As moms, we navigate challenging terrain all day, every day. No one day ever looks like another. Though we may crave more certainty… certainty that our toddler won’t have a blowup today or that our tween who’s knee deep in puberty won’t be super moody this morning… this #momlife is an adventure.
But even great adventures need some stability and that’s where positive parenting comes in. Your days don’t need to be consumed with “figuring it all out” and still feeling like a failure or overwhelmed with mom guilt.
I know this because that was my daily routine. I started my days with great intentions and ended each day with the guilt of all the things I messed up, how many times I lost my temper and the fact that I still can’t get my 3-year-old to sleep in his own bed.
5 Positive Parenting Skills that Really Work
I finally stopped believing the lie that as a mom I’m supposed to “just know” how to do all this stuff well. And I humbled myself to discover new and better ways to raise my kids.
These are the parenting skills that I do my best to use with my children every day. And they work to not only make things better, in the moment, but they work together to establish healthy habits which makes things better for you down the road too.
My favorite part of using these skills with my kids is they work to prepare my children for becoming happy and healthy adults. They aren’t just a bag of tricks to temporarily get my toddler out of tantrum-mode.
1 – Establishes Healthy Boundaries
This is probably one of the most helpful tips I’ve learned and used over the years. Not having proper boundaries and a clear set of expectations for your children to follow is like trying to set up dominoes on a sandy beach.
Children need solid ground. In other words, they need to fully understand what to expect, how far they can go in any given situation.
It would be like driving in a fancy sports car but not having any posted speed limits. You’d be tempted to go faster but you’d never know how fast the limit was and would spend your days agitated and looking in your rear-view mirror or racking up steep speeding tickets.
It’s more enjoyable for everyone when we know what’s going to happen if we do this or that. Then if your child steps outside of that border, they learn the corresponding consequence of their action.
In my house, we’ve hardly experienced tantrums with our toddlers. I believe the reason for that isn’t that we have 3 kids that were born to love to listen as toddlers. Nope! It’s that we established very clear expectations and didn’t waiver… most of the time.
For example, when we go into a store my son is told clearly that we don’t run around and we don’t touch things unless he asks permission. Sure, he will test the limits. When he does this, he’s merely trying to establish the boundary line. Totally normal behavior.
It’s our job to speak, show, and uphold the boundaries we give to our kids. If I lose my cool, ignore him out of frustration, and only sometimes correct his behavior, he’s left confused. And we’ll need to cycle through this scenario every time we go in the store.
Simply, decide what your expectations are, tell them to your children repeatedly, and stick to what you say no matter what. It takes time but if you do this, you will see a difference.
2 – Focus on Your Child Over the Behavior
This may seem counterintuitive but stick with me here. When your child makes a poor choice or shows undesirable behavior it’s often our knee-jerk reaction to zero in on what they just did.
I remember when my kids would mess up I would spend so much time focusing on that behavior and how I couldn’t believe they did it… again. But I didn’t stop and consider my child and why she did do it again.
I was too consumed in my lecture-mode to engage with their heart and bring them into the conversation.
Positive parenting is all about connection and kindness. And let’s face it, we as adults mess up a lot too. And the last thing we need or want is someone beating us down about our mistakes.
We need people to be empathetic with our situation and help us to identify why we keep doing the same things over and over. When we do that, we find solutions and finally make a change.
It’s not that we shouldn’t talk about or discuss wrong-doing. We just show how much we care by diving into that situation and working with our kid to find a solution. It teaches our kids that mistakes are a natural part of life but it’s how we move forward that makes the difference.
3 – Communicates with Respect
We all deserve and like to be talked to with respect. Our children, no matter how little, deserve respect.
Talking down to and belittling our kids is unnecessary and stems from our own uncontrolled emotions. I know this because I used to emotionally dump on my kids whenever I felt frustrated.
I yelled and screamed whenever I felt the need with little regard for the damage I was doing until after I was done and the guilt would consume me so deeply.
It was a vicious cycle and all stemmed from my feelings of powerlessness. I felt powerless to stop certain behaviors and in my fear of never being able to figure it out, I yelled.
Over several years and a humbling surrender to Christ, I have learned to stop communicating disrespectfully to my kids. And what a difference it makes.
I’m no longer racked with guilt and my relationship with my kids is amazingly close.
I still discipline, correct, and establish those firm and clear boundaries but because I’ve laid the groundwork, there’s little need for blowups.
As for those moments when I feel overwhelmed and ready to blow, I practice taking a moment to think and process what I’m feeling. I remind myself that yelling doesn’t ever help and I hate the awful hangover of guilt that floods in immediately after.
4 – Looks for the Good
The bible teaches to believe and look for the good in every situation. Though this, in my opinion, is one of the hardest things a person can do it’s very important for parents to learn.
That doesn’t mean you walk around sugar coating your child’s behavior. However, you set your mind to look for the positive if there’s any to be found.
If you see good, then say good. In other words, praise them for the good you do see. If you see your child cleaning up their room without you reminding them offer a high-five and a big hug.
If your daughter brushes her teeth before bed but left the sink a mess try saying something like, “thank you for brushing your teeth by yourself, great job! But don’t forget that we also need to keep the sink clean too.” Then follow by making them clean the sink.
