Gwendolyn Mitchell Diaz
It was a late November afternoon. All four of my little boys were outside, taking turns playing with a radio-controlled car that they had been given several weeks earlier. The car was bright red with large yellow numbers. It could speed up and down the driveway, stop, turn on a dime, “pop a wheelie,” and jump the curb. It was attached to a control panel by a long black cord. Each little boy would run at full speed beside the car when it was his turn to be the “driver.”
For hours they played, as happily as could he—until George showed up, bringing along his huge, new, blue remote-controlled vehicle with spiky tires. It was bigger, brighter, faster, and could do many more tricks than the one my children shared. And best of all—it wasn’t attached to the control panel by a wire. It just flew down the driveway all by itself while George sat on a stump, making it spin and spiral with a flick of his fingers or thumb.
Suddenly the little, red machine that had occupied so much happy time and attention was not good enough. My four sons each wanted his own Big Blue Bulldog with spiky tires and remote operation, just like George’s. The whining and grumbling grew so great that I felt obligated to intervene. I sent George home and ordered all of my kids into the car. We headed across town—driving away from all the manicured suburban lawns, past the old high school, and beyond anything they recognized from our normal routine trips. Soon we were downtown, driving slowly by abandoned shops and rundown houses where the front steps were falling off the porches and trash filled the street gutters.
We spotted some children playing with a stick and some kind of homemade ball in a litter-strewn yard. I stopped, and asked my sons how many of these kids they thought had a Big Blue Bulldog with spiky tires and remote operation. They looked at me like I was nuts.
“Do you think they might be happy if they had a little red car with a wire attached to it that could speed up and down the sidewalk, stop, turn on a dime, `pop a wheelie.’ and jump the curb?” I asked. “Or do you think they would pout and complain and act ungrateful?”
My kids quickly got the point. Our little trip downtown helped to eradicate their feelings of being disadvantaged—at least for a while. Never again did they gripe about not having the latest remote controlled vehicle. As a matter of fact, that Christmas they decided to give most of their toys away to less fortunate children. There was one family in particular, with four or five children all crammed into a small blue trailer, that one of my children wanted to “adopt.” Matthew begged me over and over to take him back, to deliver more toys—gifts he had just unwrapped.
Unfortunately, children tend to have short memories. At least mine do! And experiences like these must be repeated many times in order to train our children in contentment. Contentment is definitely a learned habit. It doesn’t, come naturally. It has to be practiced and reviewed over and over. Trips to the Salvation Army headquarters to help with children’s Christmas parties; serving meals to the homeless who frequent the Talbot House (a local soup kitchen); collecting books for an orphanage; providing baseball equipment for a needy friend. These are just a few of the events that I have used in a process designed to teach my children how fortunate they really are.
A discontented child is a child who feels incarcerated—hemmed in by his circumstances. Whether their confinement be physical, “If only I was thinner or smarter or had smaller ears!” or social, “How come I’m never invited to dances at the Country Club?” … or financial, “Why couldn’t my father be a doctor, so I could have nice toys?” We must love our children enough to teach them that it is not the confines of the prison cell that determine the scope of one’s freedom; it’s the condition of the heart. They can be as free as they choose to be, regardless of the situation.
It is extremely difficult in our affluent society to get the concept across to our children that money, and the things it can buy, cannot create lasting happiness. It’s hard to convince them that financial freedom has nothing to do with net worth but rather is found in a willingness to be generous with what we have.
I’ll never forget the Christmas my children begged for a trampoline. They didn’t just beg—they pleaded and whined and cajoled. Somehow they convinced me that a trampoline would solve all our family problems. I think it was the line that went something like, “lf you buy us a trampoline, we’ll never, ever, ever ask for anything else for the rest of our lives,” that finally converted me. So, I purchased a big blue trampoline and perched it in the backyard. Of course, six weeks later they were begging for a puppy to play with on the trampoline.
Undoubtedly, at some point, your child will inform you that he might as well go live in an orphanage, where he can be treated like a decent human being. Yep. This happened several times as well!
