4 Things You Need to Teach to Raise Well-Adjusted Kids

Note: “4 Things You Need to Teach to Raise Well-Adjusted Kids” is a guest post by Kristin Louis over at parentingwithkris.com. Head on over to her blog for more articles on raising children.

In the age-old battle of nature versus nurture, the latter is undoubtedly preferable as it’s well within one’s control. With that said, it’s your responsibility as parents to not leave anything to chance when it comes to raising your children. Here’s a nifty guide on effectively nurturing the most important traits in your children in age-appropriate ways.

Teach Empathy

Empathy is what sets humans apart, but it’s not an innate trait. 

How to Teach Empathy (Ages 3 to 4)

Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care?

How to Help a Teenager That Has No Empathy

Teach Self-Discipline

Discipline should not be about controlling your child. 

The Importance of Teaching Kids Self-Discipline

5 Ways to Manage Tantrums and Meltdowns

An Age-by-Age Guide To Disciplining Your Kid

Home Safeguards Encourage Self-Discipline in Teens

Teach Positive Thinking

Teaching your kids to take the negative in stride and mindfully choose positivity sets them up for success mentally and emotionally.

Kids as Young as 5 See Benefits of Positive Thinking

7 Activities to Help Your Child Develop a Positive Attitude

Prevention of Internalizing Disorders in 9–10-Year-Old Children

For Teens Knee-Deep In Negativity, Reframing Thoughts Can Help

Teach Boundaries

Teaching kids to set and respect boundaries paves the way for healthy relationships.

Why Kids Need Boundaries

When Your Toddler Starts Testing His Limits

5 Books to Help Teach Kids About Healthy Boundaries

How to Talk to Teenagers About Consent, Boundaries, and Self-control

Yes, there’s no question that raising kids will be a challenge that requires a great deal of patience. Being well-armed with the right resources and information such as these will, no doubt, make the job easier, and a successful one at that.


Just a Little Longer, Baby

“Just a little longer baby” This thought has been a recurrent one in my mind as my oldest on approaches adulthood. After watching a him singing a song he made (around age 4 or so), I looked at my husband, started crying and said, “I miss this. I miss the little boy he used to be. It goes by so fast.”

We put a lot of emphasis on celebrating and grieving our “last babies”. I get it. I really do. But, oh man, there is something about watching our first babies grow up. It is a slow process of grief and yet, it seemingly happens overnight.

One day, your first baby is stacking blocks to his own amusement. Laughing at all the silly jokes. Crawling into your arms. Asking to be held. In the tiny, sweet voice, you hear, “Just a little longer, Mommy”.

And then, that little boy is gone. That voice is gone. All the silly jokes are gone. The amusement at stacking blocks is gone. Time is cruel. It steals from us – carries pieces of our hearts away. You look at your first baby and think, “Just a little longer, baby.”

I used to cringe when people would tell me that “it goes by fast”. It’s easy to get annoyed by this because you are just so darn tired and busy. I also used to wonder why elder women (and men) would stare at my babies, grinning to themselves, and giggle a bit. I know now. They were going back in their minds to when their babies were young; visiting a place from long ago, a tourist in a land they cannot stay in.

And now, I’m there. I’m a tourist walking through the land of memories of my first baby. We are getting closer to him becoming an adult. Gulp. In the blink of an eye, he went from being that curly-haired, goofy little dude to a teenager just five years removed from adulthood.

It isn’t fair. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes, I feel that my heart just can’t take it. I don’t like being this kind of tourist. I don’t want to just visit that place from long ago. I’d rather move back there and do it all over again.

Just a little longer, baby.

Just a little longer.

Life Lesson: Equal in Worth

I have been searching for ways to teach my children life lessons without it being too preachy or boring. I decided to start “Tuesday Night Teachings” in our home. The theme for the first night was “A Life Lesson: Equal in Worth”.

After dinner, I commanded (not really, but that just sounds kinda cool) for my kids to stay at the table when they finished their food. Once we were all done, I told them this story:

“My hands were full at the dollar store when I got in line behind a man in his upper twenties. He looked at me and said, “You have on a nice outfit.” I said, “Well, thank you so much.”

He then said, “Are you single?” Smiling, with a small little chuckle, I said, “No, I’m married.”

“Do you have any single friends?”

“You know…I really don’t have that many. Most of my friends are married.”

At this point, I realized that this young man was extremely lower functioning – like even though he was an adult, he was more like a 4-year-old. He paused for a moment and looked away. He then turned back around and said, “Can you help me?” I gazed at my watch. I only had about eight minutes to get the stuff and go, and said, “Yes, I only have a few minutes but I can definitely help you. What do you need?”

