Breaking Destructive Family Patterns

Dear Dr. Bill,

I grew up in a home where I received a lot of verbal abuse from my parents.  I’m now a mother of a three-year-old, and lately I’ve caught myself saying things to her that I’m not proud of.  Can you tell me what I can do to change?


Dear Karen,

The words we use when speaking to our children are extremely powerful. If we constantly belittle and criticize them, we set the stage for low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and shame, even problems with anxiety and depression later in life.

We should be our children’s biggest cheerleaders…affirming them when they succeed and encouraging them when they fail.

The bible commands not to “exasperate our children” (Ephesians 6:4) and to let our “gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5).

Based on your e-mail, it sounds like you may be repeating some of the negative behavior patterns you experienced growing up.  The best way to break out of those negative patterns is to do the work necessary to understand how your past has affected you.

If you grew up in a home where you were constantly criticized, put down, or verbally abused, it’s important to grieve that fact honestly and understand how it has affected you.

Then you need to repent of any sinful behavior on your part, ask the Lord’s forgiveness, and make the changes necessary to break patterns of generational sin.

Joining a support group or seeing a Christian therapist would be a helpful first step.

By the way, an excellent book on this topic is “Verbal Abuse,” by Dr. Grace Ketterman. Thanks for writing, Karen.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

One of the Best Gifts You Can Give Your Kids in 2014

Happy New Year!  If you’re a parent, here’s one of the best New Years’ resolutions you can make.  It’s giving your kids your TIME.

A few years ago, some so-called parenting experts who told us that our kids really need is QUALITY time, not QUANTITY time.

I’m convinced they came up with that slogan to make overworked, overcommitted parents feel better about themselves.  They also wanted them to feel less guilty about sticking their kids in daycare from sunrise to sunset.

But the reality is you can’t have QUALITY time without QUANTITY time.  Quality time only occurs in the context of QUANTITY time.

For some of us, that means we need to take a hard look at our schedules.  We may need to cut back on some of the activities we enjoy or that we think are so important.

And yes, that might even mean cutting back on ministry activities, if they are interfering with our ability to be available to our kids.

And just because you are PHYSICALLY present, doesn’t mean you are truly present.  Technology and entertainment are big culprits in that area.

Research shows that in the average American home, the TV is on 49 hours per week.  But sadly, the average parent only spends 39 MINUTES per week in meaningful conversation with their kids.

And how much time are you spending on Facebook these days?  In a recent survey of social media users, more than 40% of women referred to themselves “Facebook addicts.”

For more advice on spending quality AND quantity time with your kids, go to

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

“Help—My 12-year-old Daughter Needs Me to be With Her All the Time!”

Dear Dr. Bill,

My middle child is a 12-year-old girl named Audrey.  Over the past few months she’s been dealing with separation anxiety — she doesn’t want me to leave the house without her.  She says she misses me and that when we’re apart, she feels like I don’t love her.  Nothing has changed in our family life during this time, and our household seems “normal” with a great husband and three children.  What should I do?


Dear Stephanie,

If it’s true that nothing has changed at home, then there is a possibility that something has changed in your daughter’s school environment or that she’s experienced some type of stressful event that you don’t know about.

The first thing to do is to talk your daughter about the changes in her behavior.  You might say something like “Honey, lately I’ve noticed that it’s really hard for you to do things on your own or be apart from me.  I’m wondering if you’ve been feeling scared or worried about something in your life.”  If she says “no,” don’t push her, but reassure her that she can talk to you about anything at all, anytime.

Also, could it be that you aren’t actually spending enough time with her?  If you work outside the home, have your hours increased?  Have you or your daughter become so busy with activities outside the home that you spend very little time together?

If it’s simply a matter of clinginess, make sure to praise her when she acts independently or succeeds at doing things on her own.  Even if she takes small steps in that direction, let her know that you’re proud of her for showing initiative and independence.

Also, schedule regular mother-daughter time with her.  This should be one-on-one times, with no other family members present.  It can be as simple as taking a walk together one day each week, reading a book together for 30 minutes on a weeknight evening, or a trip to the grocery store together.

If the problems persist, I would encourage you to consult with a family therapist.

Thanks for writing, Stephanie.  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

New Year’s Advice for Christian Parents

As we get ready to kick off a new year, here’s a question for you:  do you want your kids to grow up with a strong, vibrant, Christian faith?

If so, you’ll need to be intentional about building healthy, lasting relationships with other Christian families.

When I was growing up, we knew our neighbors.  My parents watched out for the other kids in the neighborhood and the other parents on the block watched out for us.

If my brother and I were doing something we weren’t supposed to be doing and someone spotted us, my parents would get a call from one of those neighbors.