These are the times when we need to, once again, wrench our children away from their grievances and drag them out of the house and deliver some food to a shut-in or take them to the pediatric unit at the hospital to visit a child with leukemia. Such experiences can afford them the opportunity to encounter a new kind of fulfillment based on inner character rather than outward appearance. It’s the only way they will ever conquer discontentment.
If we want our children to learn true contentment, we must allow them to take significant responsibility for the things they desire in life. We need to let them demonstrate a desire to earn them and maintain them. For instance, if a child wants a puppy, he should help pay for it, care for it, buy its food, and take it to the vet. If he wants a car, he should help pay for the gas and be responsible for its upkeep. Or if a child wants to attend college, he must earn that right by applying himself to his studies and getting good grades while he’s in high school.
I figure that it goes without saying that if we are not content with the lot God has given us as moms, our children will never be content with theirs. But just in case you’re struggling a little with what God has provided in your life, let me ask a few questions:
1. What person, or persons, who made the headlines today would you really want to trade places with?
2. Compared to all the people who live on the earth today, how wealthy do you think you are? Remember, that includes all the zillions of people living in places like Calcutta and Sao Paulo.
3. Compared to all the people who have ever set foot on this planet, how fortunate are you? Think about the Great Depression and the time of the Bubonic Plague.
Do you get the point? Life is a whole lot more golden than we often view it when we forget to look outside our walls. When was the last time you reached outside of your family to help a needy person?
Yes, you and I have it pretty good. Our lives need to reflect a joy and contentment that is visible to our children. The way we react to our circumstances is the most important lesson that they can receive in the “contentment training process.” We need to demonstrate satisfaction and display a sense of fulfillment in order to help them develop an understanding of what is truly important.
Sharing and giving must be a part of our daily lives as we demonstrate contentment for our children. Most of us have far more than enough to live on, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt us to give away some of the edges of our abundance. These edges don’t always have to be monetary. We can and should give freely of our talents and abilities and time. We do this when we help a neighbor move, or mow a lawn without expecting compensation, or prepare a meal for a new mom.
A child who has successfully learned to be content, regardless of the circumstances, will be a relaxed child with an ability and freedom to enjoy the important things in life. That child will have a tremendous capacity to help others find pleasure as well.
* * *
§ Are my children appreciative of the things that they have, or are they constantly wanting more?
§ When was the last time my child had to take responsibility or work for something he or she wanted?
§ Whom can we, as a family, reach out to and share the wealth that God has given us?
A Mother’s Prayer
God, teach me to understand how truly wealthy I am. Help me to convey a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment to my children, and may we together experience the freedom that comes from being content. Help us to reach beyond our own lives to share with others what You have so generously shared with us. Give me a contented heart, dear God, one that is worthy of my children’s imitation.
Excerpt from Mighty Mom’s Secrets for Raising Super Kids: Guidelines for the Adventure Called Parenting, by Gwendolyn Mitchell Diaz, RiverOak Publishing (September 2001)
On a flight I took some months ago, there was a little girl sitting in the catty-cornered seat from me. She had a beautiful new coloring book that her mother had obviously brought especially for the flight. Occupying the same row was another girl about the same age whose father was seated behind her. This girl had no coloring book, and in fact, didn’t seem to have anything to occupy her.
The girl with the coloring book was soon busily coloring with her crayons spread out on the tray table, and the other girl was looking longingly at them. I felt bad for the girl who had none, so I prayed that the first child would feel moved to tear out a page from her nice coloring book and share it. Sure enough, after a while I saw that she had indeed torn a page out and had given it to her seatmate and was sharing her crayons with her.
I leaned forward across the aisle and told the girl that sharing her coloring book was such a nice thing to do. She brightened up and was obviously pleased that someone had noticed. I don’t know how far that little exchange will go, but I would like to think that the next time she has to make a choice whether to share something or not, she will be reminded of the woman who was proud of her because she made the right decision.
Here’s a question we can ask ourselves: What can I say to my children that will help them in some way?—Lift their spirits, brighten their day, and make them feel good about themselves, appreciated, valued and, worthwhile?
