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.

Could Your Teen Be Using The Drug Ecstasy?

Could your teen be using the drug Ecstasy?

According to a new report, the number of U.S. teens who wind up in the emergency room after taking the club drug Ecstasy has more than doubled in recent years. is reporting that drug abuse experts are very concerned about the huge increase in kids taken to hospital ER’s after taking MDMA— known as Ecstasy in pill form and “Molly” in the newer powder form.

Steve Pasierb, president of The Partnership at, says “This should be a wake-up call to everyone, but the problem is much bigger than what the data show. “These are only the cases that roll into the emergency rooms. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

In the past year there have been a string of Ecstasy-related deaths in different parts of the country.  Organizers closed the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City in August following two deaths and four hospitalizations caused by Ecstasy overdoses.

The deaths came a week after another young man died from Ecstasy overdose at a rock show in Boston.

Ecstasy produces feelings of increased energy and euphoria, and can distort a person’s senses and perception of time. It works by altering the brain’s chemistry.

The drug can cause potentially harmful physical reactions.  Users can become dangerously overheated and experience rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure and dehydration, all of which can lead to kidney or heart failure.

Alcohol also appears to be a factor, as one-third of the emergency room visits involving Ecstasy also involved alcohol.

If you’re a parent, I’d encourage you to learn more about this health danger by going to

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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.

Lisa’s Home School: Twist on Christmas Giving

A mom says that her boys have way too much stuff! For Christmas, they will not be getting toys but another form of a gift. Lisa shares the twist on giving this season!  Listen here!


Lisa’s Home School: Twist on Christmas Giving

Read this mom’s full blog here!

We’re pretty lucky in our family. I can cross off three out of four of our birthdays in May alone! Then Christmas and the fourth birthday are taken care of in December. This makes for a lot less time worrying about buying and giving presents and a lot more time thinking about how much stuff we have.

In fact, all of that thinking about not buying presents gave me a thought: I really can’t imagine having more things in my house. More toys, clothes, sippy cups… we’ve got so much already. I’m constantly packing and donating toys my boys no longer play with, it seems. Now, I don’t want to diminish or sound ungrateful for the amazing generosity of our friends and family, we’re beyond thankful for all they’ve given us… but it’s just… so much. So much more than they need.

My boys really do not need for another thing.

I know my favorite thing about presents… it’s giving them. I spend extra time and care thinking about giving gifts to my own family, to our friends and to their families. I try to be thoughtful about my own gift-giving and I know how difficult it can be to find that perfect gift sometimes. Occasionally, before a birthday party or event, I get overwhelmed and buy something just to bring it… and maybe that’s not the right approach.

What if…

What if nobody gave my boys presents anymore? What if we only gave GIFTS.

The gifts of experience, adventure and more importantly, familiarity that they truly need. Instead of the things (toys, games, clothes) that they didn’t even really know about or want? The only thing I truly think my boys need to have is more time with their family…

So, starting now, this year, before the holiday season begins, I’m beginning a new tradition. Although we’ll always be grateful for the presents we and our boys receive, I’d ask that our friends and family offer these experiences and time spent with our boys instead of money spent on them.

I’m not going to tell you what to do, or what to buy… but here are some suggestions:

Instead of buying my boys a toy lion, why not take one (or both) of them to the zoo to see a real one? To spend some time with a family member or friend would mean so much more to them than another toy.

Not a lot of time to give? What about contributing towards one of the (shockingly expensive) activities the boys will be participating in? Piano/drum/guitar lessons. Swimming lessons. Summer soccer season. Dance lessons.

Don’t have a lot of money? (Hey, neither do we! No big!) — How about just spending some quality time with the boys? Set a day and take them to the park. Take one of them on a bike ride. Take one to the movies. Take them to a local play center. Instead of in

We have a really good friend who, back in May, couldn’t make it to Cash’s third birthday. She said she wanted to drop off a present at another time and I said, “He really doesn’t need anything, but we’d love a visit! Actually, instead of a present, why not just take him and do something with him just the two of you?” In the end she, her boyfriend, and their friend and her daughter ended up going to the zoo with Cash and he LOVED it. He asks about this friend a lot now, and wants to spend time with her again because he enjoyed it so much.

This is what I would like for my boys to grow up with. Not mountains of toys (which are growing bigger by the minute, I swear!) but experiences and close relationships with the people in their lives who matter most.

Here’s the thing: I always think about the what ifs: what if something happened to me? What if something happened to their dad? They’ve built strong bonds with some family members, but others are only seen on occasion and only for short periods of time. They’re unfamiliar and being young, the boys often don’t remember them on special occasions and it breaks my heart. Building relationships now with these family members and friends will only benefit them in the long run if something were to ever happen to us.

These are the things I think about, people. Deep, I know.

But seriously, if you’re in our circle of friends or family, please don’t buy my kids presents but instead give them the gift of your time and love. It doesn’t have to cost anything, but it’s really the ONLY thing they need.

Christella Morris blogs regularly at, where this piece first appeared.

vesting in their toy collections, invest in your relationship with them.


Brother Battles

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have two wonderful boys, ages four and eight.  The only problem is that there seems to be a constant battle between them.  I don’t know what to do about this—my mother says I should stop the fighting and teach them to love each other.  Others have told me that this behavior is common to boys and I shouldn’t worry about it.  What can I do?