This works better than calling your child into the room and pointing out the messy sink and criticizing them for being so messy. It’s also better than seeing the sink and quietly cleaning it up yourself.
Parenting is hard work and requires us to be intentional about training our kids to be sufficient and self-motivated.
5 – Takes Personal Responsibility
One of the biggest areas of growth for me as a mom is learning to take responsibility for my own actions and the consequences of those actions as it relates to my children.
I realized that if I yell at my kids, there are damaging consequences. Equally, if I parent without boundaries and give in to my kids whenever I’m tired, those are also consequences that’ll come back to bite me later.
If I spend most of my time and focus on training and disciplining my children and not on building connection and relationship I will have a much harder time raising them.
Part of being a great mom is learning to better myself. When I fill myself up, I am better able to take on the joyful challenge of raising great kids.
How do you practice positive parenting in your home? Share in the comments below.
When I first heard the term positive parenting I was skeptical. It sounded like some new-age, soft form of parenting that resulted in raising kids who are entitled, unmotivated, and lacking in self control.
I was very wrong, and the science backs me up. Positive parenting can be seen as a parenting philosophy, rather than a parenting style.
It focuses more on creating a positive connection with your child through love, empathy, and kindness rather than creating powers struggles through the enforcement of a strict set of rules.
Does this mean parents that use the positive parenting approach don’t discipline their kids or have power struggles?
Absolutely not! Discipline is an integral part of positive parenting. But rather than putting your entire focus on the bad behavior and the corresponding punishment, there is a strong focus on understanding the cause for the behavior, showing empathy and finding solutions.
I wasn’t raised in a super strict home myself, but we had rules and clear punishments when rules were broken. Basically, when we did xyz, we knew that our punishment would be xyz.
Not bad, but like most parents during that time, there was little consideration for why the behavior happened in the first place. And where there is no why (why the behavior happened), there isn’t a how (how we can prevent this behavior from happening again.)
One of the cornerstones of positive parenting is trying to understand why our children do things so we can teach and show them, with kindness, a better way. Rather than focusing all our attention on the bad behavior itself.
This is what drew me into learning more about this way of parenting. It appeals strongly to my own desire to be closely connected to the heart of my children and my innate need to ask why in pretty much every situation I find myself.
What is the Positive Parenting Approach?
Positive parenting rests on the hook of love and mutual respect. There is a strong display of empathy as we try to understand our kid’s choices both good and bad in effort to help guide them into making positive decisions on their own.
I personally didn’t start off this way. I started off my motherhood journey broken and full of anger. I yelled and screamed a lot and patience was in short supply. I’ve always been a loving mom, but I was always one spilled sippy cup away from a meltdown.
I’m not proud of that part of my life and I’m thankful that God has led me to understandinghow to raise happy and self-motivated kids that are truly knitted to my heart. I love having deeply connected relationships with all my kids.
And it started by practicing empathy and taking personal responsibility for my own actions and how those actions affected my kids.
5 Attributes of Positive Parenting
There are several attributes that are distinctly associated with positive parenting. These are specifically what attracted me to learn more about positive parenting techniques in the first place.
Shows empathy toward your child. This is simply you focusing on trying to understand and “be in the trenches” with your child in their moment of need. Instead of looking at their feelings from the outside, you come inside with compassion.
Connection is paramount. As a parent, one of my biggest goals is to become and stay connected to the heart of my child. To be their main source of help, encouragement, and love.
Creates healthy boundaries. Children, despite what they themselves may say, need and want to be told what to do. Power struggles ultimately happen when consistency is absent from parenting. When a child doesn’t know what to expect, they will always test the limits of what they can get away with.
Looks for and believes the best. The positive power of affirmation always trumps the effects of pointing out fault. It works like this… when you see your child sharing, cleaning up without prompting or any other good thing… praise, praise, praise. It’s much easier to keep a good thing going that to stop a bad one.
Takes personal responsibility. A key attribute of positive parenting is understanding how our own behavior affects our children. Taking personal responsibility helps us be intentional in how we communicate with our kids and forces us to make positive changes in our own lives.
How to Know if Positive Parenting is Right for your Family
If you are considering learning more about positive parenting and value having a positive relationship with your child and raising kids who really listen, this is a great place to start.
I want to be clear that I’m not a positive parenting expert or even a parenting expert. I’m a mom who’s made too many mistakes to count and sought out a better way. I’ve come to live that better way and have amazing kids and a very close bond with each of them.
It wasn’t easy and it took a lot of work and healing. I also personally don’t follow parenting manuals or parenting philosophies to the letter. I allow my heart and the spirit of God to lead me where He wants me to be.
If there is something I read or hear that doesn’t sit right with my spirit, I leave that part out. I recommend you do the same. Parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing nor should it be. Children are all unique and should be raised with care and creativity.
Is Positive Parenting Biblical?
Though the pioneers of positive parenting Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs do not claim to be Christian, I find this approach to parenting to be in line with scripture.
I am a Christian woman and an ordained minister of the gospel. I say that to say I love the Word of God and seek to raise godly children who love the Lord and do not stray from Christ.