Even brief encounters with our children lend themselves to “a word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11), something that will give them faith in themselves.
Adapted from article originally published in Activated magazine.
I am a CEO. I do not have a special parking place. I do not get bonuses. As a matter of fact, I haven’t had a paycheck in 12 years. My job description includes landscaping, house cleaning, accounting, shopping, and general clerical work. But my job-critical tasks are teaching, counseling, nurturing, and disciplining.
I am not always popular. But that’s okay because it is not part of my job to be popular. I am my Children’s Executive Officer.
I’ve been entrusted with raising three children to be adults. It’s not vitally important that they become successful in the way that we often define success—lots of money, fame, a specific career. But I do want them to succeed in the way Webster describes it, “to turn out well.”
I heard a mom say recently, “I don’t have time to discipline.” Of course we’ve all had moments when we’ve caved in. But a key part of helping my children to turn out well is to teach them that there are consequences for both good and bad behavior.
For instance, I was in the grocery store with my then 3-½ year old. He was in a phase of not wanting people to look at him. But how were these poor shoppers to know that! Of course, a woman looked at him and he stuck his tongue out at her. I asked him to apologize. He said no. I took the cookie out of his hand and again explained that that was not acceptable behavior and asked him to apologize. Nothing doing.
This saint of a woman, perhaps a veteran parent herself, patiently stood by supporting our Public Behavior 101 class. This went on and on for at least a couple of minutes until he finally apologized. I thanked her for her patience and turned my back from him to get some English muffins.
At that point he declared so the store could hear, “I don’t like you, Mom.” I turned back to him and calmly said, “You don’t have to like me, you just need to obey me.” The man stacking bread on the shelves said, “Wow, that’s good…. I like that.”
Discipline, which Webster describes in part as “to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self-control” is a large part of parenting. It’s teaching your child to learn self-control, to accept responsibility for his actions, to think clearly, and make good choices.
I’ve realized that if I do too much of this for my children, they will not learn it for themselves. I often ask myself, how do you teach the children what is appropriate behavior? And the answer comes back, by behaving appropriately yourself. Every parent’s heart has soared when a child demonstrates what Mom or Dad has strived to teach. The same parents have cringed when they have seen or heard their little ones mimic their less than acceptable behavior. Is this the reason to despair and give up? Absolutely not; it should inspire us to do better.
Childhood needn’t be a boot camp. But it’s not a free-for-all either. There’s a balance to be found. My role is to help them be intelligent but not arrogant. I want them to be peacemakers, but not doormats. I want them to be good but not naïve, wise but not suspicious. I want them to be obedient but not subservient, patient but not apathetic. I want them to have respect for themselves. I want their presence in a room to bring light, not shadows.
I will retire some day from being a CEO. And it’s right that I do. There will come a time when my children will be adults—and executive officers of their own lives.
Jonatha Holland is a mother of three and lives in Carlisle, Mass. Article courtesy of Christian Science Monitor.
Almost two centuries ago, men followed the events of Napoleon Bonaparte’s march of conquest across Europe, waiting with bated breath for any news of the outcome of his various wars. All the while, babies were being born in their own homes. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles!
However, in that one year, 1809, there came into the world several babies who were destined to become stars of the greatest magnitude—William Gladstone, considered by many as Britain’s greatest statesman of the 19th century; Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s most famous presidents; Alfred Lord Tennyson, the celebrated poet laureate of Britain; and the Frenchman Louis Braille, the blind inventor of the widely used Braille system of reading for the blind. While they were being born, no one thought of babies, just battles. Yet which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies of 1809?
Some fancy that God can manage His world only with big battalions, when all the while He is doing it by babies. Whenever a wrong needs righting or a truth needs preaching, God sends a baby into the world to do it.
With all that there is to do in your busy lives, it’s sometimes easy to see your children as just one more thing you must take care of, and if you’re faced with a particularly hectic day, the simplest course of action can seem to be that of letting them entertain themselves with toys, videos, or games, while you take care of the business of the day.
