A Mother's Choice
By Renee Chang
None of her friends or family understands why she has done it, and most of them would like to shake her out of her foolishness. Their objections make sense. After all, May is in her mid-forties and has been living alone ever since her daughter moved out. May is also in debt. And yet, here she is, raising her ex-husband’s child by another woman.
May married early and was divorced by her early twenties, but even before that, she had been raising her first child alone, as her ex-husband had a drug addiction and spent as much time in prison as out.
Then twenty-some years later, he reappeared out of the blue and asked for a favor. He had fathered a new baby with another woman, and he wanted May to arrange for the baby to be taken into an orphanage before he went to jail again. Little Joline had been abandoned by her mother, and it seemed she was destined for a childhood spent in an institution.
Instead of that, May arranged to keep the baby and has been raising her for the past five years. It hasn’t been easy. May is working hard to make ends meet, and Joline is a handful. But May is undeterred.
“People have been telling me what a big burden Joline is, and how she isn’t worth the sacrifices I make to look after her. But no one ever asks me how I feel or really listens to why I’m doing this.
“After my last failed relationship, I felt I had lost everything to live for and that I’d never have a normal family. But when I first saw Joline’s smile and felt her little hand clasp one of my fingers, I knew then that there was someone who loved me and needed me. Joline is not a burden, she’s my source of love and joy.”
Just then, Joline came over and placed her arms around May’s neck and kissed her cheeks. “I love you, Mommy. You’re the best in the world!” May’s face lit up as the proud mother she is.
It dawned on me then. May was right, even though others had misjudged her. Rather than letting life’s misfortunes and struggles drag her into a spiral of self-pity, she had chosen to focus on giving what she still had. And in doing so, she also found the happiness that had been eluding her.
Article originally published in Activated! magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Wilson Corral via Flickr.
By Silvana Clark, adapted excerpts
Sit by any playground and observe the children running, jumping, and climbing over and under the equipment. It’s not hard to notice the daredevils who soar headfirst down the slide and then leap from the hanging bars to begin twirling feverishly on the tire swing. These kids know no fear! Then there are the cautious playground participants. They slowly walk across the shaky wooden bridge. It takes them time to get the courage to slide down the fireman’s pole. What makes the difference? Could it be self-confidence?
We all want our kids to eagerly participate in school, join other kids in the playgroup, or volunteer to play on the soccer team. Yet often—as well meaning as we are—parents undermine their children’s ability to develop selfconfidence. If a preschooler runs into a room carrying a glass of water, what’s the first thing most parents say? You’ll usually hear, “Be careful, you might spill that!” instead of “It’s a good idea to walk when carrying a glass of water.”
Why encourage a self-fulfilling prophecy by telling Susie she’ll spill the water? Let’s revisit the playground. Listen carefully and you’re bound to hear some mother yelling, “Jordan, stay close by where I can see you, you might get hurt!” Yet that’s no way to build a child’s confidence! When our daughter was three, my husband found her trying to climb an apple tree in the backyard. Rather than tell her she was going to fall, he spent time showing her how to select branches for holding and standing. They climbed another ten feet, much to Sondra’s delight. The rule is she can climb trees when an adult is nearby—which has resulted in numerous father-daughter, tree-climbing expeditions.
Here are some ways that you can help young children develop confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Encourage positive risk taking
Self-confident children have the inner fortitude to try new things, even if it means a possibility of failure. Cheer on your toddler as he or she tries new skills. As a family, read a book on a topic new to all of you. Take a walk on some unfamiliar trails, just for the adventure of seeing where you’ll end up.
When my daughter was younger and assigned to bring something for Show and Tell, I encouraged risk taking. Instead of having her share the latest Barbie doll, I’d give her a theme such as “Take something you made yourself.” (We baked bread, which she
shared with the class.) “Take something that grows in the ground.” (She picked dandelions and showed their long root systems.) The teacher always commented positively about Sondra’s unique choice of Show and Tell items. In a small way, she learned she’d get positive reinforcement by doing things a bit different from the ordinary.
Let children make choices
Yes, you want your toddler daughter to go out wearing the cute red plaid skirt with the matching red sweater. She, of course, wants to wear the purple striped pants with her yellow flowered turtleneck. Why not let her?
