More than you realize!
As a mom in the throes of parenting, Courtney DeFeo believes that instilling virtues in children starts with laughter, not lecture. That perspective propelled her to create this idea-packed book, in which she offers motivating reflections, real-life stories, and a sandbox full of inventive ways to help you turn your kids’ hearts toward God.
Each chapter focuses on one virtue that is key for developing your child’s character. Along with insights into how this virtue plays out in the nitty-gritty of life, Courtney includes a memory verse, activity ideas, and discussion questions to reinforce that virtue throughout the month. Here you’ll find a full year of ways to draw your children closer to God through delightful antics like Family Olympics, One Fancy Feast, and Light ’Em Up.
In This House, We Will Giggle shows you how to capture the hearts of your children through fun—so that they experience the goodness of Christ, the joy of following Him, and the difference they can make in the lives of others. (Water balloons not included!)
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|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Introduction: Why Giggle in This House?
Before my two girls came along, I had a vision for my home. I wanted it to look very similar to the home in which I grew up—full of life and joy. A house of love. A place where my children would feel welcome even when every single toy was not put away. Where they would feel free to be themselves and even to make a mistake or mess up.
In my ideal vision of home, each member of the family feels accepted no matter what. There’s a lot of running and playing. You may hear an occasional word of correction or see a rule enforced, but all is covered with love and grace. If you peek inside those children’s hearts, you see them yearning to be just like their mom and dad. They are excited to grow up but anxious to return home to make more memories. And the sound that rings throughout that crazy house? Giggles!
That’s what I had planned for our family home: love and grace, memory making and giggles.
And then I had kids.
Some harsh reality came my way. Instead of giggles, critical words often echoed in our home. On some days, it felt more sterile than warm. Everything might be scheduled and organized, but smiles were fading.
Despite my early hopes, my home felt little like the one I’d envisioned—and a lot like the houses of fear I’d witnessed while growing up. In those homes, emotional tension and a lot of rules led to a sense of nervousness and fear. You could almost hear the Von Trapp family whistle calling everyone to scurry and line up for instructions. If you could peek inside these kids’ minds and hearts, you might observe them counting the days until their release from that home.
What a heartbreaking situation, and certainly not what I wanted for my family. Over time, my husband and I realized we wanted to make some changes. We began to loosen up on the schedule and noticed that everyone’s heart became lighter. We became less concerned about behavior enforcement and more interested in heart development—and we saw love and delight blossom in our home. And while we absolutely believe in the value of discipline and guidance, we started looking for fun, enjoyable ways to teach our children what matters most. As we daily make choices to lean toward love and giggles, our home is becoming much more like the one I dreamed of before I became a mom.
How about you? Which sort of home did you grow up in?
When you think about God and how you view Him, is He like the parents in the first home or the second?
Which home and view of Christ do you want for your kids?
Do you believe the joyful home is even possible?
I have to tell you, I’m convinced it is. And this book is all about taking steps to make that joyful home a reality for all of us.
The Toughest Job We’ll Ever Love
The day I held my first baby girl in my arms, questions began swirling in my head. What kind of home will we give her? Will she enjoy us? Will we hurt her? Will she always trust us? My husband and I have made it our pursuit to create the first home, the fun and loving home. A home where grace and love flow. A home where kids see Christ’s love in action. A
home where giggles—not screams—erupt through the windows.
Pursuit means that our family has not arrived. In fact, we will never fully arrive. I am not a perfect mom. I am not a supermom. And as a recovering perfectionist, I know I am dependent on my Savior. I need Him desperately. Daily. This job of raising children is the toughest thing I have ever attempted. It is also the most exciting, the most liberating, and the most fulfilling call I have ever experienced.
My girls, Ella and Larson, are not my whole world, but they are worth giving my best effort for my whole life. If I do my part well, they could grow up to lead a nation, a small group, a church, a family, or a class of students. They could change another’s heart for Christ, they could lend a helping hand, or they could start a movement. They could serve their husbands and raise precious children.
If I dwell on the huge responsibility of being a parent, it could freeze me with fear. However, I choose not to let worry stop me and I dive in, knowing that if I fail or mess up, I am always getting back up. Our best moments as a family can often be found in the mess of life, not in the planned or perfect.
