It’s always been widely believed that as our children reach puberty and grow into their teen years hormones will be running the show. As parents, we see these hormones as moody body-snatchers making our kids do and say strange things.
However, your tween or teen’s moodiness might not be caused by hormones at all. And blaming these invisible perpetrators for every odd or rude behavior may actually hurt your child in the long run.
That’s because your middle schooler is living a very hectic and crazy life every single day. Most of us wouldn’t trade our own stressful adult lives to go back to school for any amount of money!
As our children transition from elementary school where most of the kids they go to school with are still sweet and they have the same teacher all day – this all changes drastically when they reach middle school.
The kids they used to be besties with all of a sudden think your kid isn’t cool anymore, they go from having one teacher to seven, and their body is seriously doing some crazy things.
All of this alone would make anyone feel a little out of sorts. But when you add on your tween’s very immature brain which isn’t even close to being finished growing, life can simply feel overwhelming for your child.
It can be a real eye-opener to learn that a lot of typical teen behavior and general moodiness isn’t necessarily caused by hormones at all but by things we can control.
Uh hem… that means we can actually do something real to help!
Tweens Desperately Need More Sleep
As tweens and teens get up at the same time as a typical working adult and get ready to head into an all day physical and emotional roller coaster called school, they are usually short on one thing – SLEEP.
Studies show that 60 to 70% of American teens live with a borderline to severe sleep debt.
Sleep deprivation puts teenagers into a kind of perpetual cloud or haze, explains Dr. Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University and director of chronobiology and sleep research at Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island.
It’s recommended that all kids ranging in age from 12 to 17 get at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night. We can see how hard this is to achieve with their early waking school hours.
Most kids this age probably aren’t realistically getting to sleep at 9pm. In fact, many actually have trouble getting to sleep in the first place because of using electronics late into the evening, relationship stresses, and homework and studying demands.
Encouraging your kids of all ages to have one hour before bed where they do enjoyable non-screen activities is proven to help prevent sleep problems.
In addition, keeping similar wake-up times on the weekends helps too. Apparently, sleeping in till noon on the weekends hurts their sleep cycles during the week. You may want to allow them a little extra sleep on Saturday mornings, though!
There’s a reason your teen seems to want to eat all the food in your house! They’re growing at the rate they were when they were that sweet little toddler.
Their bodies are growing at alarming rates and snacking and grab-and-go meals aren’t cutting it. We must encourage more whole foods whenever possible to reduce the amount of processed foods our teens are consuming.
They’re tasty, convenient, and very attractive to our kids. Packaged and processed foods are also everywhere including our kid’s school. Most children are consuming the typical Modern American Diet (MAD diet) every day.
“Study after study in the medical research journals confirm that people who are most dependent on MAD-style eating habits have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems.” —Tyler G. Graham and Drew Ramsey, The Happiness Diet
Offering many options of healthy, whole foods like sweet clementines, crackers or veggies with hummus, and healthy nuts like pistachios are easy and tasty snack alternatives to candy bars and chips.
Tweens Desparately Need a Break
Wait a minute, all my teen does is lay around all day… breaking is all she does!
Is that what you were thinking?
Having a break doesn’t necessarily mean laying on the couch watching TV or taking a nap. Tweens and teens simply need permission to take a mental and physical break from the stress of their days.
Yes, tweens experience stress… lots of it.
They live in an unusual environment AKA middle school that requires them to change their physical and mental state, sometimes drastically, at the sound of a bell. That is, the school bell.
They dive right into American History and give a class presentation on George Washington’s family life, walk down the hall to take an Algebra exam, run a 4 minute mile in P.E., have a profound discussion on the poetry and life of Robert Frost, sit ackwardly in the cafeteria at the “uncool” table, dissect a butterfly in biology, learn a new song on the trumpet, and the day’s not even done yet.
All of this with different teachers with unique demands and personalities. And let’s not even talk about all the judging, bullying, and peer-pressure being thrown around at our kids every single day.
They need a break.
They need permission to feel how they feel.
They need a space to feel accepted, loved, and un-judged. To feel loved, supported, and encouraged.
They need a break from the pressure.
Our Tweens Desperately Need Us
Teen depression and suicide rates are staggering and on the rise. It’s clear that something is missing.
Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13-to-18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.
While sleep, food, and downtime are very important to our growing kids, what they need most is us.
Tween and teens need to see us present, hear us cheering them on, and know that we love them unconditionally… no matter how many mistakes they make.
Being a present parent doesn’t mean being physically with them 24/7 but it’s a creating a lifestyle of making them a priority.
We can do this by making a habit of really listening to them and carving out a small piece of one on one time regularly (even 5-10 minutes) can make a habit of real connection.
Raising children at any age isn’t easy so be sure in all of this parenting you don’t forget to take care of yourself. That’s one of the biggest things we can do for our kids… not become a mom hanging on by a thread.
How do you relate to your tween or teen? Share your tips in the comments below!
Little kids and toddlers talk and share… a lot. It’s pretty much what they do best. In fact, many parents consider their small children to be “over-sharers” of oodles of random thoughts and information.
But as kids get older all that can change. Suddenly, your abundantly chatty 6-year-old becomes a tight-lipped 12-year-old overnight.
Why does this communication phenomenon happen with so many kids as they get older?
It all boils down to trust and how we set up the boundaries of parental communication early on in our parenting relationship.
The younger a child is, the less they pay attention to what and how we say things. They genuinely just want to talk and be with us. So in order to keep this lovely over-sharing going strong into the teen years and beyond, we need to start preparing now.
It turns out the connection a kid needs to feel with his parents in order to open up and talk to them is cemented long before the teen years. Julie Romanowski, a parenting coach in Vancouver, says communication skills are built even in infancy and toddlerhood. source
And if you’re wondering how you connect and communicate with your little ones, if you’ve ever heard the phrase, “Mommy will you play with me?” you just heard it.
Toddlers and small children talk, share, and connect with us through play. I personally am not the mom who loves “playing with my kids” but it’s a necessary sacrifice that seals the path for open and healthy communication down the road.
We need to break our bad communication habits now and work to develop healthy ones that create openness in our relationship with our children.
Our Highest Priority as Parents
I believe one of our highest priorities as parents, beyond feeding and clothing, is to win our child’s heart. If you have a person’s heart, you have everything to need to be in a healthy and thriving relationship.
And it’s every parent on the planet’s goal to be in a healthy and thriving relationship with their child that lasts a lifetime.
It’s hard and is work that takes more sacrifice that our society thinks is necessary or even possible, but it’s oh so worth it.
If you strongly desire to raise kids that want to come to you first to share their joys and victories along with their fears, questions, and problems you need to be sure you aren’t making the following communication mistakes.
Kids, tweens, and teens all have their own levels of sensitivity. And being repeatedly exposed to any of the following mistakes can cause your child to inadvertently shut down and stop sharing with you on a meaningful level.
And that alone is devastating for a parent.
How to Become a Parent Your Kids Won’t Talk To
When your child decides to share the random events of their day at school, confides in you about a peer pressure situation they’re struggling with, or wants to tell you a dream they have for their future… it’s a big deal.
Talking and sharing is the access to our child’s heart and that’s always my goal with my kids – to win their heart. If you can successfully win the heart, you win the child.
But we need to be acutely aware of ways we might not even know that stand in our way of being a parent our kids want to talk and share with, especially as they get older.
Here are some really huge actions to watch out for in your own behavior the next time you find yourself in a kid conversation.
1 – You Try to Fix Everything
A huge mistake loving parents make as an act of love is to swoop in mid-conversation to help your child fix their problem. After all, we’re the parents with all the experience and wisdom, right?
Wrong. Well, yes you have wisdom and experience but you can’t use all that right now. Your kid is wading through their issue and finding the right words and emotions to share them with you.
That’s all that matters right now. Not fixing anything.
In fact, we all probably know what this feels like. My hubby does this to me all the time and it drives me nuts. We all need to vent and let our thoughts out into the open without solutions and ideas shooting out of the sky like heat-seeking missiles.
