I’ve discovered the secret to raising grateful kids in an entitled world.
Lean in and I’ll tell you…
It doesn’t exist.
Every home and every kid is different. That’s one of the things that makes family life so amazing–we are unique! There are no two exactly alike. What works for one, might not work for the other. We are all doing the best we can. But I’m all ears when I hear what works for someone else because you never know! The beauty of community is we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. I’m not done in this parenting journey; I’m in the trenches with you.
But here are 4 things I’ve found helpful in my quest to raise children who are grateful:
1. We Can Make Our Home a Safe Place
“I hope you don’t act this way at school!” Raise your hand if you’ve said it. I have. I used to wonder why my kids would get glowing reports at school, church, and extracurricular activities, and then come home and act like little devils. An older mom once cleared it up for me. “Kristen, isn’t this what you want? You teach them how to act and treat others, and they are doing it where it’s most important. They conform to society’s rules of no touching or talking in the hallway, and when they get home, they just need to let it all out. They feel safe at home—that’s why you see them at their worst.” Well, let me tell you, that was good news for this mom. That’s not to say from that moment on, it was a free-for-all at home. We kept the same structure and rules as we always had, but it helped me understand the difference in the two environments. I want my home to be a safe place. I want it to be the place they bring their friends and hang out. I want my kids to feel secure enough to confess their struggles and sin and share their successes.
2. We Can Choose Relationship over Rules
My husband and I grew up in a legalistic church background and this kind of atmosphere makes rules pretty important. Although we’re trying to raise our kids in a grace-filled home, sometimes old habits die hard. My nature is to follow rules. It took me a long time to see that rule-following doesn’t always reflect a heart for doing what’s right. When we choose grace over legalism, we are really choosing relationship over rules. That’s not to say we shouldn’t have rules. I have a long list. But there must be flexibility, too. There will be times when we have to lay aside our rules to save the relationship. For example, early on I made the rule that everyone had to eat everything on their dinner plates every night or else face consequences. I tried to enforce it, but one of my kids has struggled for years with sensory reactions to certain food textures that makes doing what I’ve asked a consistent battle. So instead, I avoid the couple of foods that trigger this kid’s issues and, as a rule, I ask the sensitive eater to try whatever is served because “you just might like it.” And if this kid doesn’t, there is always peanut butter and bread available; I’m not fixing two dinners. (Some of you die-hard “sit there until your dinner is gone, and if you don’t eat it, you’re having it for breakfast” people are cringing right now, I’m sure.) But we’ve found something that works for us, because my way was actually making dinner a nightmare for our family, and it was hurting my relationship with my child. When our kids push against us, our first reaction is to push back. But many times when they are struggling, they don’t need more discipline—they need more love.
3. We Can Choose to Live in Christian Community
Nothing has helped our family more on this countercultural road than living in community with families who have the same goals. No, we haven’t moved to a religious compound or formed an exclusive clique. But we intentionally spend time with people who want the same results we do. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect or even tidy. When we let people into our lives and become vulnerable, they are going to see our mess. They will know we don’t have it all together; they will see that we are just like them. When my son was in middle school, he got into a misunderstanding with one of his friends in our community. The boys tried to work it out on their own, but then we parents got involved. It was awkward and uncomfortable because both of our sons had made mistakes, and it caused momentary tension between the families. But thankfully, it wasn’t too long before my friend said, “Hey, let’s talk through all of this because our kids are going to grow up together, we are doing life with your family, and we will be stronger if we face the ugly parts together.” Most of my kids’ education has been in public school (we reevaluate every year and choose what’s best for each kid). Connecting with believers their age has always been a very high priority for our family. This commitment has been lifesaving in many ways because it has given them positive peer influence in every season. They have connected with other Christian kids at school, but their primary community has been at church or in youth group. It always makes me sad when I hear about parents grounding their kids from church activities for some infraction. Our kids need this community. They probably also need a consequence for whatever they are in trouble for, but I think we should choose something that isn’t a part of their spiritual growth and connection. 4. We Can Pray for Our Children
Nothing we do or say can ever substitute for bowing our heads and praying for our children. There have been some really hard days in this journey when I’ve gone to bed burdened for one of my kids and slept fitfully, only to face another conflict the next morning. I have wanted to give up many times. And I have found comfort and peace in only one place—on my knees. There is something deeply spiritual and healing about humbling our bodies and our pride and laying the burden at Jesus’ feet. Prayer is often the last thing we think of when it comes to difficult parenting days. We reserve it for our desperate moments, when there’s an unexpected diagnosis or rebellion. But God wants to walk this path with us. As a mom, nothing makes me feel less alone or more encouraged than giving my parenting burdens to the One who parents me. -excerpt from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead To Life’s Ultimate Yes
Kristen Welch blogs at wearethatfamily.com where she shares about parenting, marriage and inspirational encouragement. Her family founded Mercy House, a non-profit that empowers impoverished and oppressed women around the world. Kristen is an author and her newest book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World releases today.
Kristen Welch Blog: We are THAT family
Non-Profit: Mercy House
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