What you need to realize is that the love, concern, discipline, and attention that you fill up your child’s life with is what helps them to mature into the person they’ll become. If you are too busy to give your children the time and love that they need, you’ll miss out on one of life’s best investments; while you may meet other expectations of your day, those things will not live on eternally. It’s what you pour into your children that lives beyond today.
You will always have work to take care of—the house to clean, a pile of clothes to launder, and bills to pay—but you won’t always have your children with you, and you won’t be able to regain the moments you lost “because you were too busy.” Every day, every moment, counts in helping to build your child’s future, and making them who they will become.
Text copyright © TFI.
Sandra J. Bailey
Research shows that successful single-parent families have the following
1. Parents accept the challenges presented to them as single parents and they are determined to do their best.
2. Single parents make parenting their first priority.
3. Discipline is consistent and democratic. Parents are neither permissive nor too
4. Parents emphasize open communication and expression of feelings.
5. Parents recognize the need to care for themselves.
6. Parents develop or maintain traditions and rituals for their families.
7. Parents become financially self-sufficient and independent.
8. Parents move forward with their lives in a positive manner.
9. Parents are successful in managing family time and activities.
The same characteristics that make single-parent families strong are found in strong families in general. In Secrets of Strong Families, John Defrain and Nick Stinnett identified six characteristics of strong families as follows:
1. Family members spend quality time with one another.
Find time to spend with your children each day.
2. Strong families are committed to one another.
3. Family members show each other appreciation.
4. Communication skills are good in strong families.
5. Crises and stress are viewed as opportunities for growth.
6. Family members value spirituality.
No family is perfect and there is no one right way to be a family. Think about what is important for your family. Assess your family and plan ways to strengthen it. Use the six characteristics of strong families as a guide.
Excerpted from http://singleparentsnetwork.com/Articles/Detailed/245.html
We can change the world by improving the lives of those around us, through deeds of kindness and consideration, and by showing faith in them. Here are some practical tips to help get you started changing your part of the world, one heart at a time.
Build up excellence. Try to think of at least one thing that you find outstanding in your child, and then make it your task to let them know. Don’t be shy; they won’t get tired of hearing it. What you’re doing is building confidence in that one area, and as they gain confidence, they will start to improve in other areas as well.
Share the responsibility. Give your children responsibility in the areas in which they are strong. Make them feel trusted, needed, and appreciated.
Appreciate who they are. Appreciating your children for what they do is important, and children like to be thanked and acknowledged for it, but being appreciated for a personal trait feels a lot nicer than only being appreciated for the outcome of that trait.
Slow down. It takes time to see people in a new light. Go slower in your interactions with your child and give God a chance to reveal His perspective.
Let go of the past. Everyone dislikes being labeled or put in a box. Be willing to see who your child is today or the potential of what they can be tomorrow.
Adapted from article in Activated magazine.
Marianne Neifert, M.D
My life has been devoted to children and families—my own, and those I’ve encountered in my career as a pediatrician. My first baby was born only a few months before I started medical school, and my fifth child arrived seven years later, on the final day of my pediatric residency. These two paths—medicine and motherhood—have been inextricably intertwined; they’ve often enhanced—and sometimes competed with—one another.
But over the years, as I’ve helped my own children journey into young adulthood and worked with countless families in my career, I’ve gained some hard-earned perspective and insights into raising kids. No parent will have all the answers all of the time, but these simple parenting guidelines can help make your time together as a family that much richer.
Provide unconditional love and encouragement
As her parent, you’re the first one to convince a child of her worth and help her venture into the world with confidence. You can make her feel cherished by giving her your time and attention daily, whether by reading a book, playing, or talking together. For instance, try to spend a little one-on-one time with your child when you get home, before you do anything else. After picking her toddler up at daycare, one mom I know uses the walk home as a way to reconnect. If she runs into friends, she’ll wave at them but won’t stop to chat; she’s learned that it frustrates her daughter too much.