When we’re quick to offer solutions, what we’re really saying to the other person is they aren’t smart enough to come to a good solution on their own. We also rob our children of developing the skills to think critically and solve problems on their own.
2 – You Aren’t Fully Present
One of the most damaging things we can do repeatedly when in conversations with anyone is not give our full attention to the person.
Like when your kid tries to talk to you but your phone is literally still in your hand as you umm hmm through the conversation only occasionally meeting their eyes with yours.
This tells them you’re not really listening.
I know as women we’re known for great multitasking skills but there’s no place for multitasking in communication, with our kids or our spouse.
Eye to eye communication is best with our phone out of sight.
I already know what you’re thinking… the last time your 10-year-old held you hostage to talk about their awesome Minecraft world they just created you thought you actually fell asleep with your eyes open.
I get it, kids’ conversations aren’t always the most interesting for us but every conversation lays the groundwork for more meaningful ones down the road. Hang in there!
3 – You Judge Their Feelings
When your child is sharing how they honestly feel about a situation or even a person and we shift right into parent mode and say something like, “now that’s not a nice way to think about her.” or “is that how I taught you to talk to a friend?”
If your kid is in the middle of sharing their raw, unedited feelings our best course of action is to listen, listen, and keep listening.
Judging them no matter how much we may want to, in the moment, is off limits.
Again, think of how we feel when we vent to a friend or spouse and we know deep inside we’re totally overreacting but the last thing we want is to feel judged for our feelings.
All we want is an ear to listen.
After they’re done, try asking a question like, “how do you think you handled the situation?” or “would you have done things differently if you could?”
These are non-judgemental questions and allow your child to think and reason for themselves. This line of questioning helps your child learn how to solve problems and self-edit their own behavior.
Plus, they keep the conversation going and building more trust!
4 – You Try to Change Their Feelings
Imagine being in a conversation with a friend and you are very upset about a situation and they responded to you like this:
“I think you may be over-reacting a little…”
“I think you should…”
“This could get better for you if you just…”
“You don’t need to cry about that...”
Everyone has emotions and we’re all probably guilty of way overusing them. And when we’re smack-dab in the middle of a cry-fest the LAST thing anyone wants is to be told their feelings aren’t valid or need to be changed.
The only thing your kid needs when they’re experiencing strong feelings is support and empathy.
To fully understand empathy in a way you’ve probably never heard but WILL open your eyes, watch Brene Brown’s super short video on understanding empathy (this will help you so much!):
5 – You Blow Them Off
Blowing a person off doesn’t always look like making a date with someone and not showing up. Nope. When it comes to our kids it’s often much more subtle than that.
This happens to me a lot… I’m working and one of my kids comes in the room and starts to share something amazing that happened at school and I say, “in a minute… let me finish this first” and then totally forget them when I’m done.
Kids (humans) know when they’re being blown off and though we probably do it so often we don’t even notice it anymore, we need to stop!
If you are truly unable to speak with your child at that moment (that’s real) we need to be very skilled at keeping our word when we are available. That means getting up and finding your child, apologizing, and give them your fullest attention.
Why should you apologize? This is not out of admitting that you did something wrong but as a means to acknowledge how sorry you are for not being available when they needed you.
And if you are truly able to stop what you’re doing at that moment… DO IT.
6 – You Make it All About You
Nobody likes a narcissist. If you compulsively turn conversations with other people toward you… stop now.
When someone is sharing with you, the conversation is and should be about them. Responding repeatedly with statements like…
“when this happened to me as a kid, I did…”
“what I would do is…”
“I know I didn’t raise you like that…”
…leaves your child feeling less-than in your eyes. You are sowing seeds of comparison and competition. And if you’re a mom talking to her daughter, this is very dangerous ground.
Often times self-absorbed communication stems from the desire to fix a situation so we end up looking good in the end. For example, if our child is acting out, we don’t want to be judged by others so we attempt to fix it fast.
We must keep our own motives out of our kid’s conversations and keep it about supporting and helping them. Instead of offering advice and opinions try asking, “how can I help?“
If the answer is nothing or not now, leave it alone and don’t push to be the savior. This is a wonderful opportunity to pray for your child and let God work it out!
7 – You Freak Out
Let’s just all agree that part of being a parent is spending most of your time being shocked.
Shocked when your newborn blows out more poop than seems humanly possible and when your toddler paints a sharpie mural in your living room.
So when your kid trusts you enough to tell you that a boy hit her at school today and you immediately fly off the handle you’re sending signals that you’ll freak out every time you hear freak out worthy news.
You gonna compose yourself and be cool. Count to ten, breathe slowly, or whatever you have to do but stay calm and listen. And help them work it out.
Then excuse yourself to your closet and shout into a pillow!
Parenting isn’t easy… that wasn’t part of the deal. But one of the greatest joys a mom can experience is the trust and loving relationship with her child. It takes work but is the greatest work we’ll ever do!
How do you connect and keep communication flowing in your home? Share in the comments below.
I’ll be really honest, when I was a kid for some reason my stocking was my favorite part of the Christmas morning experience. It was something about pulling so many presents out of a single stocking. It was really magical to me!
As a mom though, stockings became a struggle for me and I hated buying things that seemed like junk just so I could throw it in their stockings at the last minute.
Not cool. So I got more intentional last Christmas in an effort to give my kids the same magical experience I had growing up.
My gift expedition was actually a lot of fun and I want to share with you many of the big hits and many more stocking stuffer ideas for kids. These stocking stuffer ideas will NOT be junk and may end up being your kids’ favorite toys this Christmas.
And the best part is… they are all under $10 each! I mean, stocking stuffers are supposed to be cheap.
Vintage Mirrored Aviator Sunglasses – These super stylish aviator sunglasses will score you serious points for Christmas.
Kanoodle Brain Twisting Solitaire Game – This tiny game set offers kids over 200 brain-teasing puzzles in one compact little kit. Your kids will be using their brains and happily off their electronics for hours! This may be the best gift yet!
Superhero Cape – If you have a little superhero in your house like mine, this cute little cape and mask setis perfect. No more using all the blankets in the house! Available in many colors too.
Munchkin Fishin’ Bath Toy – This fishing bath toy is wonderful for developing hand-eye coordination in younger kids. Plus, it’s really fun to fish!
Mattel Games Blink – From the makers of Uno, this new card game promises to be the world’s fastest game! Plus, it’s a non-screen activity!
LED Star Projector – Turn your kid’s room into their own planetarium with this LED star projector!
Projectables Nightlights – These cool nightlights aren’t any ordinary nightlight. These project your child’s favorite TV or movie characters right on their ceiling, wall, or floor. The soft light comes on automatically at dusk and turns off at dawn.
LOL Suprise Bling Series – We couldn’t resist adding one of the year’s hottest toys to our list. These small LOL mystery balls promise to bring a smile to your little kiddo this Christmas.
Marvel Themed Socks – Marvel is the hottest right now and these cool socks will be a great stocking stuffer for your little Marvel fan.
It actually really bothers me when I see teenage angst played out on TV and in the movies like it’s a natural part of the growing process. Spreading the lie that all teens must have an attitude problem and get into loads of trouble.
The truth is, being a teenager is hard and so much of the time we as parents are getting it wrong. That’s not to say every issue we face with our teens is our fault. The tween and teen stage is full of changes that can be hard for them and for you.
But we as parents are the single most important influence our kids have and how we parent and relate to our kids really matters… especially during the teen years.
Does it ever seem strange that your teen can seem totally logical and mature in one moment and completely illogical and impulsive in another?
That’s because their brains are still under construction!
Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers might rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems more than adults do. The amygdala is associated with emotions, impulses, aggression and instinctive behavior. source
This is why it’s hard to be a teen and can be equally hard to raise a teenager.
And to top it off, we live in a very image and self-focused world. When we send our kids to any typical school, we’re really sending them into a war zone. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s sadly very true.
There are so many instances of bullying, the pressure to conform, and exposure to things we never intended when we drop them off for their education every day.
In the lives of many tweens and teens, they’re simply getting an education in survival. And this is very sad.
No wonder teens are widely seen as angry, unengaged and apathetic people!