It is my belief from scripture that a parenting style that stands on a firm foundation of respect, kindness, and love is starting from a Christ-like place. It also teaches parents to express grace as the driving force when disciplining, with punishments being given as needed in love.
The bible says that children are God’s reward and if we combine Christian practices such as studying scripture and prayer within a framework of positive parenting it’s a winning parenting combination.
3 Ways to Start Using Positive Parenting with your Kids Today
Make connection your highest priority. When talking with your kids commit to putting away phones and other distractions and make eye contact. When disciplining, pull your child close or get down on their level and speak in a calm tone of voice.
Model the behavior we desire. Children were created to observe and imitate the behaviors of their parents and mentors. If we want a particular behavior to be strong in our child, we need to start modeling it for them. How can we expect them to learn if they don’t have an example to follow?
Love them unconditionally. Too many children walk around afraid of their parents or are not sure where they stand. As a result, they can become fearful of making mistakes and taking chances which are normal, healthy behaviors. When they know they are loved regardless of their choices, they are free to fall and soar.
Just remember that making positive changes takes time and lots of grace! And take comfort that you know what’s best for your child and should feel empowered to create your own unique parenting style for your child.
How do you practice positive parenting with your children? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Parenting a diabetic child is spending sleepless nights pricking fingers and checking numbers. It is counting carbs for lunch boxes and writing them down for school nurses. Diabetes is running numbers in your head and double, triple checking them.
Diabetes is asking coaches to bench your kid. It is carrying around gummy bears and tubes of cake icing in your purse. Diabetes is forcing a juice box down a sleepy throat in the middle of the night.
Diabetes is constant planning ahead and inevitably, having to trust someone other than yourself with the life of your child. Diabetes is having to drop everything to rush to your child because there are certain things that others cannot do for them.
In 1897, the average life expectancy of a 10-year-old child diagnosed with diabetes was one year. While the discovery of injectable insulin, modern medicine, and equipment means that diabetes is no longer an absolute death sentence, the current statistics are still staggering.
More than 420 million people around the world live with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. Even with the advances in medicine, more than 4 million people worldwide died from diabetes in 2017.
What’s even scarier to acknowledge is that despite treatment becoming more precise and successful, the rates of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in youth in the United States is increasing every year. Type 1 diabetes diagnoses showed increases of approximately 1.8% per year from 2002 to 2012 in the United States. (source)
With these staggering numbers, there comes great likelihood that we’ll come in contact with diabetes at some point in our lives. Perhaps a teammate, classmate or friend of our child; perhaps a neighbor’s child, a niece or nephew.
And with that, we’ll come into contact with the parent of that child. Here are a few things that they’ll want you to know.
1 – “Don’t assume my child can’t participate in “regular” activities.”
Children with diabetes can participate in any and all activities that would be normal for their age. It may just mean a little more planning ahead and monitoring, depending on the activity.
Halloween and other holiday activities, as well as birthday parties and even sleepovers, can be enjoyed with monitoring and modifications. Knowing what’s on the menu ahead of time is always helpful; as are non-edible options as Halloween or gift bag treats.
It also teaches long-term healthy habits that a child with diabetes will need as they grow into adulthood and a time in which they will manage their diabetes on their own.
While children with diabetes need to be monitored during exercise (as physical activity can cause hypoglycemia), they also need to know that they have the mental support from not just their parents, but also their coaches and team parents.
What can I do instead?
Ask questions such as “What do you need to know ahead of time?” or “How can I help make this fun?”
Be supportive of creative ideas, such as non-food treats when possible and perhaps adapt all treats so as to not call attention to the child with diabetes.
Ask about the signs of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia; parents will appreciate that other parents are looking out for their child.
Be supportive of the child with diabetes in sports; keep in mind that witnessing the hesitancy of adults in allowing them to participate in a “normal” fashion may lead the child to doubt their own ability to participate.
2 – “No need to walk away when I’m pricking his finger or he’s giving himself a shot.”
The world of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices and insulin pumps has greatly advanced, making blood sugar level tracking and insulin injects much more inconspicuous; however, not all children have them and sometimes even with them, there is a need for pricks and shots.
Many parents harmlessly believe that leading their child away with a verbal announcement of “let’s give them some privacy” is the respectful thing to do.
Here’s a little secret- it’s not! Leading your child away indicates to the child with diabetes that they should be embarrassed about the need to take care of themselves. It can also communicate to your own child that diabetes is something they should not speak about to their friend.
With a diagnosis that requires a lifetime of monitoring and treatment, comes a lot of emotions. Many children with diabetes feel isolated from their peers who don’t have to think ahead about what they eat, wear devices on their body, or stop something to check a number.
Children may also feel embarrassed about the extra attention they get or the CGM they have to wear. Normalizing the disease and what a person with it has to do to take care of themselves begins when we model it as adults.
What can I do instead?
Even if the moment makes you uncomfortable, don’t show it! If the parent or child wants privacy, trust that they will initiate it and not wait for you to ask.
Encourage your child to ask questions. Children are most likely to feel comfortable answering questions about themselves when their peers are the ones asking.
This not only increases your own child’s knowledge of their friend’s condition and how they can be supportive but also gives the child with diabetes an opportunity to decrease feelings of embarrassment and isolation.