Show your child that you value her by acknowledging her feelings, and by listening when she talks. It’s easy to let your mind wander as a toddler or preschooler babbles on, but kids are very good at picking up on when you’re distracted. Having a focused conversation with your child—rather than just responding with the occasional “Uh-huh”—builds up her vocabulary at the same time that it boosts her self-esteem.
The way you encourage your child is also important. By emphasizing her efforts (“You sure seemed to enjoy working on this picture for Grandma”) over her results (“I like the way you stayed inside the lines this time”), you’ll show support and foster self-approval, and make her less reliant on the acceptance of others.
And finally, the best way to encourage your child? Simply tell her that you love her as often as you can.
Make your child your highest priority
We all face enormous demands on our time, and our family life is always threatened by competing priorities, whether or not we work outside the home. But we have to learn to distinguish the important things, like spending time with our youngsters, from the urgent things, like ever-present project deadlines and chores. The truth is that in order to be an effective parent, you have to continually re-rank your priorities.
When I had my first four babies during college, medical school, and my internship, I breastfed each one. But I didn’t make it to the one-year mark, the ideal goal. It wasn’t until I made a conscious decision while I was pregnant with my fifth baby to put breastfeeding higher than other priorities that I succeeded. To do that, I had to say no to several opportunities—including taking over a busy practice—at the end of my residency training.
Putting your kids first doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr, or a superwoman. No one is saying that you can’t take time for yourself. But it does mean that sometimes you have to make choices. A hospital administrator I knew gave up her job to accept a less prestigious position so she could spend more time with her daughter. The turning point came as soon as her daughter’s preschool teacher told her, “Whenever Kaitlyn draws a family picture, you’re not in it.”
Strengthen your team
Generally speaking, moms act as the principal caretakers of immediate physical and emotional needs. Dads, on the other hand, tend to promote risk-taking and independence, and build self-reliance and assertiveness because they are more apt to let kids work out their problems by themselves.
Each of these responses—the security of knowing you have a nurturing home base and the space to figure out what you need—communicates an important message to your child and gives him the ability to handle whatever life throws at him. Thanks to my husband, my daughter Tricie learned to swim during one of our family vacations when she was 4. While he was busy encouraging her to go down the pool’s water slide, I was busy admonishing her to be careful.
The best way to start operating like a team is to agree with your partner on the big things—like what rules you’ll have and how to discipline—and then let each of you handle the day-to-day routines as you see fit. Moms, especially, must let go of the feeling that they know what’s best for their children. Otherwise, dads will always be consigned to the helper role.
What about single parents? Do everything you can to cultivate meaningful relationships with other loving adults, whether relatives or trusted role models, like teachers and scout leaders. And, as hard as it may be sometimes, it’s important for divorced parents to work together with an ex-spouse so their child doesn’t feel like he has to choose between them. If your ex is out of the picture or unable to give emotional support, be honest about the circumstances, and help your child work through his grief.
The best way to help teach your child to distinguish right from wrong is by setting clear limits and enforcing them consistently. If you feel as though you’re slipping into a power struggle, step back: Give your child a time-out or simply tell her you’ll deal with her in a few minutes—and don’t decide on a punishment until you’re more calm.
When she does break the rules, respond in a way that won’t deal a blow to her self-esteem: Ignore attention-getters like whining; give a brief warning or scolding for minor infractions (such as jumping on the furniture); issue an age-appropriate time-out to stop aggressive or antisocial behavior (like biting and hitting); and use logical consequences, such as putting their toys aside for a day whenever your kids fight over them.
But discipline isn’t just a question of punishment. It’s also about modeling positive behavior—like remembering to say “please” and “thank you” to teach your child the value of manners—and praising her when she’s been cooperative and helpful. By spending extra time with your child, you can minimize whining and other misbehaviors triggered by a need for attention.
One of the best gifts you can give your child is to help him understand that he’s responsible for the choices he makes as well as the consequences of his actions, and ultimately, his own happiness. The first step toward building self-reliance: Offer your child choices that are right for his age. Toddlers are capable of picking what they want for breakfast or which shirt to wear (as long as you give them two choices). A three-year-old can also pitch in and do simple chores—helping you pick up toys or unload the dishwasher, for instance. Delegating these tasks not only lets your preschooler make a contribution to your household, but teaches him accountability.