As parents, teachers, youth workers, and family members of teens we should be practicing parenting with compassion. And strive for connection and understanding before rushing to correction and judgment.
Don’t we need to focus on character development and discipline with our teens? Absolutely!
But first, we need to do everything in our power to win the heart of our child before they ever reach the teen years. And do everything in our power to keep it!
The heart is the access point to a person’s heart and when you have it you have everything you need to be an amazing mom.
So how do we win the heart of our kids and teens? Start by asking more questions. Not judgment-laden questions, but ones that focus on really getting to know them.
And do LOTS of listening. Way more listening than talking. And trust me, as a mom this is a HUGE challenge. At least it was for me!
We are born and bred to talk, talk, talk and lecture, lecture, lecture as a way of parenting. But we learn so much more when we shut up and listen.
The Secret to Raising Happy Teens
One of the starting points to raising thriving teens is our expectation. Our society programs us to expect the worst when our kids reach their teen years.
It’s referred to in the fabric of our culture over and over again. We’re taught to fear our kids becoming teenagers.
It’s no different than when we all feared our first child turning two because we were all told it was going to be terrible.
I’m kind of different in my thinking… kind of like a teenager. I don’t like being told, “this is how it’s going to be.” As if I have no control over the matter.
Here’s the thing, we do have a say! We do get to choose whether we buy into the lies or write a new story for our family.
I didn’t say it was going to be easy every day but at least when you go into something with the expectation that it’s NOT going to be terrible… that it’s going to be great… you’re starting from a winning position.
This is why I choose to expect that my children will all thrive in their teen and adult years… whether they do or don’t is another issue altogether.
My expectation is that they won’t be overcome by bullying and peer pressure, that they’ll be confident to stand on what they know is right, and know how to love themselves and others well.
I hope you choose to expect the same for your kids. And these tips will help you get there. It’s not easy being a parent in any stage, but we were made for this and have the capacity to exceptionally parent our teens.
Know When to Take a Break
I feel it’s necessary to start here when talking about raising tweens and teens. Not because they are bad (we’ve already covered that) but because they’re largely hormonal.
After puberty sets in, kids have a much harder time managing their emotions. Aggression, sadness, and impulsive behavior are just some of the emotions raging in a typical teen.
That means even on the best of days, there are plenty of opportunities for blow-ups.
Even the most mild-mannered adult can find themselves in an all-out verbal war with their teenager.
So when you find yourself going back and forth in a heated discussion with your teen and your blood pressure is steadily rising, practice taking a break.
Just flat-out say that we need to stop this discussion until we both calm down and try again later. That’s it. It’s not worth saying things you’ll regret and you can’t take back.
You never want to risk verbally wounding your child or tearing down the walls of your relationship that you’ve worked so hard to build. Take a break and talk about it later, or if appropriate consider letting it go.
There are so many changes that take place in our children from their tween years into early adulthood. And many of those changes or behavior shifts are a normal part of their growth and development.
However, sometimes major behavior and personality changes can point to trauma. And even seemingly little traumas can cut really deep and make much larger impacts on their reasoning and behavior.
And trauma to a teenager can range from being rejected by a close friend, being introduced to drugs through peer pressure, being a victim of bullying, feelings of depression or suicide, and even sexual abuse.
It’s vitally important that we don’t make the false assumption that all teens withdrawal and become anti-social to their families. This simply isn’t true.
Many, many of these typical teens were traumatized in some way and simply don’t know how to handle it or ask for help. Mainly because they feel it was their fault or that they’ll get into trouble.
I was personally a teen that was traumatized many, many times and all of these encounters warped my mind and how I related to others. Unfortunately, my behavior shift was rolled into the assumption that I was just being a “typical teenager.”
I wasn’t… I was deeply hurt and wounded. And sadly remained that way for much of my adulthood.
We need to put down our distractions and pay attention, be present, and fight for our kids. There’s nothing more important than that.
And I must point out that we don’t need to rely mearing on our own observations. Praying for our kids opens the door to being able to hear from Holy Spirit who will point us to issues with our kids we might never be able to observe on our own.
One of the things teens get a bad rap for is lacking compassion. The easiest way to raise compassionate kids is to be compassionate. We need to model both compassion and kindness to others in front of our children so they can see these qualities in action.
We can’t simply leave it to the world to do it because it’s not really happening.
Kids are like little tape recorders walking around doing and saying everything they hear and see at home. I served in children’s ministry for over a decade and I’ve seen a lot! Your kids are telling all your business. Lol
The point I’m trying to make is we want them to be instinctively walking around and seeking out the hurting, the left out, and the unloved. Because they see us doing it first.
We also need to be modeling healthy self-love and self-esteem! Our kids are growing up in an image-focused world and it’s easy to feel like you don’t measure up.
Talking about our wrinkles and cellulite all the time isn’t setting the best example. It’s up to us to learn to love our own bodiesand who we really are just the way we are… imperfections and all!
Grit is probably one of the most powerful qualities a person can develop and grow to live their best life. Grit is defined as passion and perseverance over the long term.
Grit supersedes talent, intelligence, connections, and the ability to overcome your own fear. Grit is what determines whether you’ll stay where you’re supposed to be and abundantly thrive there.
As Angela Duckworth points out in her Ted Talk below, how to teach grit in kids is still unclear. That’s why I believe teaching kids the “value” of grit is so powerful.
Instead of putting all of our emphasis on talent and intelligence we need to encourage our children to see their goals over the long haul. That they absolutely have the power to create their own destiny if they take the passion-driven right actions long enough.
Lead them to their Passion
Most of the time passion manifests through what we see as a talent. Maybe our child is really good at baseball, dance, or excels in their artistic ability. If that child is equally driven to grow in that gift… you have a passion!
Other times a passion can be people, need, or problem-driven. For example, this teen was filled with a passion to help cancer patients when her mom and sister were battling cancer.
The source of your child’s passion can come from many places. However, the important thing is that we help nurture their passion and give them every opportunity possible to rise beyond their potential.
The reason passion is so important for kids and teens is because it serves to keep them focused and occupied in something that deeply matters to them.
This is a very good thing as long as they practice healthy balance, of course. But the biggest factor is when a teen is filled with a passion, they are less likely to be influenced by peer pressure, teen boredom, low self-esteem, and bullying.
Why? Because they’re busy building something! They just don’t have time for the foolishness.
It’s NEVER a good idea to have a bored and uninspired teenager. Never.
One of the reasons I believe it’s possible to make such a positive impact as a parent is by actually being there. And I’m not talking necessarily about not working. Most of us, including me, have to work for income.
I’m talking about being a Present Parent. One that’s not distracted by their phone, their busyness, or even their own dreams and passion.
As a mom, our first ministry is our family. And making the hard sacrifices to be there physically and emotionally must be our first priority. Especially over money.
The last several years we weren’t living a very glamorous life. We had a few setbacks in our business and ended up struggling in our finances. I wasn’t making any money from blogging at the time and my emotions and fear pointed me toward getting a job.
In the end, I stayed home and worked my butt off to stay focused on my family and work extremely hard in the fringe hours to build a business that I can work from home. All with the dream of earning an income that allows me the freedom to be with my kids.
Our kids are literally just trying to figure it all out every single day. And it’s hard.
Intentionally offering praise and encouragement when our kids take the right action is so key. When they take the initiative to clean their room on their own, to study for a test without prodding, or anything else you notice it’s important that we take a moment to reinforce that behavior.
They may not clean their room the way you like it done or might get a less than perfect grade on that test, but they took imperfect action. And imperfect action is a million times better than no action!
If your child is consistently earning C’s in school but they work diligently and make every opportunity to do well, then they should be praised the same as a student that earns straight A’s.
Why? Because of their effort. I always encourage my kids to do their best… not someone else’s best.
If we know our kids tried their best, then we praise them for their effort first and then the result.
If we only praise based on results, we run the high risk of marginalizing kids who don’t naturally fit into the high-performing or high-achieving model.
Think of your child’s heart as a bank. We all have a love bank and it works the same as our real bank accounts. We put deposits in and take withdrawals out.
How do we fill out child’s love bank?