3 – “Please don’t offer your unsolicited “quick fix” solutions to her condition.”
Type 2 diabetes is linked to diet, exercise, and weight. As such, insulin may be not needed if other areas are managed successfully.
Type 1 diabetes, however, is when the pancreas cannot make its own insulin, resulting in glucose getting stuck in the blood rather than making it’s way to the cells where it’s needed.
Type 1 diabetes is suspected to be a mixture of a genetic predisposition combined with something else (such as a viral infection); it cannot be prevented and is not treatable through diet control, weight loss or exercise.
Not having insulin available for management will most definitely mean eventual death.
What can I do instead?
Just as we should encourage our children to ask questions, we should ask them ourselves! Most diabetic parents will welcome opportunities to educate those around them- it not only helps to normalize the disease but gives a sense of security that other parents who come in regular contact with their child have the knowledge to help their child.
Online research is helpful here too, but keep in mind that online research makes no one an expert. When children are diagnosed with diabetes, there is extensive training, educating, and teaching that the family goes through before the child can be discharged to their care. That training and the learning curve that comes with having to care for the needs of a diabetic child have no comparison to online research.
4 – Don’t tell me you would never be able to do what I do.
There is no need to make raising a diabetic child more dramatic than what it already is.
The management of this disease is overwhelming; however, the result of not managing it is even more so.
Without diet control, counting carbs and insulin many children would only have months or days to live. The reality of the situation is always in the back of the parent’s mind
How do diabetic parents deal with the monitoring of their child’s disease? The same as you would if your child was diagnosed- you would figure it out because you have to.
That being said, parents of children with diabetes describe the experience of caring for their child’s needs as life-altering and all-consuming (source).
Professional and personal support is vital for a positive adjustment to a new lifestyle; but even with those support systems, many parents still describe sadness and stress.
What can I do instead?
Parent to parent support best comes in the balance between avoiding overdramatization and being empathetic to the grieving process and emotional toll that a diabetes diagnosis imparts.
Ask questions so that you can understand the disease and treatment.
Do research to better learn terminology and ask how you can help. Helping may mean knowing how to identify highs and lows; it may also mean helping out with siblings during a high or low or simply being empathic to a rough night and showing up with a cup of coffee.
Diabetes is a life-altering diagnosis but is also one that now allows for a very full and normal life. How we relate to children and adults with this condition helps them cope better and live without being labeled by diabetes.
A behavior specialist by profession, Leah finds passion in assisting parents with creative ways to support children with behavioral, cognitive, physical, and medical challenges. Leah enjoys finding the humor in parenting and sharing it on her blog Out of the Nutshell. Leah has been published on Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, A Fine Parent, Self-Sufficient Kids, and is a content contributor for Moms Beyond. Leah lives in Baltimore, MD area with her husband and three children.
Did you know there’s an actual language of love… no not Italian. Seriously, we all have a unique Love Language that’s tailor-made to our unique personality. A language that when it’s spoken to us, can make us feel love in a deeply personal way.
We all know what it’s like to feel loved. It’s this experience of love that hits our heart much differently than merely knowing we’re loved. So many of us live the majority of our days in the “knowing we’re loved” zone, versus actually “experiencing that love” in action.
We all want to feel that love a whole lot more than just knowing it’s there. I know I’m guilty of letting the days go by without going beyond the usual hug, kiss, and I love you as I drop them off at school. And, of course, the thought that feeding them, clothing them, and sheltering them is an expression of love.
And though they are clearly expressions of love, I have to ask myself when was the last time my child “felt” love.A love that was meant just for them, and not a one-size-fits-all love that merely got tossed to all the kids at once on the way out the door.
The truth is, far too often we all take for granted that our spouse, children, and friends simply know we love them and leave it at that. Until a holiday (#Valentine’s Day) or other special event rolls around. Then we bring out the big guns!
This list is designed to help you become an even better mom and a positive parentthan you already are!
We Speak Love in our Own Language
But our loved ones need so much more than that, especially our sweet children. Who are generally sweet most of the time.
They need to feel and experience a clear and tangible expression of our love. One they can’t question or talk themselves out of later. And the best way to do this is to show them love in their own love language.
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock (or mounds of your children’s dirty laundry) and haven’t heard of love languages; let me catch you up.
The concept is taught extensively by Gary Chapman who wrote several books on the topic including The 5 Love Languages of Children – which I HIGHLY recommend along with all of his other books on the topic.
He teaches that there are basically five main ways (languages) we humans uniquely communicate love to one another. We all communicate on some level using all five languages, but Gary believes we each have one overarching language that’s stronger than all the others. That’s our love language.
Why are Love Languages Important?
The interesting part is, we naturally communicate our love to others using our own love language. I mean, that’s our own language, right? But this can hinder the flow of the “love exchange” because, as you know by now, we receive love best in our own language. Confused yet?
Please don’t be. Think of love languages as actual languages. If your husband spoke French and you only spoke English, your relationship would be challenging at best. But if you knew each other’s language and chose to speak that language to each other – you’d be in business. No more mixed signals. Well, hopefully.