A large part of self-confidence is the feeling that it’s great to reach out and do something out of the ordinary. All too often as parents, we say things such as, “But all the other kids have lunch boxes. Why do you want your lunch in a bag?” Give children the opportunity to make choices as long as safety and family values are taken into account.
Keep praise in perspective
There’s a tendency for parents to praise every action their child makes. There’s no need to clap and cheer if your youngster puts his napkin on his lap at dinner; that’s expected behavior. Some parents gush over every scribble their toddler makes as if each drawing belongs in a museum.
As a preschool teacher, I often saw parents excessively praise children for minor
accomplishments; yet positive feedback is effective when it is realistic. When children learn they can do almost anything and parents automatically give a standing ovation, the praise loses its meaning.
As a parent, you can indeed offer support and encouragement to your child. But you can go even a step further and allow her to explore her own abilities and revel in her own accomplishments. These tips for encouraging self-confidence can breathe new spirit into your child, instilling confidence that will last a lifetime.
Courtesy of Motivated! magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Mitch via Flickr.
Teaching Children Values
When I think back on my own childhood, images of love, encouragement, and warm family memories flood my mind. I recall evenings on my dad’s lap listening to him read to me for hours. I have no doubt that those experiences instilled in me a lifelong love of books. Four decades later I can still hear my mom’s words, “Treat everyone with kindness, Michele,” in the same tone she used when I was young. The values that my parents modeled—perseverance, compassion, acceptance, and believing in myself—are the same ones that guide my life today. And they are the same values I try to model to my own children. You don’t need research to prove your influence: just one moment of catching your child imitating your behavior or repeating your words or emulating your values should confirm that you do make a difference.
Common sense tells us we can significantly influence the direction of children’s lives. And there’s a simple reason: the skills for living successfully are learned—not inherited; we can make an enormous difference because we can teach these skills to our children and to our students. Handling life’s ups and downs, getting along with others, setting a goal and not giving up until it is reached, knowing how to find solutions and resolve conflicts, communicating assertively, and doing it all with compassion and empathy are the skills that build solid characters, strong minds, and caring hearts, and they are all skills that can be taught. Although our love and affection may not necessarily make our children more self-confident and friendly, we can nurture the skills that do enhance the traits of successful living. And regardless of your children’s innate temperament and genetic makeup, you can expand their potential by teaching them how to live more successful and fulfilled lives.--Michele Borba
How you live—your priorities, how you spend your time and money, how you treat others and your possessions—is the single best indicator of what matters to you and what values you hold dear. Believe me, your children read your life far more clearly than they heed your words. If both are in harmony, that’s great. If they’re not, it’s time to reevaluate.
As you try to instill good values in your children, ask yourself:
What does it mean to prepare children for life? It means giving thought to how to help your children progress through the natural stages of growth and development, being aware and abreast of what their peers are into or facing, and preparing your children for times when they may have to face similar things. It means teaching your children to have courage when they’re faced with difficult situations, and how to approach new situations responsibly and with confidence. It means that rather than sheltering your children from the negative influences in the world today, you teach them how to judge what’s right and wrong, and how to act with integrity, self-discipline, conviction, love, tolerance, and strength of character. …
Teaching children moral values is a challenge that all parents face. Every concerned parent has to teach his or her children to hold to their values and convictions and beliefs even when exposed to influences that would not be tolerated in their own home, but which are simply a part of life once children attend school, have friends from families that don’t share a similar faith or moral code, etc. Preparing your children is essentially teaching them how to act and behave outside of the “safety” of their home or family structure, how to respond to circumstances with moral conviction, and how to cope when they’re away from their parents, as they face the realities of the world. …
Children today face many influences, and they will face more in the course of life. Some will be positive, some will be negative, and many will be somewhere in between. Taking on the mentality of preparing them for life will help you to accept that you’re not able to protect them from ever coming in contact with negative influences, but that you are able to guide them to learn how to make right decisions when they do come in contact with them.--Maria Fontaine
“The Word of God is living and powerful.” (Hebrews 4:12) It lives in us, speaks to us, and fills our lives with light and understanding. As we drink in the living water of God’s Word, it begins to transform our hearts, minds, and lives. We begin to see things from God’s point of view, which often is entirely different from our own way of thinking. We discover things about ourselves and others that we cannot learn any other way.