I believe my brother referred to them as “snitches” or “narcs.”  ;-]

But today, the sad truth is that in most suburban neighborhoods we DON’T know our neighbors—or at least we don’t know many of them.

Neighbors come home at the end of the day and the garage door goes up, the car pulls in, and the garage door goes down.

In our disconnected world we need to be deliberate about building solid relationships with other Christian parents who share our values regarding things like entertainment, internet use, drug and alcohol use and sexual purity.

By the way, new research has found that if teenagers have other Christian adults in their life who care about them—in addition to their mom and dad—they are much LESS likely to abandon their faith when they go off to college.

Drs. Chap Clark and Kara Powell at the Fuller Youth Institute recommend that in addition to their parents, every Christian teen should have 5 other adults in their life who will commit to building relationships with them.

These adults can pray for that young person, be a listening ear during times of conflict, and reinforce the values held by the teen’s own parents.

To learn more about this research, go to  I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The “Jesus” vs. “Santa” Controversy

Dear Dr. Bill,

Before our kids were born, my wife and I decided we wouldn’t teach them about Santa Claus — because we didn’t want him to replace Jesus as the reason for this season.  But we’ve been getting criticism from our family, friends and now even from members of our own church.  They say that we’re spoiling our kids’ imagination.  I’m frustrated because I feel like my church, the one place that should encourage the truth, is betraying me!  What should I do?


Dear Sam,

I appreciate your dedication to biblical truth, but frankly, I think you need to relax.  Here’s how you might talk to your kids about this the Santa vs. Jesus controversy:

“It’s fun to believe in Santa, but we know that believing in Jesus is what’s most important.  He is our Lord and Savior, and a relationship with him gives our lives true meaning and purpose.

Families all over the world have stories about a person like Santa Claus, and young children love to believe in him.  Santa represents good things, like kindness, generosity, and joy.”

You can also tell your children about the real Saint Nicolas, who Santa Claus is based on.  He was born in Turkey, about two hundred years after Jesus.  He was a Christian, and when he was a teenager he heard about a poor family that couldn’t afford to buy food.

He sneaked up to their house one night and tossed a handful of gold coins through the window. They were overjoyed when they found the coins the next morning, but they never learned who did it.

Nicholas was so thrilled about helping a family in need that he dedicated his entire life to giving to others.

Thanks for writing, Sam.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give Your Kids This Year

What’s one of the best Christmas gifts you can give your kids this year?

Well, it’s NOT an i-phone, i-pod, or i-pad…or a deluxe Rainbow Loom set for your 7-year-old daughter!

It’s making faith relevant in your home.

Unfortunately, several studies show that a large number of Christian teens are abandoning their faith in college.  And new research indicates that many of these kids aren’t coming back to the church—or to Christianity.

That’s why it’s crucial for us to be intentional about passing our faith to our children.

If our Christianity is limited to an hour or two on Sunday mornings, our kids will come to view our faith as hypocritical and meaningless.

Also, research conducted at the University of North Carolina shows that teens who are actively involved in a faith community are much less likely to be involved in some of the risky behaviors that so many kids fall victim to these days.

Also, if you have a tee or pre-teen at home—it is VITAL for them to be involved in a healthy, discipleship-oriented youth group.

And of course PRAYER is critical in making faith relevant in your home.

Pray for your kids, and pray WITH your kids.  And as you pray, ask God to help you provide your children with the kind of unfailing love and clear moral guidance that they’ll need to survive in a world that is full of a bunch of dangers and temptations.

An excellent place to go for resources that will help you be more intentional about passing on your faith is Focus on the Family.  I’ll admit that I’m kind of partial to that ministry since I worked there for 8 years.  You can reach them at 1-800-A-FAMILY and find them on the web at

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

A New Report For Parents On The Dangers of High Chairs

If you have a baby or toddler at home, listen up.  A new report is out on the dangers of high chairs, and the news is not good.

According to a story from Reuters Health, every hour, on average, a child ends up in a U.S. emergency room with an injury associated with a high chair.  And the risk seems to be increasing.

The most common injuries associated with high chairs were so-called “closed-head injuries,” such as concussions. Those were followed by cuts and bruises.

Dr. Gary Smith of  Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio was the study’s senior author.  He says “one of the things we need to be aware of is a high chair elevates a child above what a typical chair—and they are often used in dining areas with hard floors.”

Hospital records show that two thirds of the kids injured were either climbing or standing in their high chairs.

Dr. Smith says “The restraining systems are there for a reason. The tray won’t keep a child in a chair. The restraints must be used and used correctly.”

The biggest danger is when kids aren’t strapped in properly.

One of Dr. Smith’s colleagues, Tracy Mehan, says, “The important thing is the crotch strap. You want to make sure that this strap is here because it helps keep the child in the chair so they don’t slide out from underneath.