He seemed a bit embarrassed as he said, “Sometimes, I have to wear diapers.” I said, “Do you need help finding the right ones?” (I realized that he was holding a package of baby diapers.)

“Yes, can you help me?”

Off we went to the appropriate section to find the size and type he should get. I said, “I have to go get back in line because I have somewhere to be in about five minutes. Make sure to get this package.”

At the counter, I told the clerk that the young man needed assistance. Checking out, I saw him leave without the item that he needed. Why he was allowed to go into the store alone without assistance? I felt bad for having a short timeline to be somewhere. I should’ve just stayed with him until he got what he needed.

In my van. Crying. For a young man to compliment me in one minute and then admit to wearing diapers and needing help really tugged at my heart.”

My kids were staring at me as I told the story and fought back tears again. I then laid three five dollar bills on the table and said. “Which one of these five dollar bills has more value? The one that looks perfect, the one with dirt on it or the one that looks worn out and torn up a bit?”

My kids paused for a minute and one-by-one pointed to the bill they thought had more value. I then said, “Okay, so in God’s eyes, which one do you think has the most worth or value?” Reaching out, one-by-one, my kids pointed to the one that was worn out and torn up a bit. I said, “I like that you answered that way, but actually, all three bills have the same value. They are each worth five dollars. When it comes to people, we all have the same value to God. It doesn’t matter if we look perfect, dirty or have scars, we each hold the same value to God.”

“Tuesday Night Teachings” are now a part of our home and I hope to share more with you as we move along in this season. This life lesson definitely warmed my heart a bit – not only because I was able to teach my children a truth about God that they really seemed to soak up, but because my experience at the dollar store today taught me so much as well.

We all have value. We don’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t matter if we are dirty or have scars. Despite our age, life lessons signify growth.

Life lesson = Equal Worth. Yes, we are all equal in worth to Him.

All Just Souls

“All Just Souls” These words hit me while at the emergency room with my oldest son. A transgender woman entered the room and curled up on the chair. She sat there in physical and emotional torment. My son didn’t notice. He was too engrossed in his Ipad.

Soon, the family across from us began staring immensely at this person. “It’s a man”, I heard them whisper. Glaring again. Giggling. Whispering into each other’s ears.

She bent over in pain. My heart sunk. Soon, her name was called out. It was was a male name (meaning not a gender-neutral name). I knew the family would get a kick out of that and watched as they began all over again with the giggles, whispers, and stares. Not surprised. Sickened, though.

She came back and sat down near where I was. She was alone. Trembling. In pain. No one was there comforting here – unlike 99% of the others waiting in ER that evening. The internal battle in my mind started. “I can’t leave my son. What if she has something contagious? What can I do? What should I do? No. I’m going to mind my business…”

These thoughts coursed through me. Occasionally, I would look up and give a good glare at the family clearly enjoying their mockery. I looked again at my son. “Thank goodness he is oblivious to this.”

Before I had the courage to ask her if she needed someone to sit with, she was gone – whisked back to get the care she obviously needed. I sat there riding a wave of guilt over my lack-of-action and defiance to that inner voice that says, “Go.”

“Never again”, I thought.

My son was called back, checked out and (thankfully) able to leave the hospital that night. As we left, I thought about her. “Did anyone come up there? Is she okay? Does she have a family or anyone to support her anymore?”

For the next few days, my mind kept going back to that night at the ER. Yes, I am bothered that I didn’t get up when feeling nudged to do so. I missed an opportunity to try and love on someone who needed it. I’m also terribly troubled by the actions I witnessed.

The first moment I had with my kids actually paying attention to me (the struggle is real!), I said,

“Hey guys, you know that in life you will always be surrounded by people who look different than you, have different skin color, love differently, believe differently and make different choices, right? Well, it doesn’t matter how different a person is or if you don’t understand that person or don’t agree with their choices, what you are responsible for is always choosing to be kind. There is never, never any reason to be cruel.”

“Mom, you know I don’t act like that.” “Yeah, that is really mean.” Soon…their words in response to mine began to warm my heart.

I went on.

“Listen, guys. None of us are perfect or sinless. We have to remember that as we are sitting in judgment of others, God is watching us do that. We are being judged while we are judging others. Again, even if you don’t agree with someone, if they are different or you just don’t understand, there will never be a single reason to show cruelty or ridicule or laugh at someone – especially those who are hurting or in a bad situation. As Christians, we believe that each of us have souls. We need to start seeing each other not as people but as souls who want to be treated with kindness and understanding. We are all just souls. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, we know, Mom.”