Sibling rivalry has been around since the beginning of time.  Remember Cain and Abel?  If you recall, that story had a very unhappy ending.

Here are a few suggestions.  First, whenever your boys act aggressively toward one other, implement immediate consequences for both of them.  The consequence needs to be unpleasant for each child, such as the loss of a privilege, the requirement to complete a yucky chore, or a time-out in a completely boring location.  Of course, fighting kids always need to do their time-outs in SEPARATE locations.

If you are consistent and follow through with consequences at the first sign of aggressive behavior, you should notice that your boys will begin to fight less and less.  And remember, when dealing with sibling rivalry never, NEVER ask the world’s dumbest question: “Who started it?”

You should also make sure that both of your boys receive positive one on one time with you every week.  Sometimes sibling rivalry occurs when children feel like they need to fight to get a parent’s time and attention.

Both you and your husband should make an effort to schedule time alone with each boy every week.  This could be a few minutes each evening or an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday.

Finally, teach your sons what God says about how we are to treat one another.  Read the bible together regularly, and memorize scriptures about love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.  A good place to start is I John 4:7-8 and Colossians 3:12-14.


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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Karate Kid!

Dear Dr. Bill,

In the past I’ve heard you mention the benefits of enrolling kids in martial arts like karate or tai kwon do.  However, I’m uneasy about some of the teachings that are connected with these.  For example, in many films and anime cartoons, you see people using martial arts to “transform” themselves and change the air, water and land in unnatural ways.  What do you think about that?



Dear Diane,

If you decide to enroll your kids in martial arts, it’s critical that you ask about the philosophy behind the particular school and training.

There are definitely some schools of martial arts that combine Eastern religious beliefs and meditation with their instruction.  As a Christian parent, you wouldn’t want to expose your child to those ideas.

On the other hand, many martial arts programs focus on self-defense, respect, and self-discipline, without any reference to Buddhist or New Age philosophy.

There are even martial arts schools run by Christians that incorporate biblical principles such as endurance, patience, loyalty, and self-control.

In fact, one of my friends is a 5th-degree black belt who uses his martial arts skills to share Christ with boys in juvenile detention facilities all across the country.  His name is Victor Marx, and he heads up a ministry called “All Things Possible.”

If you decide to pursue martial arts training for your kids, use your discernment. Ask questions about the philosophy behind the training and the qualifications of the instructors.  Also, it’s always wise to observe a few classes before signing any kind of contract with a martial arts school.

Thanks for writing, Diane.


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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Are Kids Watching Less TV?

Are American kids watching less TV?  Yes—and—no.

According to a story on, television watching is going down among children ages 11 through 16.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that tweens and teens now watch about 2.4 hours of TV a day.  That’s down from the 3.1 hours they were watching a decade ago.

But the study doesn’t take into account how television and television-like media is changing.  For instance it doesn’t consider YouTube clips or TV watched on computers, tablets or phones.

Melanie Shreffler, a columnist for, says “Teens are indeed watching less on TV sets, but they’re still actively engaged with shows. They’re just using new ways to ‘watch TV’ that fit their lifestyles.”

In other culture news, are you feeling mad, sad, glad or scared?  Scientists have found that the most prevalent emotion expressed online is ANGER—at least in China.

Researchers at Beihang University studied the Chinese social network Weibo, which is a platform that resembles Twitter and has twice as many users.

They concluded that anger was the most influential emotion in online interactions.

Over a six-month period, the researchers sorted 70 million messages into the emotional categories of anger, joy, sadness and disgust.

Sadness and disgust were relatively non-influential, while happy messages were more likely to cause joy among followers and motivate them to forward them.

Rage was most likely to spread across social media, creating a ripple effect that could spark irate posts with up to three degrees of separation from the original message.

So before you Tweet something today, take a deep breath, count to ten, and remember these words from Proverbs 29:11: “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.”

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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Toddler Frenemies

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have 2-year-old twins, and our friends have a 3-year-old boy.  Unfortunately their son is impulsively mean and aggressive to my children.  We try to keep visits short and under parental control, but inevitably one of my kids gets whacked or kicked. Our friends are having a difficult time with their son and we could all use a little advice on how to handle his mean-spirited actions.



Dear Lisa,

The main question is WHY is your friend’s 3-year-old is impulsively mean and aggressive.  I can only speculate, but I’m guessing his behavior is either due to ineffective parenting, some kind of family dysfunction, or more severe psychological problems.

Since you mention that you are good friends with this family and that you could ALL use a little advice, my first suggestion would be for your friends to have their son evaluated by a child psychologist.

If it turns out that his aggressive behavior is simply a result of ineffective or inconsistent parenting, your friends should be able to get some good parenting instruction from the psychologist.

In the meantime, they need to immediately step in and administer consequences when their son becomes aggressive.

Ask them if they will agree to this plan…they should tell their son that the next time your twins visit, if he is mean to them or acts aggressively in any way, the twins will need to leave and go home.

Then when it happens (and it certainly will) announce that hitting is not allowed and that your family is leaving.  Leave immediately, without discussion, even if their son protests or cries.  Stick to your guns and do this every time he displays aggressive behavior of any kind.  Hopefully it will only take a few incidents like this before the aggressive behavior begins to diminish

Thanks for writing, Lisa.


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

Listen to today’s audio here.