By the way, the researchers found that more than 3.4 million high chairs had been recalled since 2008 due to faulty designs.

You can check to see if your child’s highchair has been recalled by going to:

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

How To Help Children Cope A Parent’s Impending Death

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have a 4-year- old daughter at home.  Her father and I were divorced when she was a baby, but we’ve maintained good contact and my daughter adores her dad.  But now my ex-husband is dying and I don’t know how to prepare my daughter for this.  She knows he’s very sick, but how should I help her through this traumatic situation?


Dear Michelle,

I’m so sorry to hear about the impending loss of your ex-husband.  Even though you have divorced for several years, I’m sure his death will be difficult for you as well as your daughter.

Very young children don’t really have the capacity to understand abstract concepts like life and death.  It’s likely your daughter may not fully understand what is happening to your husband, and that she won’t be able to understand the permanence of his death after he is gone.

It’s important to remember that your daughter will look to you for “cues” about what emotions to feel and how to respond.  I believe you should be honest about your feelings and acknowledge your own grief.

Also, let your daughter know that you understand that this is a very confusing and sad time for her.

If your ex-husband is a Christian, you can assure your daughter that her daddy is going to live forever with Jesus, even though she won’t be able to visit him or talk to him after he dies.  You might read bible passages to her about God’s promise of eternity for all who believe in Him.

Also make sure to allow your daughter to ask questions and discuss her fears about this situation.  An excellent book that will help you is “Someone I Love Died” by Christine Harder Tangvald.

Thanks for writing, Michelle.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Making The Right Choices For Children’s DVD Viewing

Dear Dr. Bill,

Recently my 5-year-old daughter has been crying and getting hysterical at bedtime.  A couple weeks ago, we checked out a “kids movie” from the library that involved witches.  Now every night, she’s afraid witches are going to get her.  Last night I did something my husband and I vowed we would never do — I slept in their room.  But I was desperate, because it was 11pm and she had to get up early for school the next day!  What should we do?


Dear Debbie,

It’s clear that this so-called “kids movie” really scared your daughter.  Unfortunately, as parents we can no longer trust ratings or descriptions of films.  We need to research movies and DVD’s ourselves, using a trusted source like Focus on the Family’s “”

Since your daughter was obviously traumatized by the witches, the first thing I would do is sit down and discuss the movie.  Ask her what she saw, what she thought about it, and what she felt.

Don’t dismiss her fears as silly or immature.  After all, she is only five years old, and it sounds like she has a very sensitive spirit.

Then reassure her that it was only a story, just like the stories in her story books.  Explain to her that God will protect her and pray with her about the scary movie and her fears.  Also, encourage her to pray on her own when she becomes frightened at night.

It’s definitely NOT a good idea for you to sleep in her room or let her sleep in your bed.  That will only reinforce her behavior, encouraging her to act helpless and dependent.

Instead, find another way to make her feel secure, like turning on a nightlight for a while or letting her take a special stuffed animal to bed with her.

Thanks for writing, Debbie.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Good News Story: Listening to Son Saves Life

It is a common misconseption that children do not have anything of importance to say. The following story proves this theory wrong as a child saves not only himself, but also his family. Listen to this inspiring story here!


Good News Story: Listening to Son Saves Life

Read full story here:

Brevin Hunter, 6, was playing on his Xbox when he heard the wail of the siren. “Please, Mom. Let’s go down in the basement.”

Lisa Hunter heard it, too. But the skies looked deceptively calm, so she thought it was just a drill, or perhaps a few overly cautious officials jumping the gun.

Brevin wouldn’t let up. “Please, Mom. This is what they teach us in school. When you hear the siren, you need to go somewhere safe.”

On Sunday evening, Hunter credited her son for saving their lives. She, Brevin and her oldest son, Brody, 11, grabbed a futon and went to the basement, just minutes before the tornado slammed into their duplex.

“There’s no way I would have gone if he hadn’t kept nagging me,” she said from Crossroads Methodist Church, where dazed and disoriented Washington residents gathered and waited, hoping to be let back into whatever was left of their homes.

Lucinda Gresham, a nurse volunteering at the church, also attributed the family’s safety to young Brevin. “They are alive today because of that boy,” she said.

On Monday, Brevin basked in the media glare, interviewed in camouflage pajamas that he had selected from a box of donated clothes at the church.

“It was not so hard,” he said about his heroics. He demonstrated how he had curled into a ball and protected his head while turbulent weather picked up tables and lawn mowers and tossed them about like toys.

His only regret? That he had to leave his video game, Minecraft, without saving because they had to take cover so quickly. “Now I have to start over,” he said.