If you are reading this, you probably want your kids to know how much you love them. And you probably tell them often that you do. But effectively communicating love is not always so simple. How can we be sure that what we mean as love is received as love? It can take insight, determination and creativity to communicate love messages in ways children can’t miss them.
“Are we there yet?” “I have to go to the bathroom!” “I want a Happy Meal NOW!” “No, I want Taco Bell!!”
Ahh, the bliss of car-trip vacations. Whether our children are toddlers or teens, the stress of riding in the car together for extended periods can taint the whole vacation. Wouldn’t it be great if we could time-warp ourselves to our destinations? It’s appealing, but obviously not reality. The real-life temptation is simply to equip each child with a glowing device full of their favorite movies or games, and communicate the message… when it’s hard to get along, we just turn to screens to solve the problem. So let’s look at it differently, because a helpful insight for car rides or any other difficult parenting situation is: Every challenge holds a golden opportunity!
The challenge of car rides together is a great opportunity for connection, teamwork, and creative problem-solving.
Here are some practical, simple ideas:
Heading back to school can be an anxious and stressful time for kids — and for parents, too! New schedules, new notebooks, new teachers and classmates add up to a lot of excitement and oftentimes, anxiety. All that change can get everyone in the family into a tizzy. One important element to consider is the way in which a parent or caregiver can intentionally help children face the upcoming school year, especially if they are feeling nervous about school. Here are a few proactive tips to help smooth the transition this fall:
Parents often find themselves at a loss when kids are particularly discouraged or struggling.
It can begin to feel hopeless when everything you’ve tried to motivate them past the challenge has failed. You may start to feel more and more disconnected from the child as you know less and less what to do when they struggle.
This is when we get particularly strong about a principle that almost always helps parents find new hope.
Recently we wrote about helping kids value sharing. If your child needs some practice sharing, and you want some practical ideas, consider following in the footsteps of this thoughtful dad:
When our kids hurt their siblings, our sense of justice compels us to punish them. But sometimes punishment is not the best way to teach responsibility and wisdom. Check out this story from Jess:
Did you know that one of the most critical times for a parent to affirm a child’s talents is when they misbehave? It’s true. We are all born with giftedness–but even good gifts can get twisted by sin (Romans 7:21 reminds us, “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”). The challenge for parents is identifying the “gifts” within the misbehavior; what we call “Gifts Gone Awry.”
Gifts That Have Gone Awry
All talents or gifts can be used for God’s purposes, but they can also be distorted by selfishness and sin and used to serve misbehavior. When this happens, the gift is still present, but it’s gone awry. To punish the misbehavior without affirming the talent behind it may both reinforce the child’s identification with the sin (I’m bad!) and stifle or weaken the talent’s use in honorable ways. It is therefore critical when correcting a child’s misbehavior to also affirm and find a positive use of the gift that fueled it.
Need help identifying the gift behind your child’s stubborness or stealing? It can be tough, but here are some examples of common misbehaviors and some gifts/talents that tend to drive them.
There is no more important time for kids to know they are loved than when they misbehave. If the love message misses them then, they will grow to believe that love is conditional or earned. People who believe that love is earned tend to rise and fall with their performance, and compromise themselves for approval. Not what we want for our kids.
One way children know they’re loved is if you simply say so, not in a condescending way, but from your heart, right there while your kids are misbehaving. (Sound crazy? Just try it!) But another powerful, perhaps less-well-known way to express love is by expressing understanding, or empathy.
Sometimes it takes a living, breathing experience to influence how we think about interactions with our children. The Connected Families model of stop and breathe helped me to understand that, as a father, if I desire obedience from my child, I should resist the urge to control their behavior and instead look for connection with my child’s heart. Read my story below for insight about how to apply this principle and see how mindful parenting (after I learned the hard way) really works.
It was the first warm day of spring in Minnesota, which usually means MUD.
The ground was still soggy from the snow melt, but the air was clean and fresh and the flowers were just beginning to peek through the soil. I was outside with two of our three kids and they were enjoying one of the great experiences of childhood: puddle jumping.
Enter our oldest child onto the scene. Shelbi had a number of qualities attributed to many oldest children: leadership, organization, rule-follower and in Shelbi’s case, generally cooperative — which is what made it all the more surprising when she came outside wearing her nice new pants and shirt.
Recently, on a weekend when all our kids were home, we dug out the family videos for a trip down memory lane (or, in the case of our daughter-in-law, a crash-course in Jackson family history).
Our kids’ childhood antics were rather hilarious – particularly their clumsy attempts to steal the spotlight when a younger sibling was in the picture. In one scene, little Noah is being coaxed to try his first steps across the living room floor. When he hesitates, Daniel and Bethany literally plow him over in their attempts to prove to both parents and camera that “I can walk too!”
In hindsight, attention-grabbing toddlers can be amusing. But in the moment, it can be frustrating for parents to deal with the annoyance of a child who demands constant attention.
So how can parents respond lovingly to their attention-guzzling children without “giving in” or creating spoiled children?