Input-Process-Output Parenting

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After I graduated from college with my accounting degree, I went to work with a worldwide firm. As part of my job, I consulted with many large companies to give them a great evaluation of their businesses. I would look at their inputs, their processes, and their outputs. When things aren’t working right and you aren’t getting the output you desire, you go back and look at the inputs and say, “Are we inputting the right things?” If we are inputting the right things, then we look to see how those things are processed. Are we processing them well, correctly, and efficiently? If we are doing that, then we should have the projected outcome. Many times, clients would have losses or insurance issues. These were the results they were getting. We just went back and tried to figure out where the process was broken.

This theory can be used in every single area of your life. Let us start with children. Their behavior is an output. If you don’t like the behavior of your children, go back and look at their inputs. Are they watching TV that has a bad influence on them? Are they listening to music that is giving them ideas and embedding thoughts in their minds and imaginations? Are they playing video games too much? Do they have friends who corrupt their character? Are you setting a bad example for your children? Are you seeing your own behavior toward your husband in your children?

Look at your inputs. Whatever your inputs are, that is going to be what they process in their minds. It’s going to be what they think about, what they imagine, and probably what they dream of. All of those inputs go into a pot. They are stirred up, stewed, processed, and thought on until they produce an output or an outcome. You can examine the outcome, your children’s outward behavior, to determine whether or not something was broken with the input.

Many times, as parents, we lose our cool and try to correct the output without correcting the inputs. We have to go back and correct the inputs. But you know what? Correcting the input is hard work for the parent. That is true parenting—true discipling, discipleship, or discipline of your children. It means starting with the input and carefully making sure the inputs are something you would eventually like to see as an output.

Secondly, we should be shepherding the hearts of our children by feeding them good, positive encouragement. What are they hearing from you? What is coming out of your mouth that is being inputted into their minds? Is it encouraging or discouraging? Is it building up or tearing down? Does it align with God’s truth? Or are you just looking at the output and criticizing it? It is so easy to do. It’s easy to say, “You’re selfish. You’re bratty. You’re a complainer.” But those words just become new input that is processed and creates the same behavior.

What you want to do is make sure you are shepherding their hearts and listening to them or asking deeper questions than their behavior. What is going on in the processing part? How are they filtering what they are saying? Sometimes, we may have hurt our children somewhere along the way, and then they filter everything we say through that hurt every single time.

Is there something broken in the processing of their minds or in the processing of their hearts? Are they beginning to build up walls against you as their parent? Are they holding a fit? Are they bitter? Is there something going on in their hearts that’s causing them to process the input you are trying to give them negatively, which then produces this poor output? Everything comes back to input-process-output.

That is how we should parent. We should really be looking at the inputs we have allowed our children to have, the boundaries, the room to grow, and the processing. How are they processing the things in their hearts? How do they filter things in their minds? How do they spend their time using their imagination? At the end of the day, that should produce good fruit, a fruitful outcome, and a fruitful output. When we don’t see that, we must continually go back to the inputs, processes, and outputs.

If we constantly beat our children because they have bad output or bad outcomes, it doesn’t correct the problem. It changes their behavior, but it doesn’t change their input. It doesn’t change the way they process. We are called to disciple and discipline our children, which does not imply beating them into submission. It means to shepherd them into great outputs by caring about everything that goes in and how everything is processed. Then you will yield great results.

Defending Yourself

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Believer, why are you so defensive? When someone points out an error you made, a mistake, a failure, why do you feel the need to argue and defend yourself and explain why you made a mistake and screwed up? Why do you feel the need to throw others under the bus instead of taking responsibility and bearing the burden on your shoulders, whether you did it or not? Are you counting yourself as more valuable than others or vice versa?

Are you so insecure that you need to be right every time? Are you so insecure that you can’t fail because if you mess up and fail, then you are a failure? Do you label yourself? Do you think, “If I just prevent myself from failing, I’m going to be good enough”? Don’t you realize that we all fail and if we are not failing, we are not trying? Are you struggling with your own identity so much that you have to be defensive and in the defensive position every time?

Listen to your words. Check if you are constantly saying:

  • “Well, I didn’t do that.”
  • “That’s not me. That was someone else.”
  • “I didn’t mean to.”
  • “Here’s what I meant by that …”
  • “That’s not really a failure. I didn’t really miss that.”
  • “I didn’t really make that mistake. Here’s what truly happened. Let me make sure you know that it wasn’t my intention.”

Do you hear yourself saying that type of thing every day, day in and day out? Instead of accepting responsibility for what you have done, you defend yourself, trying to redeem your own reputation. You weren’t called to redeem your own reputation. You are called to lay it down and hold up the reputation of Christ. He doesn’t need any defending.

Ask people around you if you are constantly defending yourself or throwing others under the bus to save yourself. I dare you to have the courage to ask that question. Now, asking your spouse is one thing. Your spouse will probably tell you, “No, you’re not,” to try to keep the peace and the unity. Ask some other people—your closest friend, your coworkers, your children.