By showing them love through encouragement. By affirming them way more than we correct or criticize them. And by always showing up, even when they push us away and say they don’t want us to.
Withdrawals happen when we scream at our kids in anger and frustration. When we judge them before we ever try to understand them. When we disconnect because we feel rejected.
Remember, it’s hard to be a teen. And much of the time, they’re struggling with complex emotions they don’t know how to deal with. Some days our teens just need a long, love-drenched hug… even if it’s just a verbal one.
Finally, we must never tolerate disrespect to anyone. This really needs to start when they’re toddlers.
If kids are allowed to talk back to you or other adults or aren’t corrected when they’re outright disrespectful it’s like giving them a giant green light. And it only gets worse as they enter their tween years.
Talking back is a matter of personal expression. We all have the urge to say what’s on our minds and have the last word when we’re angry or frustrated.
And being able to develop the personal restraint to hold your tongue in these situations is an important social skill everyone needs to be able to do. Sadly, too few don’t.
When we allow our kids and teens to over-talk us, say rude comments or talk back it must be a non-negotiable action that’s always grounds for discipline.
If they’re allowed to be disrespectful to their own parents it’s likely this behavior will transfer to teachers, coaches, and other parents. If not dealt with, there’s a good chance they will grow to become rude people.
Please don’t raise another rude person. We have too many already!
All jokes aside, this is an area that needs boundaries and constant attention until they learn how to more effectively handle their emotions.
Which areas are you most excited about focusing on with your teen? I know this post showed a lot things we can work on with our teens. Don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed or discouraged.
Just take the right actions one step at a time!
Share your teen struggles and questions in the comments below!
No matter how naturally talkative your child is, it seems the older they get the less they share… with their parents, that is. It used to be that every day was an adventure they couldn’t wait to tell you all about when they got jumped in the car after school.
But now, you’re met with the all-encompassing “good” when asked how their day was. The problem isn’t with your child and their ability to pour their heart out to you or their lack of desire to share. It’s all about the questions being asked.
Asking the right questions is one of the most powerful positive parenting tools we have as moms. In fact, if we spent more time asking questions instead of lecturing and telling our kids how they need to think and behave we’d learn so much about our kids.
Kids, and especially teenagers, require you to find the combination of words asked in just the right way to get your kids to open up and share their heart. It’s sometimes like completing a riddle at the end of a level in a video game.
I’m not sure why this is the case, but it seems to be so for most parents. And if it isn’t, you’ve probably already cracked the code!
Here are some fun questions you can ask your child at different times of the day. For example, after school, after they attend a party or sleepover or a play date, after church service, and just plain fun questions to ask anytime to get the conversation flowing and get to know your child’s heart!
You’d be surprised how many things can happen in a day and our children don’t always know how to communicate their fears, their victories, and their questions. That’s why these questions are super helpful!
I’ve categorized them in sections so you can easily refer to them again and again!
You’ll be surprised how easily these questions will get the conversation going and how quickly you’ll get to know your growing child. Have fun!
Questions to Ask Your Kids About School
1. What was the funniest part of your day?
2. What was something you did today that made you feel brave?
3. What was something that happened today that made you feel scared or alone?
4. How did you help someone today?
5. Tell me one thing that made you feel smart?
6. What new fact did you learn today?
7. What challenged you at school today?
8. If you could be the teacher tomorrow, how would you do things?
9. Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?
10. How does that make you feel?
11. Who do you want to make friends with that you haven’t already?
12. What subject is the hardest for you?
13. What subject is the easiest for you?
14. If you could stop doing anything in your school day, what would it be?
15. If you could add anything to your school day, what would it be?
16. Are there times in your when you feel left out?
17. Do you ever feel like someone at school is a bully to you or anyone else?
18. What is the most popular thing to do at recess?
19. How would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
20. If anyone in the world could be your teacher for a day who would it be?
Questions to Ask Your Kids After a Play Date
21. What was the most fun thing you did at the party/sleepover/play date?
22. What was something you did that was helpful?
23. What did you eat for lunch/lunch/snack?
24. If there were ever a zombie apocalypse, which one of your friends would survive?
25. What was the funniest thing that happened?
26. Was there ever a time when you felt afraid or alone?
27. Did anyone upset you? How?
28. If you could have your own party, who would you invite?
29. Were they kids at the party who you aren’t friends with?
30. Did you meet a new friend?
Questions to Ask Your Kids After Church Service
31. What was the silliest thing that happened at church?
32. Was there anyone who came to service for the first time?
33. How did you make that person feel welcome?
34. What was something you learned for the first time?
35. Do you remember the memory verse, and what does it mean to you?
36. Did you make a new friend today? What was their name?
37. If you could teach your service next Sunday, how would you do it?
38. What will you do differently after today?
39. What’s one thing I can help you remember or talk more about this week?
40. What’s one thing that made sense to you today about God/bible/church?
Questions to Ask Kids to Get to Know Them
41. If you could create a new planet what would you name it, and what would it be like?
42. If you could change your name, what would you name yourself? Why?
43. If you were given a million dollars and had to spend it all in one week, what would you buy?
44. What’s your favorite thing to daydream about?
45. What’s your biggest dream that you wish would come true?
46. What have your friends been up to lately?
47. How do you show people you care about them?
48. What does it mean to show love?
49. What is one place you want to travel to one day?
50. If you could change anything about your family what would it be?
51. If you could change anything about your life what would it be?
52. If you could change any of rules of this world which ones would you change?
53. Where would you want to go on vacation if we could leave right now?
54. If you could create a new Crayola color, what would if look like and what would you name it?
55. What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
56. If you had your own motto, what would it be?
57. If you could have dinner with anyone who would it be?
58. If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would you go?
59. If you could live on your own private island but could only take 5 things, what would they be?
60. Describe the house you want to live in when you’re a grown-up.
Do you have some favorite questions to ask your kids to get them to open up? Please share them in the comments below!
Raising children into happy, kind, and well-adjusted adults is a huge task and part of the enormous adventure of motherhood… and the struggle too. As parents, it’s our responsibility to effectively prepare them for adulthood and do our best not to screw it all up – a parent’s worst nightmare.
I think part of the reason there are so many kids and adults that don’t fall into the happy, kind, or well-adjusted category is because as a society we’ve got our priorities mixed up.
We’ve become distracted parents trapped on the hamster wheel of busyness seeking mindless entertainment and endless ambition. Too often our kids are right there… but we’re too busy and distracted to notice.
And though we may be doing good work like running a business or a blog like this one that keeps us constantly connected, do we know what cost we’re really paying to have this life? Or better yet, what cost our are kids paying?
Distracted parenting is a huge problem in our modern homes today.
Sure, there are many parents working outside the home and not physically there for their kids every minute of the day. And while we could try to question those parents’ choices on whether they work too much or not enough, that’s not my focus here.
Working to provide an income for your family by working outside the home is largely unavoidable for both parents in most homes today. It’s a part of our modern fabric.
My real focus here is to explore and expose what we’re giving our kids in the fringe hours… before and after work and all the spaces in between.
What we’re doing when we’re on the couch at home with our kids.
What we’re really paying attention to from the sidelines at our kid’s soccer game.
What we’re showing as the top priority to our children day in and day out.
Distracted Parenting in Action
What do our actions say to our kids?
That we’re too busy to put down our laptops and phones to actually have a meaningful conversation?
Or do our actions tell a better story that our kids are the most important focus in our lives and that they matter and deserve the respect of our full attention?
I’ll be honest, even as I write this I’m struggling with conviction because I do not have this down perfectly. So, I’m largely writing from experience and truthful reflection of my own choices.
One day my daughter was sharing a story about a difficult situation she encountered at school that day. Ring the alarm – we’ve got a win! My preteen daughter is opening baring her soul to me!
But instead of fully listening that day… I was overwhelmed with a very busy week and needed to finish delivering all the laundry throughout the house.
She was met with my back and my less than engaged um-hmmms most of the conversation until Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks and showed me in a second how disrespectful I was being to her. I’ll say this… I stopped, apologized, and never did that again!
It was never intentional, but I just got caught in my busyness.
