Five Steps to Raising Kind Children

I can no longer read the daily news. Every morning I press the handy-dandy news app on my phone to educate myself on world, national and local news happenings. Lately, the news is extremely depressing. Racial tension, violence, political dramas and gossip. Headlines from this morning include deaths of an 18-year old and a 2-week old baby, a man standing trial for an ax killing and an ex-school clerk gets jail for stealing students’ meds. Then the political drama is crazy!

Social media is worse. I love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s great to share pictures and updates with my family who live all over the place, it keeps us in-touch with each other. In the United States, we have freedom of speech and I am writing this blog because of that liberty. When I view my Facebook account I read about everyone’s religious and political viewpoints. It’s great! It’s a freedom to speak your mind; however, I also discover people whom I thought were loving and understanding reveal a very ugly side of their persona.

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. -Ecclesiastes 5:10

On a daily basis the news reminds me that I am not prepared for retirement, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. There’s no money to fix the roads. There’s no money to fix the schools. There’s no money to fix the public water system. There’s not enough food to feed everyone. Society’s wants and needs are driven by greed. The news headlines are driven by greed. Politicians are driven by greed. Greed is the evil. Greed leads to jealousy, which leads to hate.

We love because God first loved us. Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates his brother is a liar. The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love the God whom he has not seen. -1 John 4:19-20

How do you raise children in such a greedy and hateful world?

I am not an expert. From my observations, children thrive on interactions and hands-on experiences (both negative and positive). Children learn behaviors from others around them. Ever notice you can raise three kids the same way and all three grow-up into totally different adults? I believe some behaviors are in our DNA. All I know is I am going to give it my all and do the best job I can in raising my kids into independent and caring adults.

Here are my Five Steps to Raising Kind Children:  Love, Time, Compassion, Responsibility and Prayer:

Love:  Hugs for everyone! Hugging children relieves stress, encourages trust, boosts self-esteem and gives a child a sense of security. How many hugs? As many as you can. My mother, whom I love dearly, likes to remind me that I spoil my babies by holding them so much – WHATEVER! I hug when I say good-bye, when I say hello, in the morning, at night-time and “just because” times. Hugging and saying, “I love you,” instantly brings on smiles and starts to heal any boo-boo’s. No matter how old your children are, give them a hug.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Time:  Put the phones down. Turn off the TV. The laundry can wait. Children need our time. Make dinners together, eat together and clean-up together. Get outside and run around together. After working all day, I really want to just relax in my favorite chair but I can do that after the kids are sleeping. I notice I’m happier when I’m doing activities with the kids instead of trying to get some alone time. When I spend more time with my kids, they seem to listen better and appear to be less hyper-active.

Every work-night, before dinner, all the kids and I spend time together doing an activity (puzzles, art, outside play – anything we can do together). After dinner, I spend some alone time with the baby before she falls to sleep for the night. Then I spend some alone time with the toddler before her bedtime. After that, I try to squeeze in a few moments with our teenager – lately we’ve been walking about a mile at night trying to catch Pokemon together. I’m exhausted at the end of the day but happy.

Compassion:  My two daughters are opposites. One is a drama queen, the other is tougher than nails. The drama queen will just lightly brush her leg on something and crying ensues. I used to tell her to suck it up but I noticed she was losing her compassion for others around her. Now I take a moment, give her a hug, and kiss it better – no matter how miniscule the boo-boo is. She is, by nature, a very sensitive child. I need to be more compassionate to her feelings or a rift will slowing build between us.

The baby has a different need. She will get a scrap or bruise and not shed a tear. She’s tough and very adventurous. No mountain or stairway is too high for her to climb. She does have a hard time going to sleep at night. I tried the whole cry-it-out technique but it seemed to cause a lot of trauma for her. Now I take time with a compassionate, soothing voice and rock her to sleep and cuddle. I may need some headache meds afterward, but she’s going to sleep faster every night and also seems to be showing more love to others around her.

Every time our teenager talks, I can barely understand what he is saying. I once downplayed all the stupid, little things that bugged him. But to him these situations were BIG. Now, I take time and show more compassion by listening and sorting out how to handle these delicate circumstances as they arise. I forget teens need to learn coping skills and how to deal with adult-like situations. I’m finding by lending a compassionate ear makes a tremendous difference for him, plus strengthens trust between the two of us.

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. – Mark 6:34

Teach your kids how to display compassion. For instance, the baby loves to take her doll and throw it. At first, it was a fun game but then I got to thinking this is not a good way of learning how to care for others. So we play “Love the baby.” When she displays a more aggressive play towards the doll, I pick the doll up and say, “Oh we must love the baby.” Then give the baby hugs, kisses and rock back-and-forth in my arms. We do the same thing with stuffed animals. She has become this wonderful, loving tot. She’s even nicer to the pets in the house. We still crash the toy cars together…hopefully that doesn’t carry over when she turns sixteen.

Responsibility:  You want it, then you have to earn it. When my children want a new gadget, video game or toy they have to earn it. For the teen it’s pretty simple – just amp up on the chores for extra money or get a job. For the toddler it’s a bit more creative. We make a chart with thirty squares. She receives a sticker to put on the squares when she cleans up, does a random act of kindness or goes to sleep by herself. We give her a dollar here and there so she has an instant reward for good work. Once the squares are filled with stickers she can shop for the item she was working for. The smile on her face when she buys the toy herself with her hard-earned money is priceless!

This process is tedious for the kids but I have very rarely had to deal with meltdowns while shopping because he or she wasn’t able to get a toy that very moment. Before we enter the store I make it very clear we are not buying any toys. Now when we shop, the three-year old looks for what toy she is going to save for next.

Once you have all these wonderful toys and gadgets, you must take care of them. If you don’t, they are taken away. Kids seem to learn this lesson quick. When my son was five he refused to pick up all his toys. I simply told him if he didn’t pick them up then the toys will be gone. I loaded the toys into a bin and hid them in the basement. The next day a meltdown happened but he moved on and picked up after that. I forgot about hiding the toys and when we moved from the house a few years later, I found them. Oops! My plan was for him to eventually earn the toys back but instead I donated them charity. It’s been two years…he was obviously not missing them. I’m hoping if the kids learn to take care of their belongings now that it’s a habit that will carry-over into adulthood.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Responsibility for your actions. My son got into trouble at school when he was younger. It was something really stupid, climbing over bathroom stalls. The school went all bonkers over it and blew it out of proportion. No one was even using the stalls at the time! I immediately want to protect and defend my child but the fact is he broke school rules. As far as punishment went, the school didn’t do anything other than a phone call to me. At home, my son wrote an apology to his teacher and the janitor. He also lost TV privileges for the night. He took responsibility for his actions. From that point on I incorporated a new rule in the house: if you get a bad grade or do something wrong, it’s best to tell mom first before I hear from someone else – otherwise your punishment will be worse.

Prayer:  Three different children equals three different prayers. Again, not all children are the same so perhaps our prayers should be customized more to fit the needs of each child. For the baby I pray she learns to love and accept Jesus into her heart as she grows-up and maybe restrain the vivacious temper she has when she doesn’t get her way. For my over-achieving three-year old I pray she finds strength to accept, while coloring, it’s ok for the picture to have a mistake on it and I pray she sings her song about Jesus loving her every day for the rest of her life. For my teen, I pray for strong mental strength and that he walks down a God approved path of life. Then for me, as always, a prayer of thanks for all the wonderful blessings He has given me, even though I certainly do not deserve them…and for patience…after all I am a mother.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. – Romans 12:12

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