In those moments when I begin to feel overwhelmed, I remember these children are not totally mine. They are held and loved by the God who created the universe. He knows them, and He knows best exactly what they are designed to do. He has a story, and they have a place in it. I have the massive privilege of opening their eyes to this story and showing them options and possibilities for glorifying His name.
Trust me, I fight a daily battle between my natural self and the mom I want to be. All too often I lose sight of my true priorities. I am a controller and perfectionist to my core. There are days I simply want the calm, orderly peace of everyone quietly marching like ducks behind Mom. On those days, my girls are behaving just so Mom does not flip her lid, and they may resemble the robot children in the house of fear. Then, thankfully there is a nudge and a soft whisper: Loosen up. Don’t miss this. I believe it is my heavenly Father working in me and growing me as a mom, reminding me that the house of love and grace includes mess.
I have seen these messy moments turn into priceless treasures. I see the spark in my children’s eyes or the perfect spot to tickle, and we relish a moment and simply giggle. As my beautiful mentor told me, “You’ll only pass this way once.”
The challenge I face is in holding the right view of my tasks and challenges amid the daily grind. Can I break out of autopilot mode and see beyond my role as an enforcer? Can I seize the teachable moments in each day for the purpose of raising virtuous kids without raising fearful kids? Prompting obedience “because I said so” may pay off in the short term; however, I don’t want my children to obey only because they fear consequences or worry that Mom will lose it. I want to know their hearts understand and grasp the joy to be found in doing the right thing. This requires parenting through the daily grind with a long-term mentality.
It’s easy to lose perspective and sink into thinking of my job as a mom as nothing more than the relentless changing of dirty diapers, the wiping of snotty noses, and the making of lunches. Can you relate to this despair? But when I look at things from God’s high and holy view of motherhood, I can choose to see it all as a thrilling call, a disciple-making job—teaching my kids to live out virtues like joy, love, gratitude, generosity, and patience. My goal is that they feel the joy of Christ’s love and learn to walk with Him from the earliest age. When I view my many tasks as a mother from this perspective, it makes the day pretty simple: let me show them Jesus in a very real, personal way. In a delightful way.
Getting Serious About Letting Loose
Did you know that dancing mends a wounded spirit? Did you know giggling and tickling teach love? Did you know a silly family game reminds our kids they have happily married parents? Did you know having family fun and sprinkling in virtues seal lessons into children’s hearts for a lifetime?
In his heartwarming book The Most Important Place on Earth, Robert Wolgemuth describes all the pieces to the puzzle of a Christian home, and then he echoes my heart for home. “But with all these good things, there is something else I now believe is a vital piece of the Christian home puzzle. It’s the serious business of laughter.”1
Our home, and the environment we create within our family, sets up the impression our kids will have of faith and God. Will they believe Jesus loves only well-behaved, model children, or will they know He loves them just as they are? Will they see the Christian life as a series of rules to be followed, or will they follow Jesus because they’ve learned from us what it means to love Him and find joy in being with Him?
I believe the Bible very simply describes the fullness of joy found in life with God:
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
(Psalm 16:11, NASB)
The joy found in life with God is an “aha” moment for kids and adults alike. When together as a family we awaken to pleasures of loving and following Him, the experience bonds us. When we realize that—no matter our age, gifts, or limitations—we can be used to change others’ lives, we are inspired to create family moments that are fun and memorable. Such moments build on each other to create a home kids will want to run back to, not run away from, as soon as they are old enough to choose. This environment makes faith feel less like a burden and more like a privilege. A pleasure.
I’m convinced we can let loose and enjoy our family even as we’re teaching profound principles for life. This love-and-laughter approach to spiritual growth is a lot like how we encourage healthy physical growth. We want our kids to choose exercise and healthy foods, but if we constantly lecture them about the benefits of a healthy diet and yell at them for eating junk food, odds are they won’t be excited about following our suggestions.