This gives us the challenge of identifying and understanding the love language of those we want to show love to the most – our family. This way you can shoot your arrows of love like TheMocking Jay and hit the bulls-eye every single time. Imagine that!
The whole point of understanding and using love languages is the concept of filling each other’s love tank. And doing things that fill our child’s love tank in the specific way that they need it, sends the message loud and clear to your child – I AM LOVED.
Tips to Identify Your Child’s Love Language
In case you don’t know your child’s love language, I’m going to briefly list a few clues to point you in the right direction. I’ll warn you, it may seem at first that your child has ALL the love languages.
But if you observe your child over time, it’ll become more clear. Once you know your child’s love language, you can have fun delivering love messages to them in a way that’s sure to fill their love tank all the way to the top!
Your child is touchy-feely and never seems to leave your side.
Frequently grabs your hand to hold it, leans on you, or rubs you in an affectionate way.
Loves to snuggle, cuddle, and be close.
If you reject this snuggle-fest request, they’ll likely feel rejected themselves.
Words of Affirmation
Your child is highly motivated by your words of encouragement.
They tend to feed off the validation of others.
They also will be more affected by harsh verbal correction or discipline.
Compliments and praise are like fuel to their soul.
Your child will frequently ask to spend time with you, even after you just had an awesome one on one day yesterday! Lol
Every time you turn around – they’re there looking to see what you’re doing.
If they aren’t getting the attention they’re seeking out, they will often resort to getting attention elsewhere. This is where getting negative attention can come in.
They’ll ask to come along when you’re just running errands. The point is, they want to be with you. Here are some great ideas for family connections!
Your child sees receiving gifts a special moment.
On big gift giving days like Christmas and Birthdays, they’ll often remember who gave each and every gift.
They will often collect and store seemingly random mementos from places they’ve been or from things they’ve been given by friends.
Acts of Service
Your child always wants to help and will even try to take over doing things like folding the laundry or putting away dishes as an act of love.
They will look for things that need to be done, like cleaning up the pile of blocks that got left in the corner. They’ll feel proud and accomplished after doing this, so showing your appreciation will go a long way.
They will naturally look for ways to help others.
50 Ways to Show Your Child Love in Their Own Love Language
Even when you’re busy and overwhelmed with life, these ideas are so super, simple that you’ll find yourself inventing new ideas. The ways to speak your child’s love language are really endless and are only bound by your creativity and FUN! Let’s get to it.
Give a lingering hug every day. One that just holds for an extra moment or two.
Offer piggy-back or on the shoulder rides (if they’re still little enough!)
Invite them into your lap to read as long and as often as they’ll still accept the invitation.
Challenge them to an arm or thumb wrestling contest.
Play a board game. Twister is a great one if you can handle it, Mom!
ALWAYS tuck your child in for bed whenever possible.
Wake them up sweetly with a warm snuggle instead of the light on and a, “wake up!”
Do yoga or stretches together using each other for gentle resistance and support.
Words of Affirmation
Write them a love note in their lunch box.
Send them a text message telling them how awesome they are. Be specific and genuine! They’ll spot a canned praise a mile away.
Always be ready with something awesome to say about them when they’re with their friends and/or siblings.
When disciplining/correcting use the sandwich method. Praise – correction – praise.
Offer words of praise that are very specific such as, “it was so awesome when you did … “
Talk openly about them in a positive way around other family and friends.
Always reserve correction to be given privately within your home and not around others.
Create fan signs for your child at their sports games or other activities. And scream their name loudly if appropriate.
Purchase a nice journal for them and write an inspiring message for them on the first page and date it. Words are important for those with this love language so journaling is usually a great activity to encourage.
Create a secret journalthat only you and your child know about that you use to write back and forth to each other. This is wonderful for those challenging tween years.
Have a regularly scheduled date day. Could be simple and free like going to the park every Friday. Here are some great FREE ideas!
Go for a walk alone. Allow them to lead the conversation.
Find a way to include them in your work, if you work from home and they’re old enough. Get creative.
Play with your child. Enter their play fort, hide really well in a game of hide-and-seek, and learn how to give their dolls the most stylish do’s for their latest date to the ball.
Create a project together that the whole family can enjoy when it’s done.
Reorganize or rearrange a room together.
Take up a physical activity like running together. You can train together and run marathons throughout the year.
Cook a meal together. Allow them to plan, shop, and prepare it.
Identify a talent, hobby, or sport they love and find a way to get involved. Become a coach, a volunteer, or start your own group.
Give unique and meaningful gifts like planting a beautiful tree together in the backyard. Preferably one of their favorites, if possible.
Tap into your inner DIY crafter (get on Pinterest) and find something to make for your child that they can use every day like a jewelry organizer or a nice phone charging station. The fact that you took the time to make something won’t be lost on this child!
Get creative in making gifts for classroom gift-giving seasons like Valentine’s Day. They like giving gifts as much as receiving them.
Give them the gift of quality stationery so they can beautifully express their appreciation for the gifts they receive from others.
Make their gifts an event or experience by coordinating a gift treasure hunt.
Work on a project that allows them to use their talents as gift giving opportunities.
Give them gifts with a deeper meaning or significance such as a piece of jewelry or a personalized journal. And make the packaging thoughtful!
