“I Can’t Find It, Mom.”

by Hal | 7/16/2014 | 0 comments

We were setting up for a book fair last weekend and needed the lid to a plastic bin which is part of our display set up. I sent one of the boys to fetch it from the trailer. “It’s on the top shelf,” I said. Understand: Our trailer only has three shelves, there was only…
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July 10th, 2014

Raising Kids Who’ll Eat Anything

by Hal and Melanie Young | 4 comments

One of our goals in raising our children was to help them learn not to be picky eaters. We’d both seen the extra work, turmoil, and frustration in a family when one of the children was picky, only to see those same children grow up to eat things they’d rejected at home. Hearing tales from missionary friends about the real offense being picky can cause when you’re trying to reach another culture sealed it for us.

That’s been a good thing. We’ve travel all over the place and are often guests at meals. We’d be in trouble if the children didn’t eat pretty much whatever they’re fed, sometimes there’s nothing else available!  How do we manage it? Here are some things you can try:

Raising Kids Wholl Eat Anything


Keep your own mouth shut. Hal’s a pretty picky eater. He raises an eyebrow at most raw fruits and veggies and even some cooked ones, too. Melanie has a few things she doesn’t like much, either. We decided early just not to talk about it. Whether we like it or not, we serve a small portion on our plates and push it around a bit if we can’t eat it. And we never complain about those foods. Sure, the children figure it out after awhile, but usually by that time, they love to eat it!

Hal remembers once we got a flat of reduced price cans that included a can of black olives. One of our boys asked what they were. Hal didn’t care for them, but he put some enthusiasm into his voice and said, “They’re black olives! Want to try some?” He opened the can and served them to him. That little boy is a big boy now, but he still loves black olives. You’ve got to set an example.

Hunger is the best sauce. Want to introduce a new food? Or, reintroduce a rejected one? Make dinner late one night and serve the new food as an appetizer. It’s amazing what looks appealing when you are really hungry!

We love fried okra, but one of our little ones decided it was “yucky.” A few weeks later, I made fried okra a little past the time we’d regularly have dinner, put it on the table and told them to have at it, then started making dinner. Before long, she snuck one. A few minutes later she was eating them happily and she loves them to this day, asking for “fwied okwa.” Who could resist that?

No griping at the table. Anyone who complains about the food at our table has to stand up behind their chair or bench and watch the others eat for awhile. This is strong medicine for a young boy, but we believe it’s critical to be able to be gracious about what you’ve been provided for the sake of your host and your testimony. We’ve seen adults gripe about what they’ve been served and it isn’t pretty! In the home, the attitude of older children will infect the younger ones – don’t let it!

Make sure they try things. In our house, the rule is that you have to try the number of bites that you are years old (which assumes someone older has more self control). That means they really taste it and eat enough of it that they discover it won’t kill them, either. :-)

But, don’t make too big a deal about food. In our house, you don’t have to clean your plate and I don’t pay attention to what you eat or don’t eat as long as you are gracious and don’t complain and are a good example to your siblings. You don’t get seconds or dessert, though, until you’ve eaten all you’ve been served. Making dinner time into a huge power struggle is counter-productive.

Don’t panic if they don’t eat. My theory is that if they don’t eat lunch, then they’ll really enjoy dinner. We’re not doing a bunch of snacks and between meal treats for a child who won’t eat, though. Stay calm and be parental and they’ll figure it out eventually.

Marketing will swing the day. If you act thrilled about a new food, work to make it palatable (ranch dressing, cheese, seasoning), and serve it when they’re hungry, you might be surprised by what they’ll eat. I’ve seen our guys eat cold, boiled chicken feet in China, even though they taste just like you might imagine – like rubber bands dipped in chicken broth. Why is it important? Because our hosts are more open to what we’re saying when we share a meal with them.

Start early, if you can. The sooner you start this, the better your children will respond. We find we have the most trouble around 3 or 4 years old when they get old enough to really start talking about what they want or don’t want. If we stand firm for a few weeks at that age, the battles pretty much go away entirely.

You can accommodate a few preferences, but don’t be ruled by their whims. We allow everyone to have *one* thing they don’t like and I’ll accommodate that in our house, but they have to be prepared to eat it if it’s served somewhere else. For example, one of our sons really doesn’t like mayonnaise. I’ll leave it off his sandwiches, but he knows not to pitch a fit if we’re served a platter of subs with it when we speak at a church. If you just can’t stomach something, you find a reason not to eat, “Thank you, I’ll get something later, I need to go ahead and get us set up,” but you are always kind.

Be an example. What if I just don’t want to eat it or it’s not on my diet? Generally, we shouldn’t allow our preferences to interfere in fellowship or in regarding others more highly than ourselves. I can put together a meal that is as close to my diet as possible from what’s available, or avoid the foods I don’t care for, but I should try to keep anyone from noticing if I don’t want my child showing out when he doesn’t want to eat something. What we do in moderation, they’ll do in excess.

Make adjustments to deal with real issues – allergies, sensory issues, or food intolerances. Those are different and most people understand. Let your host know in advance, offer help meeting the need, or provide food yourself, but always teach your children how to be gracious about it. “Thank you so much! Those look wonderful! I’m so sorry, but I have a peanut allergy. Don’t worry about me, though. I brought a safe snack. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

For more on raising younger boys, join us for Boyhood Boot Camp, a LIVE webinar series just for parents of boys under nine years old! It’s all the things we wish we’d known when our six boys were that age. It’s so much fun! Our next session starts Monday and we’d love to have you join us! Click here to find out more.

Hal and Melanie SugarLoaf Web (c)2009Let’s enjoy a meal together sometime!

Hal & Melanie









July 4th, 2014

Crank Down the Anger

by Hal and Melanie Young | 6 comments

We finally noticed a pattern. When one of our children got somewhere between nine and fourteen, they’d climb on an emotional rollercoaster and invite us all to join them. Wow, what a tough age to parent!

The first time we went through it, we questioned everything, “Is it us? Have we failed in parenting? Is it him? Is he rejecting everything we’ve taught him?” It was so hard. He seemed to blow up for no reason at all.

“I… Can’t… Stand… the Anger in Here!” one of our sons shouted in a family meeting.

We all looked around, completely bumfuzzled. “Son, there’s no one in here angry but you.”



After going through this seven times with our children and hearing how tons of other families dealt with it in our Boot Camp 9-12 webinars, we’ve realized that this is really a dangerous time in the parent-child relationship. It’s a time that a lot of those relationships are broken, making the next stage a huge challenge. On the other hand, it’s a time that if it’s handled well can lay the foundation for making the teen years great! Here’s what we’ve learned:

Prepare for battle. Sometime when they aren’t angry, explain to them what’s going on. Those hormones are flowing like crazy, preparing their bodies for adulthood, but sometimes it’s too much, then too little, then just enough, and it’s making their emotions go all over the place. Those emotions aren’t based on reality!

More anger doesn’t help. It’s hard when your child is horribly disrespectful, or even throwing around accusations, to keep your own temper, but it’s vital. Here’s our go-to memory verse for parenting these guys in this stage, “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Sometimes I think I need it tattooed on my palm. Stay calm and carry on is pretty good advice.

Stop, drop (into a seat), and listen. This is tough when what they are saying makes no sense, but when the enemy is telling them, “Nobody cares,” you need to show them you do. Hear them out. It’ll mean a lot to them one day.

Calmly explain, or ask forgiveness, or talk it through. It’s your turn. If you need to repent, do. It’s a great example to them of what a Christian does when he’s wrong. Or explain to them why they’re wrong. Or help them to understand the situation. Just do it like an adult. Somebody’s got to be the adult around here – and it’s not going to be them.

Take them to the Word. Don’t beat them over the head with it, but while you’re talking it through, be sure to talk about what God says about it. His Word is way more effective than our words.

Show them affection. Generally by this point, they’re repentant. Be sure you show them how glad you are that they’re making it right. A manly hug is the ticket here.

Then, and only then, discipline if you need to. Sometimes their behavior is so egregious that you need to discipline them for the sake of the other children in the house. The funny thing is, that often by this point, they agree! “You’re right, mom. I understand.” That’s when you know you’ve really reached the heart. They are repentant. They’re headed the right direction. You can afford to show them some mercy even when you have to do discipline.

The payoff? When you are the rock, the safe haven, in this storm, you are building trust that will make the years to come so much easier. The preteen years are pretty tough around here, but the teens and twenties have been great!

Related Resource: Tuesday, we’re starting a new session of our LIVE webinar series, Boot Camp 9-12: Getting Geared Up for the Teen Years. It’s interactive, fun, and one of the most popular things we do. If you’re in this stage of parenting, join us for real, practical help and encouragement. And it’s recorded if you can’t make it live. Sign up here!

Hal & Melanie SugarLoaf WebYours in the battle,

Hal & Melanie

June 20th, 2014

Ten Ways to Get Boys to Do Chores

by Hal and Melanie Young | 2 comments

Folks, let me tell you this: It is a lot better to have pink underwear than no clean underwear at all. Get your guys doing chores! Here are some things that have helped us (and no, we don’t do this perfectly – not remotely so!)

Getting Boys to do Chores

Use manly marketing. If you say, “Sweetheart, could you make the kitchen all pretty for Mommy?” expect his eyes to roll (at least on the inside), but if instead you urge, “Son, the kitchen is driving me crazy. I can hardly stand to be in there it’s so icky. I would be so grateful if you’d rescue me from it and get it under control,” he’s on it!

Give clear assignments. We rotate daily so that no job becomes overwhelming or gets too far behind. Do what works for you, but post a chart so everyone knows what to do.

Inspect, don’t expect. There’s just no substitute for checking up on them.

Try chore times. I struggled with keeping up with who was working and who wasn’t. Let’s face it – we have a big family! To make it easier, we instituted chore times: times during the day that everyone was supposed to be working. That makes it drastically easier to seek who’s goofing off! Ours are before breakfast, before and after lunch, and before and after dinner.

Work alongside them. Sometimes a job just seems too big. I’ve felt that way a lot, myself. Jump in and work alongside them. The camaraderie and example will get ‘em working.

Divide up a task. When the job is overwhelming, simplify it. Instead of “Clean this room,” try “Pick up and put away ten books.” Then nine, then eight, and before long they’ll have picked up fifty-five books! Then start on toys…

Praise meaningfully. “You showed great initiative when you got up early and did your chore this morning. That’s great!” means a lot more than just “You’re great!” Name a virtue and give an example to motivate them to pursue those great character qualities.

Give them perspective. Boys hate doing things “for no reason.” Explain how they’re helping the family when they do chores, “Thanks for cleaning up for lunch while I talked on the phone with that new mom. You were a part of my ministry to her today because you freed me up to do it.”

Occasionally, but not always, make it fun. Race to see who can finish their part first. Play crazy music while you work. Give everyone ranks and promote or demote them as they work. Pretend you are an army trying to conquer and take prisoner the book, toy, and trash divisions of the enemy army. Our bookshelves have sometimes been prisoner of war camps. :-)

Get them doing chores early. If you wait until they are big enough to do it well, they won’t want to. Take advantage of that desire to do real things and be big!

Don’t worry, though, that maybe your boys shouldn’t be doing household chores. Sure they should! There are examples in Scripture of men doing all kinds of things like this. Go for it!

Hal and Melanie SugarLoaf Web (c)2009Yours in the battle,

Hal & Melanie

For more on getting guys to do chores, read the chapter “K.P. Isn’t Women’s Work” in our book, Raising Real Men. Find out more here.



June 10th, 2014

Q: What Do We Do when We Can’t Get Away for Our Anniversary – Not Even for Dinner Out?

by Hal | 0 comments

I need help and ideas for our wedding anniversary at home tomorrow…here’s the kickers: we are currently staying at an RV park in our camper trailer. We have three daughters and three sons. My husband will be at work tomorrow and I will have the car, but money is limited….ideas for what we can do to show my husband/man of this family how much we like and appreciate him and how thankful I am thy he chose me as his wife?!?!???? Please HELP!

We love romantic anniversary celebrations, but sometimes it’s just not possible, is it? We’ve had a few of those ourselves and actually they turned out just wonderfully! Here are some of the things we’ve done or thought about doing that might make your day special even without the couple’s getaway:

Celebrating Your Anniversary When Couple Time

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June 4th, 2014

Ten Ways to Keep Your Family From Being Devastated by Porn and Predators

by Hal and Melanie Young | 31 comments

We got another one last night. My heart sank as the sweet mama sobbed out her story. Please, Lord, not another one. Please no.

It was, though. Another family crashing into the morass of sexual sin, completely unexpectedly.

It’s happening all the time these days. Moms and Dads telling us through tears about their son’s addiction to pornography for years “and we didn’t know he had Internet access!” Their child’s molestation at the hands of someone they trusted, sometimes even by a sibling. Teens sexting when their parents didn’t think they even knew about sex. Marriages on the rocks due to porn or adultery.

THESE AREN’T FAMILIES FROM SKID ROW. THEY AREN’T EVEN WORLDLY FAMILIES. They’re families just like the rest of us – Christian, conservative, close families, even homeschoolers. Some of them are families that have followed our ministry for years and have heard warnings, but didn’t think it could happen in their home. Believe me, it can.

Sadly, we personally know of more than one boy raised in a conservative Christian homeschool family that is now a registered sex offender. Yep, just like you hear about in big cities and institutional schools. They got caught in a web of temptation which led to awful sin and lifelong consequences for them, their families, and their victims. Please take it seriously.

Ten Ways to Protect

Here are ten ways you can fight for your children:

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May 29th, 2014

Cheap Family Travel – Food

by Hal | 0 comments

MBFLP - Cheap Family Travel Part 2 Food on the Road


The never-failing question “What’s for supper?” doesn’t go away when you’re on the road. The problem is that even eating from the dollar menu, a fast food stop could be $20 to $30–for lunch! We’ve taken our family of ten from coast to coast, and we’ve learned how to keep the crew fed and happy on much less. Don’t let the cost of Happy Meals keep you from taking your whole family along! Click here to listen to a 30-minute program as we tell the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network how we eat cheap while we’re on the road. You’ll be glad you did!


Join us every Monday at 9 p.m. Eastern, or listen on iTunes or download, on the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network.

May 27th, 2014

Cheap Family Travel – Transportation and Lodging

by Hal | 0 comments

The summer is nearly upon us and that means vacation time for many families. Or maybe you’re planning a “stay-cation” because the economy is soft and expenses are simply too high.

What would you do if you could save 40-to-60 percent of the cost of “conventional” travel?

Would you take the vacation you decided to put off this year? Maybe the family would join Dad on business travel? Could you plan the ultimate field trip? Or would it open the door for a mission week or a service project someplace?

Last year we took our family over the road for 30,000 miles, from the Carolinas to California, and from Saskatoon to Phoenix–on a very modest salary! We don’t have “one weird trick” to beat the travel industry, but we’ve learned a number of strategies for stretching the travel dollar to unbelievable lengths.

Check out this 32-minute program, where we tell the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network how we save on airfare, lodging, and even a simple gas fill-up. You may be surprised at what we’ve found, and you’ll be glad you heard it!

(Thursday we’ll talk about how to save money on travel food!)

You can hear us every Monday at 9 p.m. Eastern on the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network (live, download, or via iTunes)



May 17th, 2014

Carrying Groceries Is Important

by Hal and Melanie Young | 0 comments

There’s just something about doing things that matter that really motivates boys. They want to contribute. They want to do real things. What do your guys do to help the family?

Carrying groceries

May 10th, 2014

Q: My 6 Year Old Is Obsessed with “Spooky” Things

by Hal | 2 comments

I have a question.. my boy is 5, 6 in two weeks and has an obsession with all things spooky. I allow him to do pirates and we read up on ancient Egypt and use the Horrible Histories series to fuel this ‘addiction’ (because it really does feel like that), but it isn’t diluting his passion. He knows we don’t do Halloween yet he feels frustrated about it and makes a huge issue over it. I allow him to watch SOME kids’ TV but not certain things like vampires, magic, or wizards/witches, etc). He questions my decision constantly, whines and gets really frustrated like I’m punishing him for no reason. I’ve explained why and he loves Jesus with all his little heart… but I can’t tell if this is a rebellion issue or some strange desire for darkness!! Thoughts please!

Q&A Six Year Old Obsessed with Spooky Things

Boys love adrenalin! Well, at least most of them do at some time or another. They love excitement and engagement. They love debating and arguing. They love to try their strength against the world. They love explosions and destruction (at least it seems so). They love to take risks. Sometimes they even like to be scared.

Why? It sure doesn’t make much sense to their moms! Our mantra is “Be Careful,” right?

But, God made them that way. He made them adventurous. Here’s the way we put it in our book:


The trick is to get them to adulthood without scarred minds or bodies! And sometimes, that’s not easy! We’ll talk about keeping their bodies safe another time (or you can get our book here), but your question is about taking care of his mind – and soul. You’re right to make sure that his desire for adventure follows that God-honoring course. Here’s what we’d do:

Remember that God is concerned about our hearts. We hear people say all the time, “It’s just pretend!” but when we read the verses about lust in the heart being adultery and hate in the heart being murder, we realize that’s a pretty thin excuse. What matters is what we’re thinking. We can’t play with evil: “Fools mock at sin.” Proverbs 14:9

Explain that as interesting or exciting as something may be, if it’s displeasing to God it’s got to go. There’s no substitute for the Word of God here – it can reach our children’s hearts in a way our words can’t, so use it to show him that most of those “spooky” things like witchcraft, ghosts, demons, and obsession with death celebrate things which are clearly evil and unhealthy. This article gives you the references you’ll need.

Point him to the the right kind of adventure. Stories of explorers, warriors, and missionaries can fill that desire for thrills and excitement while showing him what risk-taking was made for. We especially like missionary stories because they “show them it’s not the sinners that have the best adventures.” (Raising Real Men, p41)

Stay strong. These things pass, they really do, especially if you’re firm and redirect it. Usually when children are running this kind of constant campaign, it’s because the parents aren’t confident what they’re doing is right, so the kids sense the uncertainty and think “maybe if I try a little harder…” Looking into what the Word says about things can help you, too.

For more on both adventurousness and giving our boys a taste for good media, get our book, Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys. It’s the book we couldn’t find in raising our six boys — and it was Christian Small Publishers Book of the Year!

Hal and Melanie SugarLoaf Web (c)2009Yours in the battle,

Hal & Melanie




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