Let’s apply this to faith. What if, just as we encourage a toddler to try a new flavor, we invited our kids to taste and see that God is good? that serving Him is actually fun? Instead of telling them to be more generous, let’s help them experience for themselves that giving to others feels good and it honors God. Once our kids’ perspective turns from “we have to do this” to “we want to do this,” they begin making their faith their own. It becomes who they are, not what they do. A choice over a mandate.
So, on one hand, let’s have fun and lighten up and get out the silly string and air guitars. Let’s be intentional about creating an environment of affection and joy in our home. Let’s close up our computers and ride bikes more often. And at the same time, let’s not waste a single opportunity to teach our kids to live out the virtues that can shape their hearts. They live in our homes for only a brief moment, but the lessons they learn and the love they experience will travel with them all their lives. So let’s lighten up and get serious. Both. And.
What Are Virtues, Anyway?
So are you ready to dive in and develop a household of love and grace, virtue and giggles? If so, you’ve probably got some questions like these: Where do we start? How do we instill what matters most in an engaging way so that we shut the door on the robotic house and open the door to the fun house? What will we use to teach truth that transforms young minds and settles deep into their hearts?
This book combines three key ingredients—virtues, love, and laughter—in a variety of recipes for creating memorable experiences in your home. Our goal is fewer lectures from us, less eyeball rolling from the kids, and more adventures, more giggles for everyone.
According to Oxford Dictionaries online, a virtue is “a quality considered morally good or desirable in a person.” So our goal is to teach our children a core set of traits that we value most and desire to see them live out daily—traits you often find referenced on those clever “House Rules” signs, such as love, generosity, service, and responsibility. We want to instill these traits in the hearts of our kids so that their characters reflect the heart of their Savior by the time they leave our nest.
Each chapter focuses on one of twelve different virtues. My suggestion is that you center your efforts on each individual virtue for one full month, implementing the suggested activities and tools to reinforce that concept. With this book and one year of commitment, I believe we can help our kids learn and treasure these virtues in their hearts.
Now, if “one year” just turned you off, let me explain. It’s not going to take you one full year to read this book or to implement the key ideas in the chapters ahead, but this timeframe gives you room to breathe and live your life. While I’ve written this with specific calendar months in mind for each virtue, you can do these activities anytime of the year. And it’s up to your family how much time to invest and how to adapt the ideas to your home.
Here are the suggested months for each corresponding virtue:
Imagine your little ones walking through life with these seeds of biblical truth planted deep in their hearts and budding out of their lives. Imagine them learning through fun activities and engaging conversations what it means to honor God so that they never even noticed it as “virtue lesson time.”
That’s why I’ve written this specifically with the goal of creating experiences for our kids. Think less talking and more doing. Each chapter provides details for a family fun activity to reinforce the virtue of the month. In addition, you’ll find catch phrases, discussion questions, Scripture memory verses, and virtue definitions to support your teaching efforts. I encourage you to customize all these resources to fit the style and needs of your family, discarding anything that doesn’t work and mixing in your own creative ideas.
Throughout the book you’ll also find “60 Ways to Bring Out the Giggles”—quick and easy activities for nurturing a sense of fun in your household. As mentioned earlier, I’m challenging us to simultaneously get serious about the virtues we’re teaching and lighten up about how we teach them. I know that may sound confusing, but let me assure you the “what” of passing on our faith hasn’t changed in thousands of years; we are teaching our kids the same timeless principles of what it looks like to follow Jesus. But just as churches continually look for ways to be more relevant so they can capture the attention and hearts of people, we can do the same for our families. Let’s make our homes places where learning to do the right thing is fun and memorable, not a chore and a lecture.
I realize the idea of deliberately designing opportunities to teach virtues in a meaningful way can sound less like fun and more like yet another item for your never-ending to-do list. As a mom of two little girls, I understand where most parents are sitting today. We are wiped out yet yearning for more. The urgent is pushing out important things. What matters in the next ten minutes is pulling us away from what will matter in ten years. That’s why I feel compelled to write this book and share my heart.
My heart is to empower parents and change little lives by sharing what I’ve discovered through my own efforts to help my family and others fall in love with Jesus. My passion is not to produce good little Christian kids but to help raise a generation of kids to light up the world for His glory. I believe God can use ordinary moms like you and me to reveal our extraordinary God to our children in a meaningful way.