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Raising Kids With Character

Parenting is hard. There is so much to think about, from making sure the laundry gets done to getting a nourishing meal on the table for dinner. While these things are certainly important, one of the best things parents can do for their children is to model and instill in them the importance of character.

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Monica Swanson, author of Raising Amazing: Bringing Up Kids Who Love God, Like Their Family, and Do the Dishes without Being Asked, to discuss some practical ways that parents can raise kids with character.

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Transcript: Raising Kids With Character

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. The most important job most of us will have in our lifetime is shepherding the next generation, whether that be by being a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, mentor or teacher; we know that the ultimate goal for children is eternal life with our Lord. Well, popular blogger, podcaster, and author Monica Swanson joins us today to discuss her newest book, Raising Amazing: Bringing Up Kids Who Love God, Like Their Family, and Do the Dishes Without Being Asked. Well, in the book, she offers insightful research and some practical tips for intentionally creating an environment that will help our children grow into amazing people, just as God intended. Monica Swanson, welcome to Family Policy Matters.

MONICA SWANSON: Thank you so much. Great to be here.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: What made you decide to write this book?

MONICA SWANSON: Great question. Well, my previous book was called Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most From You. And that was a lot of fun. And obviously, I’ve raised four sons of my own, the youngest is still 13, but three are legal adults somehow. But after writing that book, and with my podcast, and everything else, I just really paid attention to the feedback, the questions I got from those who follow me, and I just found these three categories showing up over and over and over and decided to dive in a little deeper and include the girl parents as well this time.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Alright, so you mentioned three categories. What are those?

MONICA SWANSON: Yes, so the subtitle kind of takes a stab at each of them. We’re talking really about raising kids who know and love God, a personal relationship outside of just what mom and dad have taught them, but their own personal relationship. Second is character. Character is such a big deal and something so lacking in the world today. And then also just that relationship with their own family. And my boys are all best friends at this point, I’m so grateful to be able to say and we all have good relationship, mom and dad with each of the boys. So we just wanted to encourage families to embrace those family relationships as well.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You want these kids to be amazing. So tell us how we are supposed to accomplish that?

MONICA SWANSON: You bet. Well, I will admit that after bringing up this title myself, I backpedaled because I thought, you know, we live in a world right now that isn’t necessarily shooting for amazing. There’s a whole lot of lowering that bar and saying, let’s just survive, just get us through the day. But that’s not how I roll. And I just believe that God made us for so much more than that. So first thing I’ll say, all of our kids are amazing. They’ve all been made in the image of God. And with that, He’s given them great value. And so I believe that, in a sense, we have these amazing kids, and it’s our job to raise them. And then the second way to look at that would be to say, let’s raise kids with high standards. Let’s not settle for what the world is telling us. But let’s raise kids who shine it like bright lights in this dark world. So, really, there’s kind of two ways to look at that word.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So you have a word, two dads in each of the chapters. Is there a reason why you single dads out?

MONICA SWANSON: Yes, that’s probably my favorite part of this book, if I’m honest, because though I’m the one writing and podcasting, and upfront here, as far as publicity goes, my husband behind the scenes is the most amazing dad. And I believe he is so much of the reason why my boys have turned out the way they are. And you know, men are so important. The dads are so important. And yet we know that dads just don’t read as many books, especially parenting books, and that’s okay. I’m sure there’s some out there who do, but we know that they’re busy. And they often don’t take the time to read. So we thought, well, what if we just had a short word to the dads at the end of each chapter, let my husband speak to the men man to man. And then, as the women are reading the books, they can just kind of hand it off and say here, this little bit is for you. And it’s really turned out well; a lot of families are enjoying going through this together, husbands and wives. So I’m really excited about that part of the book.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You mentioned your own attitude and strategy, I guess, for parenting. And you’ve said in your book that you believe in all-in on parenting. So what do you mean by that?

MONICA SWANSON: We’re so busy these days. And oftentimes we have kids, right when you’re newly married, you’ve got a job, there’s a million things going on, you feel pulled in so many directions. And then, when you have kids, it’s not unusual for parents to almost start to feel like they’re juggling the kids along with everything else. And I just think it’s so important to zoom out and to realize that these years really do go by quickly and that to raise amazing kids will take more than just juggling them alongside everything else. We need to give it our all. So that means putting some other things aside. It means readjusting our priorities. It means really taking the time to ask the Lord, what do my kids need most to raise them up to know you, love you, and to live lives of excellence. So it takes a huge commitment, not just one more thing to add to your list, but really family should be way at the top of that list.