I want my children to always feel respected, loved, and valued as I make small and big sacrifices every day to put them first by putting away my phone and sitting with them whenever I can.
It all starts with us. Even when our teen acts like they’d rather be anywhere but with us, we need to stay put. In times like this, our actions will replace our words.
When they see us at their games actually watching them play instead of staring at our phones it makes a difference. There was an article written about College Athletesand shared the impact their parents made that contributed to their success early on. And a resounding response was when they’re parents made a comment with these 6 simple words, “I love to watch you play.”
Notice it wasn’t, “I love to be at your games.”
Look, I don’t get it right all the time. No one does! The point is that we’re aware of it and make it our biggest priority to be present and fully aware when we’re with our kids.
Now let me quickly bring some balance here. I’m not saying you can’t sit at your desk and work on a project if your kids are home and must sit and stare at your kids for hours or play legos on the floor until you drop from boredom.
Honestly, a little “present time” goes a really long way. In fact, if you take a moment to really connect with your child every day, they’ll stay full and you’ll find that they often run off and do their own thing.
Your kids need you first to feel full, satisfied, and ready to take on the rest of the day. If they feel like they’re competing with your work, your phone, or anything else; they will either do one of two things. Hunt you down and totally overwhelm you, or retreat and isolate themselves because they feel unloved and unconnected.
The latter is extremely dangerous and if you find that your child is constantly isolating themselves, do your best to show up and be present right now. If this has been going on for a while, enter cautiously.
They’ve most likely already put up walls so just be cool about it and don’t act weird. You know how we can be!
The first step in becoming a more present parent is to be aware of all the things and habits that work as barriers to present parenting. Things like our routines and work schedules and our phone habits. These done the wrong way can really stand in your way. Here are a few practical tips:
Create Work Boundaries
I shared that I’ve always worked from home since I became a mom. I’m very grateful for this but really had no clue how to balance my family and work time effectively. I was constantly doing everything all at the same time. I made myself crazy… and probably my kids too.
This led to yelling and constant frustration. I wasn’t creating meaningful connections with anyone or anything. But I got smart and learned over time to create boundaries and schedule both my work time and family time. I try my hardest to schedule my most focused work tasks around my kid’s sleeping times.
And when I’m working when the kids are awake, my mindset is ready for interruptions and noise so I’m not irritated when it happens. I also make sure they are doing something fun before I start. Here’s a post that’s full of fun ideas to keep your toddler busy and occupied while you’re working.
Schedule One on One Time
I’ve found that scheduling intentional “no-work” time with the kids where I can be totally focused is very helpful. Doing this changed everything! My kids feel like they’re are getting “me” every day and I’m actually able to slow down and really see them.
I also put down my phone and put away the laptop when my kids are home from school and it’s family time. I’m not perfect at this, but I try to keep them out of sight, for the most part, during this time. When I used to try to cram in some extra work during this very busy time of day… it always ended in disaster.
Finally, one of the best ways to foster connection and effective communication with your kids is by asking questions. Asking your kids questions is one of the most powerful tools a parent can use because it gives you access to their heart. And that’s what we want!
Asking a question is a powerful way to show you care about someone. Kids love to unload their day and tell you all the things that happened along the way. However, as kids get older they can seem to get less conversational if we don’t keep them connected.
One reason children stop talking and sharing is when they’ve been rejected one too many times in conversations with us. When they’re sharing something personal and we are absently mindedly responding with uh huh, uh huh and they know we aren’t listening. Or we’ve cut off the conversation in some way.
This has happened to me personally with my husband numerous times. When I’d be talking or opening up about something personal and he would chime in about something else, be on his phone, or not giving me his full attention.
It’s never intentional, but we all miss it sometimes. I know that I’m an adult and that though these responses are not the best to experience, I know how to offer grace. Our kids don’t always understand that rude behavior doesn’t mean they aren’t loved. It just means we made a bad choice.
The funny thing is, when I’d bring those times to my husband’s attention, he’d be totally surprised and unaware that he did them. That’s because he really is an amazing husband who’s just human. And because those moments made me feel rejected and no longer wanting to connect… your kid may feel the same.
This is why being totally focused helps to prevent these situations.
Watch for Individual Needs
If your child is asking to spend more time with you or mentions they’re starved for your attention, listen and make the adjustment. Count it as a blessing that you have a child that will even ask for your attention.
One of my children falls into this category and at times her need for my attention can feel overwhelming. But I know if she feels empty, I’m missing it somewhere. It also means I’ve fallen into passive parenting instead of intentional parenting and need to make the adjustment.
It’s easy to think that this high emotional needs child is a challenge, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! I know if I can make winning her heart my highest priority, I’ve won the battle for my child. On the other hand, if I don’t pay attention, her heart is vulnerable due to her desire for connection.
I want you to know this post was meant to inspire, not to condemn. If you struggle in any of these areas, you’re human and now have the opportunity to make a change.
The world isn’t offering free passes to our kids when we mess up as parents. We have a responsibility to show up every single day because it means everything to those precious kids of ours. And change is never too late if coming from our full heart!
How do you connect with your kids? Share your best tip in the comments below!
Kids are honest. They tell us the brutal truth in almost every situation. Like when you wake up with a lovely zit right on your forehead and your kid feels the need to point it out to you at their first waking moment, as if you didn’t already know.
They haven’t formed their filter yet and so children have a way of telling it like it is. Which isn’t a bad thing, you just gotta be ready for it when it comes.
But there are some things our kids don’t always tell us. Things they should but don’t have the capacity to find the words. Or they just have no idea how to tell you. These are things they desperately need us to do for them, that often times go unmet. Tough, right?
This is a sticky situation for both the kids who need them and the parents who unknowingly fail to deliver.
That’s why I created this list. To help moms like you and me shift our focus just a bit because parenting is hard and complicated and we all miss it from time to time. Until we watch an inspirational video or read a post online that hits us between the eyes and helps us get where we always wanted to be.
This has happened to me a million times since becoming a mom over a decade ago.
We have the power to meet our children’s deepest felt needs with purpose and intention. When these needs go unmet for long periods in a growing child, it leaves a deep hole that they desperately look to fill with something or someone else.
If you read this list and feel that you’ve been missing one or a few needs, please don’t feel discouraged, judged, or condemned. Just take intentional action to reconnect in that area. The wonderful thing about children is their resiliency and their ability to forgive without question.
You may also read this list and think, these are no-brainers. Well, congratulations you’re probably a fantastic parent. But take a moment and look around at your kid’s school, at their soccer games, and dance recitals. Talk to many of your children’s friends. You’ll quickly see these aren’t happening for every child as they should.
We need to get it out there and talk about it. Not so we can be finger-pointers and parent shamers, but to shine a light on what’s lacking in this world. And how we as moms can make such a huge difference in this world through the gift and privilege of motherhood.
When we raise happy, resilient, and kind adults… we’ve made a tremendous impact in this world! And that’s what this list is all about.
What does it mean to love someone intentionally? It means to give thought and purpose to how we actively show love to another person, in this case, our kids. It’s not enough to love them by providing a good home and sending them to a good school. Our kids need much more than that.
Money is the smallest thing our kids need from us… even though it doesn’t always feel that way. Parents, myself included, tend to work our fingers to the bone to give them a better life. In the end, our kids aren’t looking for that alone. Sure, they want their basic needs met and, yes, kids love asking for and spending money. Whew! I know mine do!
But what they really need is for us to lovingly learn who they are and how they need to be loved. That’s where the power and beauty of love languages come in. If you know your child’s love language it can make all the difference.
Simply showing up and taking an interest in what your child loves can go so far… even when their interest is gross, boring to you, or just plain annoying. Because sometimes they just are!
This is a really huge need for children and doesn’t go away as we become adults. There are many adults in marriages where the spouse provides a good home, puts food on the table, but isn’t really there. When your spouse doesn’t make any attempt to connect with you, it hurts deeply. I know because I’ve seen it happen.
It’s the very same with kids. They want you there physically but much more, they want you there emotionally. My daughter played soccer for a couple years and she was really good and it was fun watching my little girl dominate the field with both girls and boys. During this time, I saw a lot of different parents on the sidelines.