Bring them a personal memento from an interesting place you went that day or from your travels. For example, a cool looking rock or flower. Repay the “look what I found” sentiment we get from them so often.
Buy them personalized items with their name on it. This could be as simple as a dinner plate or cup with their name printed on it but can get more special as they get older.
Create cool spaces for them to store their new gifts or mementos. Like baskets, shadowbox shelves, or cabinets with open spaces.
Acts of Service
Give your child special responsibilities they personally enjoy doing such as cooking, walking the dog, or watering the plants. Allow them to have feedback in the process.
Create opportunities to display random acts of kindness to strangers together.
Offer to be a teacher’s helper in your child’s classroom and allow your child to work as your assistant.
Discuss how you can work with them to use their interests to help others on your street. If they love animals, you can both offer to wash their neighbor’s dog for free together.
Payback their acts of service by doing one of their chores secretly.
Let your child HELP! Even when they roll the shirts up instead of folding them.
Plan simple random acts of kindness just for them.
Take the time to teach. Instead of just “doing” everything, slow down and teach your child how to do something.
Always bring extra to share. If you get a snack in the kitchen put extra on your plate so you can freely share. Or better yet, offer to get them their own plate!
Cook them their favorite “real” breakfast every now and then on a school morning
This is just a list to get your imagination working. As a mom, it’s important for us to take the time to learn how to deliver the message of our love in a way that speaks uniquely to them. No more generic love!
Do me a favor and put in the comments below what your child’s love language is. My oldest daughter’s is giving gifts, and my middle daughters is physical touch. I’m not yet sure of my toddler’s yet but I’ll keep you posted.
Tell us what love expressions you’re planning next in the comments below! Let’s keep this list going beyond this 50!
My son was having the time of his life the other day in his toddler gym class. That is… until another kid shoved him to the ground on purpose for no reason. Just being mean, I guess.
My little guy was fine and popped up, shook it off, and resumed running with the rest of the wild pack of toddlers.
I wasn’t really bothered by the incident. Kids fall. No worries.
But something kept nagging at me, this boy’s mom was sitting right in front of the action and witnessed the whole thing from less than a foot away.
When it happened, I waited for the standard issue mom stuff to go down.
You know, the stuff we moms say when our kids are rude…
We don’t do that
Say you’re sorry
Are you OK?
I literally heard crickets in a room full of crazy toddlers. In other words, she said and did NOTHING.
Teaching Kindness Starts with Us
I sat astonished and continued to watch as this child remained out of control the entire class – yelling, banging on the mirrors, and pushing and hitting more kids.
All met with one apparently ineffective response, “stop that ______!”
Sure, this child may be acting this way because of a condition affecting his ability to fully control his emotions and actions. And I have tremendous compassion when it comes to this issue.
There’s just one difference between the moms I know whose child is struggling to control their behavior and this mom. The glaring lack of accountability and kindness being taught.
There wasn’t any encouragement to apologize or be nice at all. Really no discipline whatsoever.
I think we’d all agree, we don’t need any more mean kids growing into mean, entitled adults. We clearly have enough of those lovely individuals to annoy us in our day.
So how do we not inadvertently raise mean kids who bully other kids?
Simple Ways to Teach our Kids Kindness
I’m going to answer that question in just a second, so stay with me. But I first want to ask another question.
Is it 100% this mom’s fault that her son was behaving in a way that is repeatedly mean to other kids?
My honest answer is no. There are simply too many factors that can contribute to this behavior. And I’m trying my best to not sound like I’m mom-shaming here. I really hate that.
My biggest concern was how there was no effort to make the situation right.
If we don’t set the standard, our kids will get the message that apologizing or selflessly changing their behavior isn’t important. And they’ll likely continue to repeat the same behavior.
Parenting well isn’t something we do one or two times. It’s testing, tweaking, and doing what works for our individual child over and over again.
No child is perfect, nor should we ever strive for that to be the case. We just need to help them see that all these other people we live with in this world really matter. And how we treat them matters.
And the earlier we start the better…
Every attempt to trace aggression to its roots indicates that it starts in the preschool years and thrives in elementary and middle school. Source
That is why I tend to focus less on very specific parenting techniques here. That’s because every single child is different. I’m sure you see that in each of your kids. What works for one doesn’t always work for the other.
The vast majority of children (60 to 70 percent) are never involved in bullying, either as perpetrators or victims. Early in development, most children acquire internal restraints against such behavior. But those who bully, do it consistently. And their aggression starts at an early age. Source
It’s our moral obligation as people and parents to raise kind humans.
Yes, for the benefit of our world and the other people our kids will come in contact with. But the concern isn’t just with other people.
Children that exhibit bullying behavior have a much higher chance of allowing this behavior to remain in their lives. Ruining their relationships, their careers, and every other area of their lives.
But we can do something about our children’s behavior and shape wonderful and kind people. And it should be a major focus so we can give our kids the best chance at their best life.
Let’s work together as parents to put an end to contributing to this bullying epidemic in our schools, neighborhoods, and even churches. We do this by raising kind kids.
Practicing the tips in this post will give you some helpful guideposts to start with.