It has been a few weeks since this occurred; yet, I keep thinking about the person…that soul….crumpled over in despair next to me.

It broke my heart – but in a good way – in a God way.

There are some who may think I’m leading my children astray by raising them as Christians but teaching them about acceptance and choosing compassion for those we don’t understand. We don’t just want to live by faith, we want to love by faith. That is the difference.

Gosh, when I visualize Jesus, I see him sitting next to those who are persecuted around us or walking right up to someone that others wouldn’t dare walk up to.

He loves those who are unloved by others. I can’t imagine believing so deeply in the love of Christ but not desiring to show that to others; to mock those who he gave his life for, to speak or act in cruelty towards the very ones he came to save.

“All Just Souls” Yes, we are. Let us always remember that.

Author’s Note: I could not leave this post without mentioning the high suicide rate in the LGBTQ community. It is absolutely heart-breaking. If you or someone you love needs helps, here is the suicide prevention hotline for the United States: (877) 565-8860 In Canada, here is the suicide prevention hotline specifically designed for the transgender community: (877) 330-6366 You are loved.

Worth Fighting For

Parenting is hard, isn’t it? There are times when you just wish you could step right into your children’s brains and figure out what the heck is going on in there. Your desire is to speak truth to them but sometimes, truth can come out not as loving as you want. If given the opportunity to ‘get it right’ and speak love, worth and truth straight to your child’s heart, I’m sure every single parent would soak that moment right up.

Last night, I unexpectedly had one of those moments. Our kiddo was absolutely NOT willing to do homework. Keep in mind, the work was due Tuesday but this kiddo just kept putting it off. (Thank goodness for a 504 plan that gives a few extra days!) My husband promptly removed the game controllers and iPad from our child.

“NOT FAIR!!” My child yelled and then jumped into bed and covered up completely from head to those sweet toes.

I sat down on the bed next to my child and repeated the words we had already said. “You will get your games back once you do your homework.”

“NO! I want them back now and then I’ll do my homework.”

“Nope, not gonna happen. You do the work first, then you get them back.”

Silence. This kiddo of mine was not backing down, but neither was I. We sat there for about two minutes in total silence. My child remained covered up from head to toe. I closed my eyes and prayed for us both.

My child broke the silence and said, “I want my stuff back.” I repeated, “Not until you get this done.” Now, by this time, I was getting a bit ruffled up in my feathers. It was getting late and I had two other kiddos calling out for food and drinks because kids suddenly become starving and dehydrated once it is bedtime (which is always a fun time).

I found myself getting extremely agitated. Then, all of a sudden, I felt this wave of peace flow over me and I had a vision/remembrance of my child as a little one frolicking around the house. I remembered the feeling of fighting for this one – not literally fighting the foster care team, but fighting for this child through prayer.

My eyes began to well up a bit with tears. I looked at my child and said,

“You are worth the fight.”

Puzzled, my child softened a bit and looked up at me.

I said, “You are worth fighting for. You are deeply loved. You are capable. I know you struggle with paying attention but I also know that you can do this. You have a purpose. You might think that Dad and I are fighting you, but we are fighting FOR you. We are not going to stand by and let you choose to fail or cheat yourself out of what you deserve and are able to do. You can get mad all you want, but you were always worth fighting for and you will always be worth fighting for. You have a choice right now. You can either stay mad, not do the work and not get your things back, or I can sit with you while you do the work. Your choice, but just know that Dad and I will always fight FOR you.”

My child sat there for a moment and then softly said, “Sit with me.” I watched as my child finished up the work and the night ended peacefully. As I got into bed, I had such a sense of calm mixed in with parental accomplishment. The choice to let go of my angst about the whole situation and speak truth and love into it was God-given grace over us both.

Jesus tells us this every single day. The Word speaks love into our lives every time we read it. We lose that feeling during times of hardship. We forget that in Christ, we are enough. We don’t visit the Cross enough to remember how He fought for us, but the Lord continues to pursue us because He sees our worth and yearns to speak love into us.


I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well
. (Psalm 139:14)

Just like we have to be reminded that we are worth fighting for, so do our children – especially when times are tough. Next time you are in a heated battle over homework or anything else that can cause conflict, take a step back, inhale a deep breath and speak love and truth into your child’s heart.

The Best Gift We Can Offer

A part of my job is to read home studies for prospective foster and adoptive families. I have probably read somewhere in the thousands of studies. Although each one has a unique perspective on life and various layers of the human story, there are a few themes that run with each one. Perhaps, the things I’ve learned will remind us of the best gift we can offer to children, and each other. 
 