One in particular stuck out to me. There was a little boy who obviously played soccer for many years and was very good. He would ferociously kick the ball into the goal again and again like he was in the World Cup. The crowd would cheer and you could see him immediately look where his parents were sitting to catch their approval and instead would repeatedly see his parents walking around talking on their cell phones… never looking at the field.
When I’d look back at that child, every time you could see the disappointment in his eyes. Though we could applaud his parents for both being there physically, we can see that week after week they weren’t really there.
In this amazing article, there was a study done of College athletes that asked them what their parents contributed to making them feel joy during and after their games. The answer will shock you.
It showed the power in 6 words a parent can say that can make ALL the difference, ” I love to watch you play.” Wow! That’s it! Parenting can feel complicated and overwhelming at times, but our kids are really as simple as needing us to just show up.
I know my Type-A moms are wincing back at this one. Stay with me for a second… please. I didn’t say “accept” all their choices, I said to support them no matter what their choices are. Support your child, not the choices.
Life is hard and we all need a support system. We also all make mistakes and miss the mark from time to time. And it’s really hard to live life feeling like when we make a bad choice or totally screw up, that our support system is always in jeopardy.
Sure, it sucks to have a kid that can’t seem to get it together or a teenager or young adult that looks on the surface like a total disappointment despite how you raised them. I know this because I was that screw-up kid. I was an angry, hurt, and messed up kid for a lot of reasons I can’t get into here. But the one thing my parents did was support me every step of the way. NEVER my awful choices… ME.
How did they do this? By always keeping their loving doors open, never shaming me even when it was justified, and praying incessantly for me. They never gave up on me. And though my parents weren’t perfect, I always knew I was loved. And they taught me about Jesus who loved me unconditionally. And that was what I believe made all the difference in turning my life around.
Yes, I said it. Our kids need us to say no and they need us to give them safe and healthy borders. Kids that have parents that say yes to almost anything, even the questionable things, are telling their kids they don’t care about them.
It’s true. Though your kid may be kicking and screaming because they can’t go to the slumber party at Amy’s house, they know way under the surface that you care. That might not be helpful right at the moment, but it’s the hardest decisions of love that linger the longest.
In this crazy, upside down world we live in, I say NO a lot. I don’t really have a choice because I love my children. And it’s my job to protect and lead them through the tough choices and teach them how to make better decisions. For example, at my daughter’s sixth-grade orientation last year, her teacher mentioned a tip about taking your child’s phone and keeping it in your bedroom at night.
At the time, I’d never thought of this because my daughter never gave me a reason. I’m so glad I heard this tip because it made me see the importance of simple ways I can remove the opportunity for her to be accessed at all hours of the night. It’s unnecessary and has the potential to be dangerous.
I treat social media accounts the same way. Our children don’t need unfettered access to unfiltered content on social media at very young ages. You can read more on why here.
Creating borders helps your child know how to place healthy borders for themselves later on.
5 – Let Them Live Their Purpose
I believe every person born on this planet has a God-given purpose. A purpose that was given to them by their creator. We may have grown them in our wombs, but God gave them life and purpose. We need to honor the gifts they’ve been given and help them grow in them.
Our kids need us to tell them they are special and unique and even when they’re scared and feel totally unqualified. That they need to discover and pursue their purpose with passion and intention.
Too often parents want their kids to pass on the family business, whatever that may be. Or to choose a more “sensible” profession instead of the one in their dreams. And I’m talking about when they’re older and not their dream of becoming a princess or Superman.
We often try to create a life plan for our kids without ever considering they already have one. Our job as parents is to help them find it and to embrace it.
There are millions of depressed, suicidal, and hopeless adults who were pressured to pursue a “sensible” career that was totally outside of their purpose. And though they may have attained success in the world’s eyes… they feel empty. Though we may not understand it, we owe it to our kids to lead them into their purpose instead of away from it.
Just like our kids need to be told no, they also need and want to be disciplined. The Bible teaches that we discipline those we love. There’s so much truth to that. Discipline isn’t necessarily punishment, it’s the intentional act of shaping and molding into the right behavior. And that takes work and compassion.
It doesn’t require love to want someone who’s done something terrible to face punishment. But it does require love to allow them to face that punishment while teaching and guiding them into the right behavior.
We don’t want to discipline our kids with the “rot in jail and throw away the key” mentality. Yes, punishment and consequences are all a part of the discipline process because that’s what prepares them for real life. But it’s also the compassionate and sometimes time-consuming teaching of the right behavior that makes all the difference and shows how much we love our child.
Tricia Goyer shared this concept from her book Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom. It was so simple, yet profound. But it does require endurance on your part. And it’s an investment of your time, depending on how many children you have! Yet, it’s time well spent.
If your spouse and your children each have your undivided “eyes only” attention each day, it sends a powerful message to them – YOU Matter. And there’s no revelation more powerful than that. Try carving out small 10 minutes times for each person, each day. And then work your way up as you develop discipline in this habit.
Here are my kids and I playing at the park after a very long day. But our sacrifices go a really long way!
Kids need space and independence to grow and learn how to make good choices. This may seem to be in opposition to “be present” but it isn’t. Giving your child independence simply means allowing them to work things out on their own… with your guidance.
This teaches them about how their actions have both positive and negative consequences. And as they get older they need to be able to safely make both good and bad choices. You’ll find that in doing this they learn to self-correct at a much faster rate than us always doing it for them.
Just remember to give large doses of grace as they will make mistakes!
9 – Embrace and Love Their Uniqueness
In this “fit in or get out” world we need to be intentional about embracing our children’s uniqueness. Our kids need us to affirm that though their uniqueness makes them stand out, it’s that uniqueness that makes them special.
As a child’s minister years ago, I taught my kids that it feels uncomfortable to stand out and be different. And we have this desire to blend in with what the world says is beautiful, talented, or cool.
But I asked them to think about the biggest stars and icons in the entertainment industry and describe what makes them more of a star than all the other entertainers. And the majority of the answers were… the biggest stars worked very hard to stand out and be different.
Think of Lady GaGa and Michael Jackson. Their biggest claim to fame is doing what no one else has done before… to produce a sound no one else has heard before. That takes guts, confidence, and the ability to fully embrace their uniqueness.
As parents, this is probably the hardest thing to do. But no matter how many times you tell your daughter her curls are beautiful or that your son’s bright red hair is amazing, and they brush it off… keep saying it. Until they believe it.
I hope this list gives you some inspirations on ways to be more connected with your kids. Let’s face it, we all fall short of hitting these perfectly – especially in busy seasons.
Perfection is the enemy of progress and it’s better to be aware and make changes than to try for perfection any day. What are your thoughts on this list? Did I miss anything? Please add in the comments below!
As parents, the words we speak to our children are the most powerful words our kids will ever hear. We have the power to build our kids up or tear them down… all with the words we speak.
Our words play an amazing role in raising brave, fearless, and compassionate kids. Ones who know they have a purpose in this world and aren’t afraid to rise to their God-given potential and be their best.
However, this is easier said than done… no pun intended. Choosing the right words at the right times requires practice and discipline.
I’m not proud to say this, but I used to be a dumper. A dumper is a parent that dumps all their emotional baggage onto their kids. Anytime I’d get frustrated, I’d verbally lean into my daughter in a way that wasn’t healthy for either of us.
It’s been many years since I’ve grown from that toxic form of parenting. And I’m so grateful for that because my daughter is now much older and we have such an amazing relationship and she literally surprises me every day with her maturity and ability to make wise decisions.
I know if I continued down my destructive path, it probably wouldn’t be the case.
Words are powerful and have the ability to heal or destroy, uplift or tear down, encourage or intimidate, to love or to hate. And the words we speak to our kids will either encourage them to be their best or tear them down.
And like I said, our words as parents are some of the most powerful words we’ll EVER speak!
Our words aren’t just a way we communicate our thoughts and needs to each other. They’re way more important – holding in each word the capability to frame our world.