One of the best ways to teach kindness is to practice kindness in action. We all know that it feels better to give than to receive. We just don’t always live this out every day.
Creating opportunities to be kind to others is a wonderful way to sow seeds of compassion in our children.
Random acts of kindness are a great place to start. And these acts of kindness can be to total strangers or people we know like our neighbors or your kid’s classmates and teachers.
The point is to do this often and consistently.
Making the real heartfelt needs of others encourages compassion in our children and that’s a really good thing!
2. Always Have Your Child Apologize
If you observe your child acting in a way that is rude to another child or adult, they should rightly apologize to that person. This goes for siblings as well.
The fact is, apologizing is a humbling experience. I don’t think anyone really enjoys doing it. But we all do things that warrant an apology once and a while. And while we may cringe at the thought of doing it, it’s still the right thing to do.
And doing what’s right even when it’s really uncomfortable is a skill our kids need to be really proficient in!
Apologizing directly to the person they’ve wronged is also reinforcing that what they did is unacceptable behavior.
Now here’s where I bring some balance. Do not shame your child. And make the apology simple.
If your child is resistant at first, don’t make it a huge deal. Just keep doing the same thing every time it’s appropriate. You’ll eventually see less resistance. If they know the apology is coming every time, it helps them make better choices.
When you’re out with your kids and the cashier at the grocery store isn’t going fast enough, huffing and puffing and telling her she’s taking too long probably isn’t a way to model kindness in front of your kids. And really isn’t nice anyway.
We’ve ALL acted ugly in front of our kids! I know I have a few times. In fact, my middle daughter (the one who drips compassion) has called me on it a couple times. Ouch.
Even though we can lose our cool from time to time, we need to be aware that those sweet little ones are watching and listening… and copying.
If you do make a mistake, be humble and have an honest conversation about your own behavior. Talk about why that wasn’t the best way to handle things.
This type of conversation helps to develop reasoning, empathy, and the ability to positively modify their own behavior.
4. Don’t Bully Your Kids
I also want to add that we also should avoid being a bully to our kids. If we’re always yelling, shaming, teasing, or dumping on our kids we’re simply perpetuating bullying behavior.
Remember the phrase, “hurt people, hurt people”?
It’s very, very true. If we deal harshly with our children or repeatedly tease them (even if we think it’s all in fun) we run the great risk of wounding their heart.
It’s likely they’ll take their shame and pain and thrust it on someone else. Not to mention that’s it’s just not great parenting.
Our kids need us to provide conditional love, support, and encouragement. Our home must be a place of peace and safety.
Kids need boundaries and a connection to being part of a team. Your team is your family and your children need to experience working together.
The absolute fastest way to raise a self-entitled child is to let your kid own their freaking world and do whatever the heck they want without consequences. Or understand how their actions affect others around them.
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 amazing kids holds a lot of pressure. We want to raise kind, smart, well-rounded people who make a positive impact in this world. That’s not too much to ask, right?
We also, as parents, want our children to be secure in who they are and to discover and confidently walk in their God-given purpose. All without being burdened by insecurities and the trap of comparison like most of us did.
Unfortunately, if we’re not careful, we can unknowingly stand in the way of our kids discovering their true purpose and greatness. The exact opposite of what we really want.
How is that possible?
It’s like this… you are your child’s biggest fan. From clapping when she first counted to ten all by herself, to cheering like crazy at her high school graduation. As parents, we take the head position in our kid’s fan club the moment they’re born.
And every moment along the way is an opportunity to tell someone else. It’s like part of the parent code or something. Whether we like to admit it or not – We ALL overshare sometimes!
Bragging telling everyone we know about our kid’s latest accomplishments makes us happy. And now it’s even easier with social media.
Click! All our child’s cutest pics, funny sayings, and their latest successes are up and waiting to be seen by all our friends and followers.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing your life on social media or telling your family and friends all about what your child just did. But there’s a real danger of ending up at the proverbial sign-up table of the My Kid’s Better Than Your Kid Contest.
Remember Toddlers and Tiaras? Sure, all the “stage mom drama” is way over the top, but each one of us has had the temptation to walk down that road.
It’s tempting because we all believe our children are totally awesome. Or at least we should!
Keep Your Eyes on the Right Prize
The only problem is this “contest” serves no purpose. It’s really just a trap. An orchestrated distraction with the mission to keep our eyes fixed on the surface instead of the deep greatness inside our children. The purpose for which they were created.
We all have a purpose with gifts, talents, and passions that leave clues to finding that purpose. As parents, we’re able to use those clues to help our child find their purpose. And to answer that age-old question – what am I here for?
But too often we default to short-sighted traps like the trap of comparison. Comparison between your child and someone else’s.
If we follow the path of comparison, we miss out on something profound – who our child really is.
Comparison always breeds insecurity
If we allow our minds and hearts to compare our children against someone else’s or even their sibling (BIG One!); we’ll either be left with a feeling our child doesn’t measure up or we’ll place them on a high pedestal.
Neither is healthy or beneficial to us – or our child. Whether you see your child as higher or lower in this life; both views will lead to insecurity. And if not dealt with, will be passed on to your child.
