Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Family Forte: Taking Off Training Wheels

by: Topher Wiles
*Scroll to the bottom to see a video of Micah's first ride*
     Micah made his bold and resolute proclamation at the dinner table Monday night stating, “Dad, I would like to ride my bike without training wheels tonight.” 

     Children often look forward to the next rite of passage; that moment that marks a transition from one stage of life to the next.  It could be getting to start kindergarten, putting on makeup for the first time, receiving a first cell phone, going on a first date, or taking that driver’s test.  The striking way my five-year-old distinctly made his proclamation let me know this rite of passage needed my full attention and it needed to happen soon.  Around the dinner table, the family changed plans for the night intending to see this monumental achievement in the life of a child done properly in a sloped parking lot.
     We arrived at the White County High School parking lot about 7:30pm.  If you haven’t parked there yet, I’ll let you in on a bicycling tip, the hill the school is built on makes the parking lot perfect for coasting.  That’s right, I said, “coasting.”  The act of gliding on a bicycle without pedaling is key to riding a bicycle and leaning into turns without training wheels.  Many parents get frustrated with their children when trying to teach them to ride without training wheels by going straight into pedal power.  
     A youth minister years ago told me the secret truth to removing training wheels:  remove the pedals first and focus on coasting. 

     Gabriel (my eldest son) snagged the 16mm wrench, and we removed pedals while raising the training wheels.  Micah, who’s been pedaling for years on trikes, big wheels, and his “big boy bike” with training wheels, didn’t understand why we removed his pedals and placed his bike at the high end of the parking lot.  “Get on and coast” was the only instruction we gave.  Micah studied the situation, looking down at his pedal-less bike then up at the parking lot.  His eyes lit up bright as the mental light bulb turned on.  With both feet on the asphalt, he pushed forward and began to pick up speed with me jogging along beside.  “Coasting is fun dad,” Micah yelled as he flew down the hill for his fifth time, learning to lean into the turns.  We put the pedals back on and Micah was a blur of smiles and speed the rest of the night as the entire family cheered him on. 

     Helping Micah achieve the next step of cycling prowess reminded me of a fundamental principle of child rearing. To give your kids the most freedom they can safely enjoy, we need to purposely give them safety nets and training to help them on their way.

     Before you turn your daughter loose with that pursuing young man, consider the “training wheels” you can use to help stabilize her till she’s ready to coast and pedal.  Ensure that she’s got the proper expectations of how she should be treated by giving her regular dates with her dad, uncle, or grandpa.  Consider keeping the training wheels on as first dates in public places can chaperoned by mom or an older sibling.  While you give her freedom to coast, make sure safety devices are in place, such as a fully charged phone, curfew, and “code emojis” so that she can send a quick message to get her out of trouble.  Training wheels and coasting practice will go a long way to ensure she isn’t scarred for life from dating disasters.

     Before that first cell phones hits his fingers, consider training your son on proper internet usage by keeping a desktop computer (I know, ancient right?) in a public place in the house for early internet usage training.  Make sure to openly put safety apps on the cell phone such as time limiters and internet accountability apps to give them an extra safety net when the temptation to access unsafe material arises.  Consider having a “cellphone cabinet” in the kitchen or living room where kid’s cell phones get charged and stored during bedtime hours.  As studies show the potential pitfalls and dangers for young kids and teenagers, proper training and coasting practice will pay big dividends in your teens’ development.

I’m fond of the current tiered driving regulations in Tennessee and I’m a big fan of parents keeping kids accountable to them.  Before a teen is turned loose with a car and no restrictions, they must follow the training wheel/coasting regimen which is as follows: 1)  Pass a road knowledge exam to get the learners permit; 2) Keep a learners permit for 180 days, have 50 hours of driving experience with a parent or instructor, and pass a road skills test to receive an Intermediate Restricted License; 3) Hold an Intermediate Restricted license for one year without having accumulated more than six points on driving record before obtaining the Intermediate Unrestricted License.  If you’ve completed these three milestones of training safely by the time you’re 18, then you’re ready for the Class D regular driver’s license.  Tennessee is getting better at providing training and safety nets when kids get behind the wheel.

     Wise King Solomon shared, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6)   To enjoy the most freedom in life when we are older it takes purposeful incremental training when we are younger.  Pray for wisdom, do some research, and ask other parents how and when to take the pedals off and let your kids coast on the path of life.  May you find success as you as you learn to train your family to enjoy the freedoms life has to offer. 