The Power of Our Words
God used only His words when He spoke the universe into existence. And we were created by God to work the same way. In the book of Genesis, we see God made us in His image and after His likeness. Therefore, we were created to be imitators of the way God operates. In fact, I believe He expects us to.
He framed the entire universe with only His words, and He expects us to do the same with the universe of our lives and family. We have a whole lotta power! We should be mindful of how we use it.
Whether or not you’ve ever heard this before or are struggling to believe this way of thinking, you’ve been using your words with a purpose your entire life.
Think about when you see someone hurting or in need. You instinctively feel the need to say something to comfort or encourage them. We know deep inside how important our words really are.
The same is true when we lose our temper and hurtful words try to fly out of our mouth. And in that brief moment, we feel good because we know how deeply words can slice… way deeper than anything physical.
That is, until the dreadful regret sets in. And yelling and dumping on our kids is one of the hardest to overcome feelings of regret. After every tirade, no matter how big or small, I’d feel like the WORST person on the planet. I would feel so heavy and depressed. I NEVER want to go back to those days again!
Maybe you’re not a yeller or a dumper, that’s great! But have you considered that you may be instilling fear or insecurities in your child? All it takes is a mention of their limitations, so-called flaws, or imperfections.
Even done in a joking way can perpetuate negative thought patterns and create destructive behaviors without us ever knowing that we dropped the seed.
Sure, it’s important to have conversations with our kids about things that aren’t right or need improvement but it should always be done in a way that lifts them up and encourages them to make better, healthier choices.
We should never make fun of our kids or poke at them about their personality, appearance, or things they’re shared with us in confidence. That is extremely damaging to your relationship and their heart.
The purpose of our words is to build. To build up the lives and hearts around us! To affirm, protect, encourage, and love our children with our words. To make them believe they are loved, capable, worthy, and brave.
Do you know what you’ve been building?
As I said earlier, we have the power to build fear, depression, insecurities, and more. Instead, we want to focus on building confidence, uniqueness, bravery, and compassion in our children.
Think of your words as the building materials of your life. Now picture yourself with your family on a construction site ready to build your lives together. You each have been given tools and the bricks to build the structure you’ll be living in. Your words are the bricks that that will become the walls of your life.
You can do as many people do and use those bricks as weapons to throw at each other through our comments. Or you can come together and use them to build your family’s amazing legacy.
So how do we actually use our words to build?
That’s simple, start by imaging the life you really want to be living. Imagine your kids and how you’d love for them to act, imagine your ideal marriage, and imagine what your dream home life would look like.
Then begin to say what we want. When your toddler throws a tantrum, instead of telling him to stop being a bad boy – tell him he’s a good boy so he should act like a good boy. We’ve never dealt with more than a handful of tantrums with all three of our kids. We’ve made it a practice to speak what we want to see instead of what we do see.
When your husband forgets to take out the trash for the hundredth times, try telling him what an amazing husband he is. You’ll be surprised how motivated your husband can be when he feels loved and appreciated. I know, I know… you may not feel like you’re appreciated yourself, but remember we’re building the marriage we want and many times that will require us to sow some good seed of grace.
If we speak negative and condemning words long enough, we’ll eventually change the direction and outcome of what was to be. This is what sociologist Robert K. Merton calls a self-fulfilling prophecy (source). In order for a prophecy to take place, there needs to be a prophet to speak it.
A prophet is one who foretells the future. Or we could say one who foretells their future. To foretell means to tell beforehand; predict, prophecy.
It’s our responsibility as parents to fill our kids with hope, encouragement, and support. We should get excited about raising kids who believe they have a real purpose in this world, who know their actions make a difference, and are brave and know how to overcome fear and negative emotions.
One effective way to encourage your kids is to lead any disciplining conversations with positivity first. It’s way too easy to “say what you see” and rattle off the things we know our kids aren’t doing right, but it takes discipline to search for what they are doing right before we go into full-on correction mode.
Even when they’re messing up, they need to be reminded that they are doing some things right.
Have a Confession
Daily confessions and declarations are very helpful ways to speak positive things in your life. You can have a confession that you read aloud for yourself and over your children. You can also have a confession that you speak with your children to help set them up for a great day.
This post from Matt McWilliams dives even further into the power of declarations and links to a free declarations page you can download and use with your kids!
Say Something Kind Every Day
Make a habit of complimenting your kids every day… no matter what. I’ll be honest, sometimes this feels awkward or maybe there’s just nothing jumping out at you to say without repeating the same things over and over.
Sure, that may be the case, but imagine if finding a compliment to give your child every day is challenging for you (their mom!) it’s even more challenging for friends, teachers, and other people in their life. In other words, if they’re not getting kind words from you, they probably aren’t getting them from anyone else.
Kids don’t come into this world knowing they’re loved, special, have a purpose, and have the power to change the world. They have to be told this!
Now that you know the power of your words, it’s time to make your action plan and become more intentional about what we say. It doesn’t matter what’s in your yesterday, it only matters what you make time for in your today!
What words do you speak over your family? Do you have declarations or confessions? Share them in the comments below!
Managing screen time is probably one of the biggest struggles facing parents in today’s world. And there’s just not a lot of time between now and before all this technology even existed. It’s hard to know what’s right, how much is too much, and how to live with kids in this ever tech-obsessed world.
The reason why the struggle is so real is that this technology is pretty amazing. Think about when you were a kid 20 years ago. How would you react if you had a TV that you could basically hold in the palm of your hand and watch just about any show or movie or play any game whenever you felt like it?
The technology, whether you love it or hate it, is apart of our world and our kids will come to know it and use it like second-nature if they aren’t already. It’s our job to help them manage all this technology because it’s no different than sugar. Too much of it has dangerous consequences and it’s just too good for a child to be able to create safe boundaries on their own.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much
I think it’s important to talk about safe screen time before we get into managing our children’s screen time. I’m going to be really upfront here, there are many opinions on this topic. But I think we could all agree that there is a “too much” for every child.
I personally believe that this is going to look different for every single child. And you should first monitor your child and his or her behaviors when spending time in front of the TV, on their tablets or phone, or playing video games.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Does my child seem more active or hyper after consuming electronics?
Does my child seem more inactive, less motivated, or even “zoned out” after consuming electronics?
Does my child exhibit new behaviors such as disobedience, talking back, or withdrawing after consuming electronics?
Is my child showing a lack of interest in playing with real toys, going outside, or reading books?
Do they have an extreme attachment to their device or phone?
Though these are common occurrences in children after consuming electronics, if you answered yes to any of these questions you may decide to make some positive changes. As these are signs that your child is having too much screen time.
Please do not feel condemned or like you’re a bad parent! I think we’re all in the same boat here. I struggle with screen time just like any other parent. It’s no different than the constant request for cake, cookies, and chips. It’s all a part of parenting.
Here’s where it gets really sticky, though. Tablets and TV are highly effective ways to keep children and toddlers busy and entertained so you can “get things done.” This is especially true for the younger children because most of them want parental participation “aka – mommy come play with me” anytime they’re playing with their real toys.
I get it… boy do I get it. The struggle is real.
But guess what? Our parents had the same exact struggle and so did their parents and their parents. Parenting hasn’t changed and neither have children. The only thing that’s changed is that we found a perfect way to keep everyone happy and quiet. Win-win, right?
Unfortunately, there’s a cost and our kids are the ones paying the highest price.
Here’s a powerful video on what’s being called Digital-Dementia. And it’s affecting all of us and our kids will find this as a way of life unless we step in and change this during their most important formative years.
There are serious consequences to exposing our children to too much screen time. I think we can all agree that we struggle with screen addiction as adults.
The good news is, we have the power to protect our children from these consequences and train their brains to think for themselves instead of reaching for their electronic devices.
If you’re not sure about what to do with Socia Media… read this. I’ve never allowed my children to have Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Musical.ly account. It’s not necessary and it’s simply too risky to open that door. We need to let our kids be kids.
How to Make Changes the Simple Way
Our kids are understandably obsessed with all things technology. And I believe banning them or shaming them for appreciating it is a mistake. Technology is a way of life for this generation and something they’ll need to master. However, it was never intended to be used as a drug that is dulling their life.