In case you were scratching your head wondering how a view of superiority can lead to insecurity, let me help you out. It happens because living life on a pedestal above everyone else will eventually cause fear. The fear of falling. Or rather FAILING.
This is where perfectionism and the fear of making a mistake enter in. Both are devastating to the heart of your child.
And let me just say, this stuff happens every day – in every type of family. Most of the time these feelings and actions are so subtle they go, in large part, unnoticed. But they’re no less damaging.
Each one of us was created on purpose, with purpose, for a purpose. We’re all uniquely designed and suited for our purpose in life.
We all have greatness inside of us. But because of the dark and fallen world in which we live, this greatness must be pulled out and revealed. But it will never be revealed through the avenue of comparison.
We Must Consult the Creator of Purpose
So even though you already see your kid as awesome; we need to learn to resist the temptation to stop at the surface and see our child for who they already seem to be. But instead, choose to dig deeper to find the hidden greatness that even your child himself can’t see yet.
As parents, we must find that greatness as if we were on a treasure hunt… because we are.
There is a great treasure on the inside of each of our children and we have to give our lives to finding it and then unveiling it to them so they can see it for themselves.
Look around. There’s insecurity and self-doubt EVERYWHERE. Society offers up a perfectly engineered image that we’ll NEVER measure up to. But that’s not the image we should ever be looking to anyway.
We need to be looking at the image that we were made by – God’s. That’s the only image that’ll ever reflect back to us who we really are.
It’s the only image that looks back with love instead of contempt, hope instead of doubt, purpose instead of emptiness.
In order to effectively go on this treasure hunt, you need a map. And as we make a decision to leave behind the surface good stuff in search of the GREAT stuff; we need to go to the Map Maker.
We All Need a Guide
We’ll never be able to truly know our child’s potential, or our own for that matter, without seeking our Creator. Spending continued time praying for our children is the foundation for seeing greatness in them.
Mothers and fathers help to bring children into this world, but we can never claim to have created them. When that sweet baby is placed on your chest; you don’t know who they are… yet. This will be discovered and revealed over time.
Every child has a path and as a parent; we must guide them into finding it.
Resist the desire to guide them onto a path that we’ve created for them. It’s dangerous because chances are; they weren’t created for that path. And your path will only lead them to frustration, disappointment, and depression. For evidence of that – just look around.
Outward success doesn’t compare to inward fulfillment. It doesn’t matter if your path seems to fit or seems to work for them. In the end, we find true peace on our path – not someone else’s.
With that in mind, we can focus on the adventure of discovering our child’s true greatness.
Now, let me stop for a moment and define what I mean by greatness. I’m not talking about some prodigy or genius in your child or something they can do better than others. That’s getting back into comparison.
Greatness is that something that stirs on the inside of their heart. This something lives in the deep places of their heart – put there by their Creator. It has to be found- never hanging out on the shallow surface. It lives in the deep. All priceless things must be searched for.
Purpose Isn’t Found Overnight
This is why being able to see greatness in your child is a life-long process. But most of the work should be done while they’re young.
The earlier we can get them to see their greatness the more likely they’ll be rooted and grounded in their purpose and dedicate their lives to accomplishing it.
Guarding their innocent hearts until they’re more mature and able to do it themselves is important in the beginning. We need to set up deliberate gates that keep out words, thoughts, and images that cast doubt on who they are.
Learn how to become a hope injector. Just like those cool meat flavor injectors used to get yummy flavors deep into that chicken we’re making for dinner. Just like that, we should be injecting words of hope and encouragement into our child at every possible moment.
In their early years, they must be told day in and day out that they were created special and unique. That they have a wonderful purpose in this life. Even if it’s not known yet.
The world we live in tells us it’s bad to be different, so work intentionally to teach them otherwise. To love and embrace their differences as well as others’.
As they grow and as we work to cultivate a deep and open relationship with our child; we’ll see and hear that greatness – that something – rising up.
When it rises up, your child will instinctively know it, but may be afraid of it and try to bury it. This is where the hope injecting comes in. The more they embrace they have a purpose; the less likely they’ll try to run from it.
Be a loving mirror who reflects back to them who they really are. They need this. The world can be very cruel and doesn’t just offer up free encouragement. They gotta get it from us!
It’s Never Too Late
And let me say this. Teenagers are not doomed. They simply lack a revelation of purpose and can’t see their greatness. If given the chance to see who they really were; they’d be freed from the torment that’s been labeled as teenage angst.
This is why the work is best done from the start. But it’s never, ever too late! If you have a teenager who’s lost and hurting – Pray.
Pray that their heart be opened to God’s plan for them. It might be too late for your words right now. But it’s never too late for you to cry out to God to keep them and show them their something. He can do it. He will do it.
Your child’s greatness, and yours too is desperately needed in this world! The reason there’s so much hurting in our world today is that people have lost the ability to believe in purpose. So we aimlessly wander.
It’s time to stop wandering. It’s time to go on a treasure hunt! Decide today to seek the Map Maker and go on the amazing adventure to find your child’s greatness and show it to them as the greatest gift, after Jesus, they could receive.
And if you don’t know your greatness. The steps apply to you, too! Let’s all leave the cheap surface behind and decide to go after priceless deep as a lifelong mission.
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!