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:11

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Family Forte: The Pitfalls of Hungry Shopping

by: Topher Wiles

Fifteen years!
This week marks my 15th anniversary with my darling Ashley!  As I survey all the success God has given us raising four wonderful kids and enjoying wedded bliss, I wonder, “What advice can I give others to help them enjoy the same and more?”  There’s a lot I could share.  Praying together is a big deal.  Put your spouse ahead of your kids and your work.  Don’t give up on dating your spouse.  Talk openly and honestly with your kids.  Quality time comes with quantity time.  Be flexible so you won’t get bent out of shape.  The list of family learning could go on and on, but I’ve got one piece of wisdom that has stuck in my head recently.

Never go shopping while hungry.   

We’ve all felt that nagging feeling in our stomachs when we head to the grocery store.  We enter inside and our bellies start growling at the delightful colors and enticing smells all around us. It’s at that moment we realize that we’ve forgotten to eat lunch or chosen to shop right before dinner time, a disastrous mistake.  While our main mission may have been a list of five items, due to our hunger, we snag an extra candy bar and sugary drink at the cash register.  For those of us who are especially impulsive, we dish out the cash for many impulsive purchases sometimes doubling and tripling our list, all because we were hungry.  Hunger distracts us from our main mission while shopping.  To curb the hunger, always invest time in a healthy snack from home before you go shopping or shop after a meal.  Problem solved, no impulsive shopping distracting you from the mission. 

You’re probably asking, “Topher, what does shopping and hunger have to do with Family Forte?”  I reply, “Shopping while hungry is exactly what weakens the strength of the family.”

In young families, that marriage relationship is such an important bond that needs to be protected, nurtured, and given a firm foundation to grow and flourish.  For example, I chose during my first year of our marriage NOT TO SPEND ONE single night away from Ashley.  Unfortunately, many young couples invest their primary time and energies into their work and their hobbies, neglecting those helpful dating and early marriage habits they once held so dear.  When couples within a young relationship stop feeding the relationships with quality time and quantity time, in effect, they are starving it.  Too often in my profession I see the results of those hungry marriages that get distracted by their main mission while their spouses are away on business or pleasure trips.  I’ve counselled through many tears and heartaches over wandering eyes, adulterous mistakes, and broken relationships.  If you are regularly feeding time and energy into your young marriage in purposeful ways, the relationship is less likely to be distracted by enticing smells and colors in other markets.   Investing your time in your spouse helps them to avoid the impulsive hungry shopper syndrome.

I’m excited to see the rise in Daddy/Daughter & Mother/Son date nights within our culture because it seems as though someone has grasped the concept of hungry shoppers.  According to, a daughter learns what it is to be cherished and affirmed for who she is most from her father.  The protection and stability a son needs for confidence and self-esteem is typically given by time and attention invested by his parents.  Our girls learn what appropriate physical touch and boundaries are from spending quality time with that man she trusts, her dad.  Our sons learn how a woman should treat a man and vice versa by observing quality time invested at home with mom and dad.  Sadly, too many families are sending their young men and women into the world as hungry shoppers.  Rather than being fulfilled with a solid lasting relationship with their parents, they crave attention in many inappropriate ways.  Like the hungry shopper who will grab a candy bar off the shelf on impulse to satisfy a craving, we see young adults entering many destructive short-term relationships because they were unfulfilled.  We, as parents, can help guide our young adults into positive and beautiful relationships as they mature by continuing to give them the affirmation, stability, and attention they need and thereby avoid the pitfalls of hungry shopping. 

Churches have a large role to play in this department of strengthening families.  People in our culture are seeking purpose, meaning, and deeper relationships in their lives.  Sadly, too many churches only see it as their role to only spout religious dogma and send families on their way.  Shepherds must have the vision and goals of filling those needs for purpose and cravings for relationships with God’s Truth and with God’s people.  Otherwise, our church families become just like hungry shoppers, buying into the latest self-help book, investing in destructive friendships, or investing all their time into the latest consuming hobby. 

For spouses, invest quantity and quality time together before you send each other off into the distracting situations life offers.  For parents, invest purposeful energy in your kids quenching those desires for attention, stability, and nurture so they can develop appropriate relationships with positive peers.  For the Lord’s Church, invest your focus into the life affirming words and actions of Jesus Christ giving people the purpose and relationships they crave as they grow in loving God and loving their neighbor.  To keep to your missions and goals in life, send your spouse, child, or family into the world satisfied and fulfilled.  Never go shopping while hungry. 

Ashley, thank you for being my wife for the last wonderful fifteen years.  Here’s hoping for a fun and fulfilling fifteen more!

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,

*Special Note* We don't want you to get the wrong idea, our lives are far from perfect!  This recent photo reminds us of the chaos that often ensues in our house!