My children are masters at soaking up technology from my oldest on her iphone all the way down to my youngest watching YouTubeKids on the ipad. But I knew I had a problem because after really observing my kids, I was answering yes to all of the previously asked questions.
I decided to make some changes, but I didn’t let my kids know I was making them. That just opens the door to power-struggles. I started limiting their screen time little by little and stayed consistent. I got resistance for sure, but it became less and less over time.
Here’s where the work came in… I needed to program my kids to choose their toys, activities, and books over technology. It was slow at first but they started acting more like kids who grew up in 1985 who only had those things. Lol
I wanted my children to go back to using their brains and their creativity to think and have fun on their own. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids!
Our Kids Need Alternatives
Another thing our children need is alternatives to electronics. We can’t expect them to just sit around all day with nothing to do. And going outside to play like many of us did isn’t always possible. We live in a much different world today. If we go outside… we all go outside as a family. And that’s not always possible.
My biggest suggestion is to stop buying expensive toys that light up, play music, or move around the room. These toys are just priming children to crave electronics. To have something “entertain” them. In my opinion, they are simply a waste of your money.
Instead, invest in buying toys that require your child to do something, instead of the toy. They are also much less expensive! For years, I’ve only been buying things that inspire my kids to make, create, imagine, manipulate, move, or construct something. And though sometimes it’s more work for me, I’ve seen dramatic differences in my children.
When presented with these options, they are more engaged, creative, and feel more accomplished. And that’s a huge win in my book!
The Best Screen-Free Activites and Toys
My first choice for something that will keep my kids happy and active is through an activity-based subscription. My kids are literally obsessed with this one! They are activity-based boxes that focus on learning a new skill each month. They teach kids about science, their environment, and technology from the side of building technology!
I actually have to force them to space out the activities throughout the month and there’s a Crate for all of my kids’ ages which is pretty cool!
Right now you can get one month free with a 12month subscription!
I love books and this book subscription company loves books too. In fact, when they send your child’s books they come individually wrapped like a gift. Isn’t that cool! Here’s my son opening his latest books. He feels so special every time his box comes in the mail. They also have chapter books for older kids too!
If you’re looking for screen-free activities for kids of all ages, I share more tips on PerfectlyImperfectMama here… check out this list!
How to Create Boundaries
Now it’s time to talk screen time limits. I find that slowly limiting their screen time, if it’s currently a lot, is the best way to start. Don’t necessarily tell them what you’re doing. Just roll the time back little by little and provide them those alternatives we talked about.
Once you see them adjusting to the new limited times, decide how much time you want to designate for screen time every day. It could be 30 minutes a day or one hour. You decide.
Then have a family meeting to share the new changes. If you’ve done a good job weening them slowly and giving them fun activities to do off-screen you’ll be surprised at how painless this process can be. Depending on your child and how much time they’ve been allowed to have previously, going slow is really important.
Science shows how our brains light up in front of electronics in the same way as a drug addict does when shown drugs. (source) Banning them cold-turkey doesn’t help anyone and increases the struggle and the odds of failure.
Once you decide on a time, post it in a public area and keep it strictly enforced. You may decide to have different times in the summer and other school breaks than you would during the school year. But that’s totally up to you.
And remember, this process takes work and will require you to be more present with your children… and that’s a really good thing. You are the parent and must stay consistent no matter how much your child begs, pleads, or complains. They will eventually seek out new ways to entertain themselves and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at their progress.
How do you manage your child’s screen time? Share your best tips in the comments below!
High school and college aged kids are sometimes the hardest to buy for because everything we (translation: adults) pick can be “lame.” Or whatever the word for uncool is these days. 😉
But no fear! I’ve done the work for you and scoured my favorite store Amazon for some amazing gifts that are perfect for your older child.
Since this list contains an overwhelming number of unisex gifts, I didn’t divide the gifts by sex but some are distinctly boy or girl. So, have fun getting inspiration to get those big hugs or exuberant high fives for whatever the occasion.
And to make your life even easier you can shop right from this page! Just click right on the image to go straight to that specific item on Amazon.
Disclosure: I do earn a small commission anytime a purchase is made using any one of my Amazon links. If you do decide to purchase any of these awesome gifts, it actually helps to keep this blog running smoothly by purchasing through one of my links. Thanks a bunch! Happy Shopping! 😉
Gift Ideas Guide for the Older Child in High School or College
Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Sprout LED
This is a really cool gift for the kid who loves to grow things, is into science, or if you have a budding chef. This complete kit allows you to grow herbs, salad greens, vegetables, or flowers. They can grow up to three plants at a time! The high performance LED is tuned to the specific spectrum that allows for plants to at their maximum and even blinks to remind when nutrients are needed.
Vintage Lighted Star Marquee
This is a cool marquee light that will liven up any desk or dorm room and is your secret way of letting them know they’ll always be your star! 😉
These stylish sunglasses are totally on trend right now! And they won’t break the bank and are available in a variety of cool colors.
Hangry Kit Sweet & Salty Snack Sampler
If your kid is away or on their way to college, this gift will let ‘em know you’re thinking of their nutrition. 😉 We don’t want them getting hangry!
Fandango Gift Cards
Movies, movies, movies … Need I say more?
Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration
This cute and fun journal is a welcoming way to ease your teen into the habit of journaling and thinking about themselves and their future.
Who doesn’t love emojis at any age?!
Premium Metallic Tattoos
These aren’t your typical “kiddie” tattoos. These are premium metallic tattoos that last for days and won’t lose their shine. And they’re non-toxic and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
APIE Portable Wireless Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker
For the outdoors lover who wouldn’t want to miss listening to their i-tunes playlist this speaker is a great option. It’s also completely waterproof and delivers HD acoustic sound for crystal clear sound. To top it off, it comes with a built in SOS emergency button!
Herschel Supply Co. Charlie Card Holder
This is a simple and easy gift for pretty much anyone. It comes in 24 difference colors and designs to there’s one everyone would love.
1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion Diary
Here’s another great tool to get your young person to journal and reflect on their life in a meaningful way. The benefits of journaling everyday are too good to pass up, so this is an entry level way to develop the awesome habit.
iPhone 6S Leather Case, iPhone 6S Case
This is not just another phone case. It holds money and important cards, but it also folds to prop up the phone for easy viewing! And the best part is it comes in over 40 unique colors and designs.
Amir 3 in 1 HD Clip-on Cell Phone Camera Lens Kit
This lens kit turns your cell phone (i-phone, Galaxy, and other Android phones) into a professional camera. You get 3 in 1 HD Lens – Including superior quality 0.4x Super Wide Angle Lens + 10x Macro Lens + 180° Fisheye Lens. Enjoy the high quality and incredible images
Sephora Gift Card
You can’t go wrong with a Sephora gift card for the girl who loves all things beauty! This is an easy win.
Man Up!: 367 Classic Skills for the Modern Guy
This is a totally cool and relevant book for any guy in your life. This book really thinks of everything!
Umbra Fotochain Picture Frames, Set of 3
This frame set is a really cool way to put their favorite photos on display. I think I want a set for myself!
Luxury Inflatable Lounger Sofa by Airlug
This has to be one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. This fully inflatable lounger inflates instantly and doesn’t require a pump!
Portable Charger Mopower 3000mAh
This charger is a must have gift. You don’t want your child out and about with a dead cell phone! This inexpensive gift could be a life-saver.
W7’s Ultimate Eyeshadow Collection
This eyeshadow palette set has every color base covered and you’ll look like an expert without needing a PhD. in beauty!
Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual:
If your daughter loves but is new to the arena of make-up, this gorgeous and easy to follow book will help them look and feel their best.
This storage unit is sleek and functional for many uses such as cosmetic, jewelry, and even for art and drawing supplies! So this gift could be for a girl or guy!
All-New Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice RemoteThis is a great gift! It’s the smaller version of the Amazon Fire TV Box which is what our family uses to watch TV. This is a low cost way for your kid to get their own!
I hope you love this gift idea guide for your higher schooler or college student. Let me know in the comments sections if you found this gift guide helpful and add any other gift ideas you’ve found to the list!