1) People do not recall the “things” they were given as children. Instead, they remember vacations, family game nights, traditions, meals around the table, going to their grandparents’ house for family gatherings, feeling loved and knowing they are wanted.
2) People recognize that chores were good for them. Some had way too much put on their plates, while others did not have enough. Because of both experiences, the importance of appropriate chores is appreciated.
3) People recall the tempers of their parents and the fighting that occurs. Looking back on their childhoods, they are able to talk with detail about how fighting between their parents affected them and in some way, affects their current relationships – both in a good way and a bad way.
4) There is usually at least one solid adult who meant the world to them. For some, it was their mom. For others, their dad. For several, it was a relative or neighbor who mentored and loved them when they needed it.
5) Children, who are not allowed to freely express their emotions, remember it as adults. They recall feeling stifled by not being able to show anger or being fearful if they showed anger.
6) Even in the worst home situations, most people walk away with a set of values taught to them. They can tell the difference between authentic values and false living.
7) Most people are forgiving towards their parents. Even as adults, people tend to still crave a decent, healthy relationship with their parents.
 
Reading home studies can be quite tedious. Interesting, but tedious. Each time I read one, I’m like, “Oh…yeah. I totally could be handling that issue better” or “Man, wish I could be as wholesome and loving as that mom.” Needless to say, reading the stories of others can be quite humbling!
 
However, with each study (basically a story) that I read, I am reminded that none of us are perfect. We each have our own insecurities, challenges, talents, and imperfections. What is important in life is that we connect with our children, we give them experiences, and we never abandon or pull away from them.
 
Just a few reminders as we head straight into Christmas. Children will not remember each gift they open on Christmas morning, but they will remember us and the love we give. 
‘Tis the best gift we can offer.

Six Years Away

Six years away.  This is all I can think about right now.  As you turn twelve, the thought that we only have six more years until you are a (legal) adult keeps coursing through my mind.  Oh, my.  Time fleets and flutters its way through our lives, especially when we are not paying attention.

We fought hard for you.  I want you to know that.  I don’t mean in physical words spoken out loud for others to hear.  I mean in words whispered and cried out to our Father in Heaven.  It wasn’t that our fight was just about you.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it was also about us, about our own desires to become your forever parents, for an answer to the barrenness in our lives and for the abundant clarity of it all that only the Lord can bring.  We also spoke those words for your birth mother.  Please believe this.

Six years away.  In this short amount of time, we will face obstacles.  We will deal with middle school angst, puberty (I know….SO embarrassing), first loves and high school antics.  As your parents, we will worry and fret about you becoming a driver.  We will always worry a bit about you.  Sorry.  That’s just how it is.

Son, only six more years until we release you into the world.  There are moments when my heart just can’t take it.  I think fondly back to our early days.  Sweetness seemed to follow you everywhere you went.  Your curiosity about the world, whimsical expressions and overall silliness absolutely captured the hearts of many.

IMG_0078

In so many ways, I still think of you as that little Mamma’s Boy that you once were.  I know.  I know.  You are growing up.  You don’t need me as much as you once did.  You grimace and get embarrassed at me…often.  Here’s the deal, though.  I may embarrass you at times or get on to you about things, but I will never not love you.  Ever.

Six years from now, you are declared an adult.  Where has the time gone?  What happened to yesterday and the day before that and the day before that?  I used to believe that fostering you and not knowing what was going to happen was the hardest part.  I now know that witnessing you grow up, dealing with the issues we have faced, and watching you crawl closer and closer to leaving is the hardest part.

I never understood the idea of half of my heart living outside of my body until I wrapped my arms around you.

If able to, I would go back and repeat each and every single day just to hold you and capture those moments one more time.

There is a lot of life to be lived between now and then.  I know this.  I also know that even though you will be an adult sooner than we are prepared for, you will always be our little boy, our first baby and one of the most important parts of our lives.

Son, on your 12th birthday, I want to say that I love you more each day.  I am proud of you.  I adore your quirks (even when they drive me crazy).  I appreciate how you methodically think about Every. Single. Thing.  I crack up at your goofy laugh and the many excuses you can come up with to not clean your room.  It pleases my soul to see your gentleness with animals.

It both breaks my heart and fills it with joy to watch you grow into the person you are.  For you, kiddo, are a good human being.  You, son, are a blessing.

Happy Birthday, Bubby.  Love you forever.

Only six years away…

Why National Adoption Month Matters

In the US, November is National Adoption Month.  The goals of this month include increasing adoption awareness on a national level and bringing attention to the needs of children who are still waiting for their permanent families.