One time, my kids said, “Hey, mom. We’d like to talk to you. We don’t really want to hear an argument about your perspective. We just want you to hear us.” They wanted to be heard. They didn’t want to hear my perspective on why I chose to do what I did. They wanted me to hear their frustration.

Do you have a reputation of being defensive and not easy to talk to? Maybe you said you were going to do something, but you didn’t keep your word. Instead of admitting you messed up, you try to defend yourself. You tell people why and make excuses, failing to count the cost of how you have lost credibility in the eyes of others.

You may not think this applies to you, but trust me, I am pretty sure it applies to most people. Look at your behavior and stop defending yourself. 

Parents Are Asking the Wrong Question

“Did you have fun today?”
“What did you do for fun?”
“Did you have fun with your friends?”

What is the one consistent word here? Its the three-letter word fun



This type of question is ruining our children’s ability simply to BE. I hear parents, grandparents, and siblings asking young people, “Are you going to have a fun day? What did you do that was fun? Did you have fun with your friends?” 

I hear people asking this sort of question all of the time, even in my own house.

Is this really the question we should be asking? Should we gauge the quality of a young person’s day based on whether he or she had fun? 

We need to ask ourselves what we are teaching our children by asking this.

We are giving them the impression that 
life is all about having fun.
I’m not trying to suggest that children—or adults for that matter—should never have fun. We should love what we do. We should be engaged; we should have energy for life. We should enjoy our lives because Jesus came to bring us life “to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).
On the other hand, Jesus also said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). 

Hardships are part of life. We will experience struggles. We must often deal with troubling circumstances. In times of trial, however, we can have peace and find strength because we know Jesus loves us. He understands our pain and is both able and willing to help us in all things. We can find joy in the growth of our relationship with Him.

It will not be fun, but there is GOOD in it.

Recently, I took care of a child for a friend of mine. When my friend came to pick up her daughter, one of the first things she did was ask her child, “What did you do for fun today?” Her daughter replied, “Nothing. I haven’t done anything fun today.” The reaction to this statement bordered on shock, as if such a circumstance were unthinkable.

Why is it unthinkable? What is horrible about a child not having fun all of the time? You shouldnt entertain your own children, and I shouldnt entertain them, either.

If I gear my children’s lives toward fun, I am setting them up for future failure, depression, and battles when life isnt fun. I am setting them up for disappointment in marriage because they won’t be able to appreciate those low-key days of rest and recovery with their spouses after hectic times. I want my children to be able to treasure the quiet moments of simple companionship. 

When we emphasize the value of fun, 
we are sowing in our children 
the need to be entertained continuously. 

We are setting them up to view other people in terms of how they can make life more fun. We are encouraging our children to seek relationships based on fun. We are teaching them that it is okay to avoid or abandon tasks and relationships that don’t seem fun.

Many children today are constantly asking, “What are we going to do now?” They are always seeking new ways to entertain themselves. Next time your kids are with a play date or hanging out with teenage friends, listen to them talk with each other. Take note of how often they ask each other what they will do next.

Listen to them tell each other that what they’ve been doing is getting old; they are bored and ready for the next source of entertainment. Girls who play indoors are always jumping to the next activity: “Hey, lets edit pictures. Lets do a photo shoot. Let’s play a game. Lets make a video. Lets make a song. Lets do all of these projects together. Lets go play this sport. Lets go play that. Im tired of this—lets move on.”

As a mother, I certainly appreciate when my children can entertain themselves and come up with activities on their own. The trouble is that kids don’t stay focused on a particular goal. They don’t stay engaged and committed. You don’t see kids building a fort all day long the way we did when we were young. These days its more of a frenzy. Kids dart from one activity to the next to the next to the next. Theres no break.

I don’t hear kids suggesting to each other that they hang out and talk for a while or read a book or study the Bible. I know these suggestions sound odd, but they shouldn’t. Life isnt about bouncing wildly from one fun activity to the next. I’m afraid that children who live in restless pursuit of entertainment will grow into adults who are never satisfied with simply being. God created us as human beings, yet we allow our children to be only human doings. We are setting our children on a dangerous course because, let’s face it, most entertainment for kids and for adults is of this world and not of God. 

The desire for stimulation can distract us from 
the values and purposes of God.

Will our children be too busy ping-ponging around to realize that?

I believe we need to stop asking children, “Did you have fun today?” We need to stop telling them when they leave the house, “Be sure to have fun!” Since it’s in our power to influence our children’s focus, let’s choose some different questions: 

Whom did you encourage today?
How were you encouraged today?
Did you share your beautiful smile with someone?
Did anyone surprise you with a beautiful smile?
Did you see someone do something kind today?
Did you share with a friend today?
Did you help your friends mommy when you were at their house all day? 
Did you leave their place better than you found it?
When you spent time with your friends, did you ask how they were doing and actually listen to the answer?
Did you ask them if they were hurting in any way?

