catch glimpses of her with her Bible and prayer journal. Her life exuded the love of Christ and I knew that was from her close daily walk with Him. I am certain that is where she drew her wisdom as a mother.

She fed me.
A favorite, consistent memory of growing up was bedtime. Mom made precious daily investments by reading me Bible stories, age-appropriate devotions, memorizing Scripture, and praying. I can’t understate the significance this had in establishing my own daily walk.

She used daily examples to tie in Scripture and point to God.
God wasn’t just something she checked off the list after her devotional. She walked with her best friend, Jesus, throughout the day. When a teachable moment popped up that reminded her of something from the Bible, she would share it with me or whoever happened to be around. She had such a sweet spirit that this wasn’t obnoxious, but made others want to grow closer to Jesus.

She exemplified turning to God through prayer and seeking His Word in tough times.
When she said she would pray for us, we KNEW this was true.
When life hit hard, she would share what God was teaching her and what verses were meaningful.

Was she perfect? No. She would be the first to humbly admit her need for God’s grace. Just another thing that made her life so beautiful.

I’m ever grateful for the legacy she left. She certainly blessed those who knew her and I hope she inspires you, too.

Thankful that my daughter was into “tea-time” and inspired this sweet outing that ended up being our last Mother’s Day together (2009) this side of heaven.

Mothering with Scripture

There was never any doubt in my mind when I was writing Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments, that I would dedicate it to her.  Take a look at the dedication page and flip through to be inspired with more ideas for mothering with Scripture.  Many of the “Parenting Tips” are things she did with me.

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Parenting with Scripture: It’s Not the Church’s Job

Does this title make you squirm a little because you wish you were doing a better job connecting God’s Word to everyday life? Maybe you just aren’t sure how?

Let’s break it down to the “when” and “how” along with a few pointers, and hopefully any intimidation can be weeded out.

The rest of this article is featured HERE on 

I’m excited to partner with this site and hope you’ll take a moment to browse around after finishing reading my piece.  It’s a wealth of resources. 

PWS not church's job
Plan ahead for Christmas presents and consider gifting copies of Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments  to friends, family, teachers, and church staff.


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How to encourage your kid’s losing team

Kalli’s Junior High Volleyball team was getting crushed last year.  They were a young, inexperienced, small (only 7!) team that usually played much larger teams with older, more experienced girls.  The first couple of games were brutal and the girls were quite disheartened.

Then a mom came up with a brilliant plan!

Set small goals:

Shauna realized the girls needed smaller, more attainable goals to work toward rather than actually winning a game.  She promised them cupcakes if they could get to 15 points in a set.  Once they achieved that, the next goal was 20 points in a set for chicken nuggets.  I’m sure it was amusing to those not in the know to hear us fans yelling out “CUPCAKES!” or “NUGGETS!” as encouragements!  A win, which they amazingly finally achieved, meant an end of season slumber party!

Celebrate incremental victories:
The opposing teams had to have been completely befuddled by our extreme joy, cheering, and pride in our girls after each game…especially all those “lost” games.  What they didn’t know is that we were elated about the improvements and increasing victories of calling the ball, working as a team, growing skill, and more points!  By the time our team actually won a game, we were so thrilled you’d think we had taken the state championship!

Thus, the season became less about winning and more about growth.  It was a blessing to see the girls’ confidence increase and attitudes brighten with each game. Yes, we will all remember how hard that season was.  You can’t lose that often and badly and it not make an impression.  However, I’m thankful Shauna saw an opportunity to teach the team (and parents!) lessons of persistence, encouragement, and keeping positive when things are down.

Here’s a way a teammate encouraged the remaining 6 girls when she was injured and unable to play.
See?  Encouragement is contagious!
Seems there was a food trend going.  🙂
I’d love to hear any non-food ideas you’ve seen or tried.  Please share!
volleyball verse

 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11
For other topical verses, refer to your copy of Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments

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How to help prepare your child to be a godly adult

Let’s take things further than just “be a good example.”

That’s ABSOLUTELY true!
But let’s let our kids in on HOW we are being a good example for them.

1)  We can remind them we all struggle.  (Romans 3:23)

2)  We can be transparent with our kids about our struggles…keeping in mind appropriateness for age and content.   Meaning, we can show them how we are ourselves are working on being a godly adults.  They need real life examples of how it doesn’t come magically or without effort.    I’ll be transparent with you and show you what this looks like in my family.

My example:
I love to eat.  I’m not large, but I struggle daily to keep from becoming so.  My kids know that this is a battle for me because they have seen their bags of chips and snacks completely disappear without a trace before they have had a chance to enjoy them.  My son now hides the Nutella jar so I can’t find it.  Smart kid.

In an effort to deal with this in a healthy way and provide a good example, I’ve posted copies of portions of Philippians 4 on bright yellow paper on my mirror, fridge, and in the pantry at eye level.  I know from failing over and over that I have no power of my own in this weakness and must humble myself and rely fully on God.  My kids (and I) have the visual that I am trying to remember to use the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), to help me battle this temptation.  I pray this helps my kids remember to turn to God’s Word when they struggle!


Here’s another tactic I’ve tried.
In case you can’t clearly read the post-it, it says, “Flee from Evil!” Ha!
Flee from evil

3)  We can take it even further and use teachable moments to show them how our struggles are similar.  You may remember that I blogged recently about “What is your child’s biggest temptation and what are you doing about it?”  I wrote that from experience with both my children.   This was also the basis for the “When nothing works with your toddler, teen, or in between, what do you do?” post.  Each of my kids have an issue that is heavy on my heart.  It’s a sin issue just like my lack of self-control with food (To be clear, I’m not implying that being overweight is a sin.  I just know that for me personally, food can easily become an idol and tempts me mercilessly in the area of self-control.)

I won’t throw my kids under the bus by divulging what their issues are.  But I’ll share how I’ve incorporated how I deal with my BIG struggle as a teachable moment as an example of helping equip my kids grow into godly adults with their BIG struggle.

My example:
I was sitting in the car with Kid 1 working on my Bible study while Kid 2 was in an extra-curricular activity.   Psalm 119:11 struck me anew because of recent dealings with Kid 1’s struggle and how similar in principle it is to mine.

Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.

I realized this was a teachable moment!
I stopped and shared with Kid 1 that I had just seen a verse that I thought would be a good reminder for both of us!   We both need applicable topical verses of God’s Word in our hearts because temptation can strike at any time!  I’m not going to always be standing in the pantry with those self- control verses in front of me to help me!  I need one or two memorized so they can help me at any point!  I explained that was the same reason our family had been memorizing a verse a week on the topic of Kid 1’s BIG issue.  Though that particular thing is more of a battle for that child, it’s something we all face.  We never know when the temptation is going to strike, so we all need to have God’s Word already in our hearts to help us fight!

How are you helping your kids see the HOW of being an adult seeking after God?

Topical Scriptures to help both children and adults (because we don’t outgrow God’s Word!) can be easily found in Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments.

You artsy folks may appreciate this rendition of Michelangelo’s  “The Creation of Adam” from the Sistine Chapel. I like the imagery of it connected to the topic of this blog.
godly adult

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