To talk about the three different categories. The first, of course, is bringing up kids who love God. And we could talk the entire time or fill up several radio shows on this. But do you have some key points for us on that? In particular?

MONICA SWANSON: Oh, yes, number one thing that I would say is there’s no hacks, there’s no shortcuts, and that the most important thing we can do to raise kids to know and love God is to live a life of authentic faith in front of them. You know, more is caught than taught. And so for us as parents to realize our kids are watching, even when we don’t realize it, it’ll never be perfect. But if we have a life of walking with God, turning to him constantly, being in the Word, doing all that, that’s going to be more powerful than anything we can teach them. But then, indeed, we do need to teach them; we need to have those conversations; we need to be in the word with them, instructing them, showing them God’s ways and how it’s different from the world’s ways. So really being intentional. It’s not that hard. It just means, like we read in Deuteronomy about talking about God’s commands, as you get up, as you walk along the street, as you lie down. That is a lifestyle of authentic faith. And that’s really the only way to get there. No shortcuts on that one.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Why so important about children and the sibling bonds? Do you think?

MONICA SWANSON: Well, it’s just about the best thing ever. I just love that my boys, you know, now the oldest being 24, he graduated from college, and he took his youngest brother, who at the time was 11, or 12, on a road trip. And I just think that doesn’t happen very often. But what a beautiful friendship and relationship, and they will have that the rest of their life. So I just think that there’s nothing more valuable when you are at the end of your life than looking back and seeing that your own children love each other, can trust each other and have a friendship with one another. And it’s worth putting some time and effort in to help them create those bonds.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And your third category then is doing the dishes without being asked. And I think some parents are going, Yeah, right. Talk to us about what that means to you.

MONICA SWANSON: Well, we’ve just focused a lot in this family on character. Like I said, I think it’s just really something missing in our culture today, and some good old-fashioned character, which really isn’t so much about the behaviors, but about the heart, because our behaviors will come out of our heart that wants to honor God and honor our parents. But we’ve been pretty intentional about having our kids do chores, and be hard workers, and then talking to them about their attitude and what it looks like to embrace great character, because no doubt that affects every area of their life. Good character will help them get into college, get the jobs that they want, have the relationships that they hope to have. And without good character, everything’s going to be so much harder. So it all starts in the home and at a lot younger age than most people realize.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You talk to young people today, especially people who are young adults, and so many of them don’t want to have kids, they feel like it’s a burden. They feel like they cost too much. So do you have some words of wisdom for those people?

MONICA SWANSON: Yes, well, I understand sometimes just looking at the world around us can be scary. And we can think, do I really want to bring kids into this kind of world? But I will say that God calls us to be fruitful and multiply; I believe that that is a huge part if you consider yourself a Christ follower. It is really part of our calling. Now, unless there’s some exception, there may be people that, for really good reasons, would say, I don’t feel like that’s what God’s calling me to do. I would just challenge those out there who, for other more selfish reasons, are choosing not to have kids to consider if maybe it is out of selfishness. And if maybe one day down the road, you’re gonna regret that because no doubt most of us don’t look back and wish we had less kids. If anything, we wish we had more. And they’re expensive, and they’re hard work, and they’re exhausting. But you know, at the end of our life, I don’t think any of us will regret this thing called family that is, in my opinion, God’s greatest idea. So reconsider that if you’re listening and you’re thinking, I don’t want to have kids, I want to say, I really encourage you to reconsider that and to talk to some of those people who are older who have done the hard work and ask if they regret any of it. And I don’t think they will.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: For people that don’t have children, and like you said, there are very legitimate reasons. Some people would love to have kids, but they cannot, you know, they don’t get a pass on this responsibility, right of speaking into that next generation. So talk to them.