The next step: Encourage your child to tackle new skills, like riding a trike or reading a story aloud. If he makes mistakes, let him work through them instead of rushing in to fix things. You’ll promote a sense of competence, and he’ll learn to weigh consequences before acting.
When he faces inevitable setbacks and failures, help him discover how to look for solutions rather than view such obstacles as beyond his control. If your toddler cries when another child takes his toy, for example, say, “Let’s go see if she’ll give it back.” Or if your preschooler tells you he has no friends, you can show him, through role-playing, ways to ask other kids to play, or together invite someone to come visit.
Lastly, encourage your child to think, even if his opinions differ from your own. You’ll free him from a fear of disapproval that will make him less dependent on others for his happiness.
Use routines to create a sense of togetherness
Family rituals and familiar patterns provide kids with a sense of security. Little children are reassured by knowing that their morning outing—whether to the park or the library—is followed by lunch, or that naptime will come after story time. School-age kids also look forward to predictable shared events, such as eating dinner together or spending time with Dad on weekends. These routines increase your child’s perception of control, which in turn increases her confidence.
Traditions also provide the social glue that bonds one generation to another, creating many of the special “anchor” memories within a family. In my own case, I hosted a multigenerational Thanksgiving reunion for years that gave our children both a strong family identity and sense of connection to their past.
Take time to recharge
You know the adage: “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Chronic sleep deprivation, isolation, and self-neglect can leave a parent physically depleted, emotionally discouraged, and, ultimately, ineffective. So give yourself permission to take a break—to renew your perspective, enthusiasm, sense of humor, and energy. That may mean an afternoon off to visit a friend or go to a movie. Or it may be as simple as learning to ask for what you need, and accepting help from others.
I once met a woman who had lost her mother, but whose mother-in-law had become like a second mom to her. She explained that the older woman had helped her raise her children and preserved her marriage. “I never could have done it without her support,” the woman insisted. Her mother-in-law just smiled and modestly acknowledged, “Everybody needs somebody to steady things up.”
“That’s it!” I thought, as a virtual parade of helpers flashed through my mind—individuals who had steadied things up for my husband, Larry, and me when we were overwhelmed with responsibility for five children. In fact, we were aided every step of the way by the experience and generosity of grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters, teachers, coaches, pastors, neighbors, and friends. On many occasions, Larry and I enjoyed a night out, and even a weekend getaway, because we had asked someone, and someone had agreed to stay with our kids. And we were then better able to take care of our children because we had taken care of ourselves.
Marianne Neifert, M.D. is the author of three books, most recently Dr. Mom’s Guide to Breastfeeding.
Article from http://living.msn.com/family-parenting/parenting-tips/article?_skipscp=true&cp-documentid=31973647. Photo copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Do you have a baby, or is a baby about to enter your life? Do you want to be better prepared for parenthood? Are you looking for practical advice to help you raise a bright and happy baby? Do you want to establish a deep and lasting bond with your child?
Keys to Baby opens the door to that world of wonder and mystery that Baby lives in. Discover the amazing person your baby is and can become through love, understanding and guidance.
It pays to be as a little child. In fact, Jesus said, “Unless you … become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3) and, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). We’re to be like little children—loving, sweet, simple believers, in childlike faith believing and receiving all that the Lord has for us.
Children are samples of the citizenry of Heaven, like little angels dropped from the sky. They’re so fresh from Heaven that they understand prayer and other spiritual matters better than most adults. They talk to God and He talks to them. It’s that simple. They have no problem at all getting His ear with their pure, simple, childlike faith. It is given to children to be rich in faith. Faith just comes naturally to them. They have faith to believe anything God says, and with them nothing is impossible.
The problem with many grown-ups is that they know too much. They’ve been educated out of their childlike faith. But there are others of trusting childlike faith who are daily doing things that doubting intellectuals say can’t be done. So be like a little child, and anything wonderful can happen!
Courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission.