What Do You Want to T.E.L.L. Your Children?

A little advice.

by John Croyle


After 40 years of raising nearly 2,000 children at Big Oak Ranch, experience has taught us a few things that might be of assistance for any of you who are raising your children or hoping to have an influence as a grandparent. Every day, I meet parents who are frantically searching for that magic formula that will be a guideline they could follow to successfully prepare their children for the future. 

The bad news: There is no magic when it comes to raising our children. It’s truly the toughest job you and I will ever face. Period. No two kids are going to be alike and no set pattern or philosophy will produce the elusive “perfect child.”

But now the good news: There is hope.  But let me explain by first asking you a question: What do you want to T.E.L.L. your children? We can use this acronym to help us illustrate some things we have learned over the past 40 years.


T = Train

We train our dogs and our cats, and yes, even wives train their husbands. We must also set up a plan to train our children. You are going to get all kinds of childrearing advice, some solicited and some unsolicited. I would be very presumptuous to try to tell you how to train your child. But remember this—It’s not built on what others think you need to train into your children.

My first recommendation is to start simple. As your child grows, so do the training plans. Why not sit alone and make a list of the things you want to teach your child? Truly decide in your mind and your heart that you really want to train these certain things into your child. Then pray and ask for the Lord’s wisdom. Then sit down with your mate and go over the list of what you want. Once you both are on the same page, just do it!


E = Encourage 

Anyone can be negative and condescending to a child who has really messed up. It’s easy to beat someone down. Real parenting is having the skills and applying those skills to make your child feel encouraged. When a child comes to Big Oak Ranch, we simply offer them a hope at a better life than the one they have experienced. We know that if we encourage them, most times they respond.

Perhaps you are on your kid’s back most of the time and you have seen little results. Why not try encouragement? I promise it will work. Just ask for wisdom, and the Lord will arrive on time every time.


L = Listen

As parents, we sometimes get so caught up in teaching and instructing life’s lessons that we forget the power of listening…especially to our children. We are so focused on what we feel we need to say that we don’t listen with our ears, and we lose the ability to listen with our eyes. Reading our child’s body language, attitude, facial expressions, and overall demeanor can become a challenge. From the child’s point of view, if what they have to say is not important enough for you to even listen, why should they share how they are feeling or talk to you about what issues are causing problems?

So many parents say, “Where did this attitude come from? I had no idea.” Cluelessness is often the result of not paying attention. Listening is a trait to be practiced daily with everyone, but especially with your children if you want them to know that you care about them.


L = Laugh

Learn to laugh!

If you get one thing from this article, I hope it is realizing your kids are not going to be perfect—and face the truth that you and I as parents definitely aren’t, either.

Many parents get so wound up with issues large and small that every time they enter the room with their families, everyone gets on edge. Is this how you want to be remembered? Or will your children naturally smile when they think of you and the life you lived before them?

Of course there are times when you have to be strict. But remember to have balance in all things, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun, and enjoy life, and your children will do the same. I promise you’ll see the fruit of this approach now and in years to come.

Now, I’ll ask you again: What do you want to T.E.L.L. your children?

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