5. Allow your children to resolve their own struggles as long as it is safe (physically or emotionally). When you give your child tools and encourage him to work things out on his own, you will be giving him an enormous boost of confidence and the ability to face life “situations” as they come up. Whether it’s dealing with a difficult playmate, learning how to function in the classroom under a teacher who is more strict that the one he had last year or figuring out how to put something together without help, help him see the various aspects of the situation. Make sure he’s viewing it realistically and turn him loose to handle it. It’s not always necessary to charge in like a mama bear defending her young. Let your child know that you are there to back him up and intervene if necessary, but for the most part, let him learn to deal with challenges as they come up. There is a tremendous life lesson here and your children need to learn it.
6. Always provide encouragement and motivation to excel in the areas where your child has a special ability or talent. It doesn’t matter whether she’s a talented musician, can play basketball really well or loves to draw; be a realistic “encourager”. Make sure she has the necessary tools to do the things she loves: an instrument, a good basketball and a hoop, or pencils, pens and paint.
By the same token, don’t continually try to push a square peg into a round hole by trying to make her become something she’s not. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your child really hates piano or is just going through a phase where she just doesn’t want to practice–you’ll have to use your judgment on that. And (I know, I’m not supposed to start a sentence with “and”), please, please develop the ability to view your child’s abilities with honesty. All of us have seen the auditions on American Idol, where the person can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but his mommy has told him all his life that he has a beautiful voice and will someday have a great singing career. You don’t do your children any favors if you tell them they are good at something they aren’t capable of doing.
7. Listen, listen, listen! Listen even when your child is going on and on about something that you don’t think is very important. Just when you have given up on the meaningless conversation, your child will slip in a gem that tells you what’s really going on in his life–good things, bad things, fearful things. You won’t get your child to confide in you if you try to force the issue in a formal way. You may get some information out of him, but he won’t fully open up.
An important aspect of listening is letting the other person get his complete thought out before you start thinking of ways to “fix” whatever’s going on. If you are non-judgmental, and don’t react too strongly when you hear something upsetting, you will get more information. When it’s your turn to respond, you can ask questions, voice concerns and help him determine a plan of action if one is necessary. Be careful not to invalidate his feelings even if you think he is wrong. Instead, try to draw him out and help him sort through things.
8. Play with your children. Play formal games, play make-believe…teach them how to use their imaginations by using yours. My daughters and I used to play “Little House on the Prairie.” I was Ma (naturally) and they were Mary and Laura. It worked really well, because I could keep on doing “mommy” things while we played and they came in and out and pretended different scenarios.
Last night I was at my son’s house and his 3 little girls were running around pretending to be super heroes. As soon as I walked in, they told me I had to be a superhero too. The funniest thing, though was the middle child who said, “When I spin around, I become invisible,” and then proceeded to run around banging into all the furniture. (If you’re invisible, you apparently can’t see anything.)
9. Teach them about God. From their earliest memories, they should be able to remember expressions of your faith. I used to sing “Jesus Loves Me” to my babies when they were tiny. My granddaughters all love the song “In the Sweet By-and-By, because I’ve sung it to each of them from the time they were just brought home. I also sang it at the Memorial Celebration we had for our granddaughter, Faith, who is at home with Jesus. They’ve all fallen asleep to the words of that song. Tell them about God’s love. Read them simple Bible stories. Help them to incorporate Him into their every day thoughts by sharing simple truths appropriate to their age levels.
It’s enough to just TELL them about God, you have to live out your faith where your children can see it. Every day, let them see you trusting God, being grateful to Him for what you have, having an attitude of faith and not a spirit of complaining. Show them how to live contentedly and teach them to share with those whose lives may not be as easy. Even when everything is not going the best, show them your faith. It’s also okay to let them see that when you’re discouraged or not feeling well, your relationship with your Heavenly Father remains strong–including times when you don’t understand what is going on or why. As you live out your faith on a daily basis, you serve as a flesh-and-blood model for them of how to live in God’s presence.
10. Love them unconditionally. Your children need to know that you will always love them, whether they do everything exactly as you hope they will. Unconditional love doesn’t mean that you accept naughty or immoral behaviour, but that, even in the midst of correction and discipline, they remain secure in the fact that your love is constant. Model God’s love to them. He always loves, always forgives and assures us that when discipline is needed, it is because we are his kids.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. I’d love to hear from you.