We assume our children are too young and emotionally immature to have those kinds of conversations with us and their friends. How can we believe this when we know that children are not too young to be hurt? They could already, on any given day, be suffering rejection and deep wounds. They are already being challenged morally. They are already struggling with matters of the mind and spirit and body. Our children need adults who are willing to be transparent and dig deeply with them at the earliest ages.
We should never look down on people because they are young. We shouldnt assume children are incapable of deep conversation. It is up to us to teach them. 

If we raise our children to pursue fun, we can’t expect them 
suddenly to transform into insightful, compassionate 
human beings when they reach adulthood.

We need to teach them while they are young: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). We need to teach our children how to be introspective, how to search their own souls and seek the Lord. We need to teach them to pay attention to their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. We need to teach them to take a genuine, loving interest in other people’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences. People are never too young to learn the Lord’s ways and do the Lord’s work.

It is important for our children to learn how to connect with their friends on a deeper level. Otherwise the friendships they have when they are young won’t be sustainable beyond this particular season of their lives. We should teach kids from a young age the value of developing sound, lasting relationships.
Spending time with other people isn’t about cramming in as many fun activities as possible. Rather, it’s about companionship. It’s about relaxing your guard and getting to know each other. It’s about learning how to love each other. Close friends know how to rest together. They find refreshment in each other’s company. Kids need to understand that it’s okay to say, “You know what, Im tired. Lets chill and hang out. Maybe we can read together or talk for a while.”
What’s not okay is complaining about being bored. Maybe one person enjoys sharing some quiet time while another person doesn’t. The main objective isnt to have fun and be entertained. When you are with the people you love, you can find enjoyment in the busy times as well as the quiet times.
I notice many children today who seem overstimulated and utterly exhausted. Adults allow and expect kids to stay on the go all of the time, jumping from one activity to the next to the next to the next. No wonder kids are tired! No one has taught them how to be still. No one has taught them the value of being still.
Stillness calms people. It is enjoyable. It allows us to rest and reflect. Kids, too, can learn to be comfortable enough with themselves and the people around them simply to be. 

How else will they ever hear the still, quiet voice of God?

Redefine Fun

Fun—it’s the number one thing I hear parents, and unfortunately myself, ask children. “Did you have fun at your friend’s house?” “Did you have fun at church?” “Did you have fun at school?” This constant reiteration of the word ‘fun,’ I believe, is what gives our children an entitled attitude that whatever they do should be fun. 

The question is how we are defining fun. We have recently addressed this as a ministry. We play games. We eat. We have a lot of fun. But no one is truly growing or changing. What is the point of doing ministry if change isn’t happening and everyone is staying lukewarm or, worse, becoming in bondage every day? What is the point?    
We have decided to redefine fun. Fun as the world thinks of it and as we generally use it in a conversation is entertainment. The questions we are actually asking our children are: “Were you highly entertained? Were you pleased? Did you feel enjoyment while you were here? Was the entertainment sufficient for you to stay engaged?”   
Parents, if we rephrased what we are asking our kids like that, we would stop asking it. Really, we don’t give a rip. Do we really care if our kids have fun? Do we want them to be constantly entertained and feel entitled to be entertained a certain way? What should we truly be reiterating? Should we be driving home the value of each relationship even when it’s not fun? Or learning to be still with someone, reading a book or a Bible next to a friend, or praying with one another?
I don’t think all of that entertaining stuff is fun. But every day in our society, we spend more and more money trying to increase the entertainment thrill. We are building bigger rollercoasters, a higher waterslide, or a new amusement park. We make new video games and more highly action-packed movies. Our society is constantly searching for more. They are searching for more fun. “Entertain me. Make me feel good. Take me out of my reality and put me someplace where I have pleasure all the time.” I don’t know about you, but that is not what I actually want for my family or my children. That type of fun is not okay with me.          
As a ministry and as a family, we are redefining fun. What is fun? I’ll tell you what fun is. Fun is praying for someone and seeing them get healed. Fun is praying for someone who is blind and seeing their eyes open and them being able to see. Fun is publishing a book you know is going to change the world. It may only change one person, but that one person will change the world through it. Fun is smiling at someone who hasn’t had a smile all day and is having a bad day and letting them know someone cares about them. Fun is not being in bondage to needing to be entertained or entitlement. This is fun.   
True fun is encountering the love of God and bringingheaven to earth. That is how we are defining fun from now on: truly encountering the love of God and bringing heaven to earth and then spreading that love so everyone can participate in the fun we are having. We don’t need games and activities. Those are distractions from the opportunity to enjoy the presence of God. It’s a backup plan to encountering the Lord. We don’t need a backup plan. We need the presence of God more than ever in our homes, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our ministries, and in our youth groups. We cannot stop short of encountering the presence of God. Now that is fun.