MONICA SWANSON: I have so many thoughts. Again, each of these questions could be an entire conversation. But I am so grateful for the men and women who have poured into my kids, especially in those teenage years. I always say that there comes a time where kids need more than mom and dad. And that’s where I’m so grateful for the people in our church and in our community who have really reached out to my kids and spent time with them, whether it’s in a work environment or discipleship but really invested in their hearts. Those are the people that my kids to this day will say really helped shape their hearts in those growing up years when mom and dad might have had some good things to say, but they didn’t always want to hear it coming from us. So please, community, pour into those kids. We need as many of you as we can get.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Also, talk to those parents who may be listening to this and go, I did things right. But my kids, you know, are not turning out as I had hoped. Do you have some words of encouragement or advice for those parents?

MONICA SWANSON: For sure, and, you know, in case it sounds in any way like I’m saying, my kids are perfect, by all means, my kids are not perfect, and neither are their parents, unfortunately. But I will say that there are so many people I hear from who are going through a rough season. And I just want to encourage you and just to know that God is not done yet, that your story will not be the same as my story, your kids’ story will not be the same as my kids’ story, but God has not done, and it is never too late to pour into those kids. And so I just encourage you to be prayerful, to be intentional about conversations, to keep communicating with your kids, keep loving them, keep letting them know you are there for them, and trust God, because ultimately, at the end of the day, our kids have a free will, and only God is sovereign. So we can’t make choices for them. All we can do is our very best, and then we have to trust God. And sometimes, we have to be patient. And it might take a little while, but he’s not done yet.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Now that your children are in their 20s, I’m sure they have opinions. What kind of feedback are you getting now from those grown kids as far as what you did bringing them up?

MONICA SWANSON: Well, I’m happy to be able to say that at this point, all of the boys are just probably the biggest fans of my work besides the word to the dads, each chapter of Raising Amazing has some thoughts from one of my boys, just sharing their perspective on that chapter. And so that’s been really fun. And even the audio version has them reading their parts. But so far, they’re looking to have a marriage; they say that they hope is like our marriage; they hope to homeschool, like we homeschooled them, and they are very happy with how we did things. And I’ll also say, just to be real honest here, my first three sons I had kind of close together. And then it was six and a half years later before I had my fourth son. And during those years, I was a lot busier and got a little more relaxed. And what I can say is those first three that I was super intentional and worked so hard on, they’re doing amazing; my fourth son, who’s 13, I’m still having to work with him because it was a little more relaxed. And so, looking back, some parents say Oh, I was too hard on those first kids. And I say I’m so glad I was hard on those first kids because I see now how much it paid off. And yet, my 13-year-old is wonderful. But certainly, I’m disciplining a little more now than I had to with his brothers at that age. So do the work when they’re young and it pays off as they get older.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: What about thoughts for grandparents?

MONICA SWANSON: Yes, grandparents are amazing. And we’re so grateful for the grandparents in our kid’s life. You know, I haven’t been one yet. And I know I’ve got a lot to learn. And I know that there’s certain rules that we’re gonna have to follow, like, wait for the parents to ask advice before you give it, but I’m gonna say the more you can pour into those kids and love them and talk to them about Jesus, bring them to church, just lighten the load off Mom and Dad, you’re gonna play such an important role. My boys have been so shaped by their grandparents’ roles in their lives. So really take advantage of those moments that you have with the kids. And I would say don’t hold back on especially passing that baton of faith on to them because parents are sometimes busy. And that’s a hard job. So look for opportunities to pour into them and know that it really, really matters.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, we’re just about out of time for this week. But before we go, Monica Swanson, tell us how we can follow you besides your great book; where can we find you online?

MONICA SWANSON: My website is real easy. It’s just And you will find links there to the Monica Swanson podcast where I talk family but also a whole lot of other things about, you know, raising amazing kids and growing strong families. But I am also on Instagram @MonicaSwanson_, love to meet new people. So if you go there, please say hi and tell me how you found me.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And your website is fairly comprehensive. I mean, you give recipes it looks like you are a fitness guru.

MONICA SWANSON: We’re here in Hawaii and I love to share a little touches of aloha. So yes, some of the things we grow on our property and recipes. My background is in sports medicine, and my husband is a doctor, so we love to talk about just healthy lifestyles, healthy mindsets, and raising kids to do the same. My third son is a professional surfer, and my fourth son is trying to become a professional golfer. So we’re pretty active and love to just share what it looks like to be all-in in all the things

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Alright well, Monica Swanson, author of Raising Amazing: Bringing Up Kids Who Love God, Like Their Family, and Do the Dishes Without Being Asked. Thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

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