To read more about this subject, click Why National Adoption Month Matters

November is a special month for those of us whose lives have been touched by adoption.  May we all continue to fight the good fight for children.  May we all seek wisdom in decisions that need to be made and dwell within grace in each and every moment.  Let’s never cease in our efforts to find families for children around the world.

Blessings,

Caroline

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

Despite taking an intentional break from writing for a bit, this past weekend’s events that exploded in Charlottesville caused my fingers to find their way to this keyboard.  My mind is just reeling with furious thoughts about all of it.  Last night before bed, I asked my husband, “I wonder if what happened this weekend is even going to be brought up at church in the morning?”

This morning, I said to him, “We need to do church at home today.  I’m not sure if our church is going to talk about racism and what happened.  We need to and we need to do it now.”  My husband and I have held ‘home church’ before with our kids. They actually enjoy it as we try to make it light-hearted and fun.  This morning, however, we brought them to the table with a more sincere tone.

The beginning of our conversation went like this:

Me:  “What color of skin do you think Jesus had when he was alive on Earth?”

My kids:  “White!”

Me:  “No.”

Kids:  “But, he’s white in the pictures.”

Me:  “I know but he was not white.  His skin was brown.”

My husband:  “He was from the Middle East.  Their skin is brown, not white.”

My daughter:  “I think his skin had all of the colors in it – white, brown, black.”

Me:  “Maybe, but he definitely was not white.  He was a brown man.  The reason why we are talking about this is because something bad happened in another state this weekend.  A group of white people got together, carrying torches and chanting things.  These people believe that only white people are good and that we are not equal in God’s eyes and some of these people would call themselves Christians.  So, if some Christians claim to love Jesus (who was brown) but do not love people who are a different color, does that make any sense?”

My kids:  “No.”

We were honest (in a kid friendly manner) about the violence and that tragically, a few people died.  In an effort to show them what God says, we went to Scripture.

Acts 10:34-35:  Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 

Romans 2:9-11:  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism. 

James 2: 1-9:  My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

Our children were immersed in the conversations and we told them that as white people and as Christians, we are NOT superior to anyone.  Jesus died for everyone – regardless of skin color and it is wrong for any Christian to feel otherwise.

As we finished, we watched the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King. It was a wonderful way to show our young children that the fight for racial justice has been going on for far too many years and sadly, there is still so much work to be done. There are still too many people in the world who do not see others the way God sees us – through eyes of concern, mercy, and love.

20170813_165848Anytime we have church at home, I ask the kids if they want to draw something that is related to what we discussed.  My daughter decided to draw Dr. King giving his speech.

I know my husband and I are not perfect and we are certainly not Biblical scholars, but if there is anything at all that we can teach them as Christian parents, it is this:

Love others as God loves you.  

Treat others as you want to be treated.  

We are ALL precious to Him.

 

As the day has gone on, I have thought a lot about the victims of the terrorism (which is what it should be called) that occurred when the young man decided to drive his car into a crowd of people.  My heart aches greatly for the young woman who lost her life as well as for her family.  However, I have also found myself wondering, “What if my son or daughter would have been behind the wheel of that car?”  As a parent, this question causes me to consider what we teach and show to our children and how we should be making every effort to train them in the education of love not hate.

It is up to us (Christians) to set an example for the world.  If we do not stand up for injustice and denounce hatred, then who are we following and where is Jesus?  It is not comfortable to stand up for others nor it is popular at times, but nothing about the life of a Christian should be comfortable.

Jesus was not comfortable when he hung on the cross for every single soul.  When I visualize my Savior literally pouring his life out for me, for you, for our friends, and for our enemies, I am embarrassed by what we have done with this grace we have found.

Hatred should have no home in the heart of a Christian, neither should silence.  We must consider our own feelings or lack thereof when we see displays of hate that occurred this weekend.  We must teach our children that Jesus is for everyone, we are not better than anyone else, and mercy always has a place at our table.

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

 

 

Foster Kids Are Not Unwanted Kids {Adoption.com Article}

Foster Care Awareness month has come and gone but the need for a better understanding of the foster care system, and the children in it, never goes away. There are lots of misperceptions and myths circling around about kids in the foster care system; troubled, unwanted.

While some kids in the system struggle with emotional and behavioral issues (given the impact of trauma on a developing child), it is extremely rare to find a foster child that is not wanted by someone. Here’s the link to an article I wrote about this subject:  Foster Kids are not Unwanted Kids

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Blessings,

Caroline