We wouldn’t say to a child lost in a forest, “Find your own way.” We would never think of not feeding our children, or not clothing them, or not letting them go out and play and get fresh air and exercise. Neither should we withhold from them the words of life—the power, light, and life of God. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)
It is through God’s Word that your children will learn what is right and what is wrong, and it is God’s Word that will give them a solid foundation to hang onto through all the tests and trials they will face. And as they grow up, they will indeed face many, because life is a proving ground where we must learn to make choices on the side of what is right and good, rather than what is wrong and hurtful. Young as they are, your children soon find themselves engaged in this spiritual struggle and begin making choices that can greatly affect their lives and the lives of others. As parents, you can better prepare your children for these tough choices by giving them Jesus, a foundation of faith, and a knowledge of God’s Word.--Derek and Michelle Brookes
Courtesy of Anchor. Photo by Rick Bolin via Flickr.
How to Homeschool Your Children
Home education is a wonderful way to stay close to your children while helping them become well-rounded teenagers and adults. It offers you the opportunity to tailor your children’s education to suit your children, your lifestyle, and your beliefs. Education at home also gives you a safe ‘home base’ for your children while they explore the people and places around them. With the ability to individualize your child’s education, you can truly foster a lifelong love of learning.
Getting Over the Initial Hurdles
1. Establish your home education legally. In the US, each state has different laws and regulations regarding home-school. Before you jump in, research your state's laws and give them the required notice, in addition to making a checklist of future deadlines for yourself (if applicable).
Helping Children Make Friends
By Lisa M. Cope, adapted web reprint
It’s a heartbreaker. Our child comes home from school one day and says he doesn’t have any friends and that nobody likes him—the dreaded words no parent wants to hear. We’ve been there; we know how cruel it can be on the playground and how quickly friendships seem to come and go throughout life. We want to wrap up our little guy and protect him from the world, and most of all, we want to ensure that he has plenty of friends.
Every child is born with an innate need to attach or be in a relationship, but how he goes about forming those relationships depends largely on his temperament. Children can start to develop real friendships around the age of four or five. When everything goes smoothly, it can be exhilarating and great. But when we see our child hitting some bumps in the road to having his own “Best Friend Forever (BFF),” we can help.
To support the development of friendships in our child’s life, we can try some of these techniques:
There are several ways to accomplish this at home:
1. Help your child realize his own strengths.
2. Have a sense of humor about yourself and your shortcomings.
3. Listen to your child without criticism.
4. Be kind, give compliments, wave to a friend, and open the door for someone.
5. Be understanding of what others are going through by showing empathy.
6. Don’t complain. Instead, teach your child to accept what can’t be changed by working hard to change the things that can.
Learning to build friendships is one of the ways children develop into well-rounded, emotionally healthy human beings. By giving our children the skills they need to be confident and compassionate, we increase the likelihood that the friends who come into their life will provide a richness and happiness they will always treasure.
Friendship Making Skills
Here are more top friendship-making skills to model and teach your child:
• Making eye contact
• Listening to a conversation
• Resolving conflicts
• Introducing oneself
• Meeting new people
• Starting a conversation
• Joining in
• Handling rejection
• Staying calm
• Saying no
• Encouraging others
• Asking permission
• Sharing and taking turns
• Bouncing back
• Problem solving
• Using good manners
• Suggesting an activity
• Identifying emotions
• Sticking up for yourself
• Expressing feelings
• Accepting criticism
Text courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission.
By Amy Joyce, Washington Post
Earlier this year, I wrote about teaching empathy, and whether you are a parent who does so. The idea behind it is from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.
I know, you’d think they are or that parents are teaching that themselves, right? Not so, according to a new study released by the group.
About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”
Weissbourd and his cohorts have come up with recommendations about how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way.
“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.
The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:
1. Make caring for others a priority. Why? Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others. But children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friend who is being bullied.
How? Children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. A big part of that is holding children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring their commitments, even if it makes them unhappy. For example, before kids quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, we should ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend and encourage them to work out problems before quitting.
• Instead of saying to your kids: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”
• Make sure that your older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
• Emphasize caring when you interact with other key adults in your children’s lives. For example, ask teachers whether your children are good community members at school.
2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. Why? It’s never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children need to practice caring for others and expressing gratitude for those who care for them and contribute to others’ lives. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.
How? Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition—whether it’s a helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job—make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities. Learning gratitude similarly involves regularly practicing it.
• Don’t reward your child for every act of helpfulness, such as clearing the dinner table. We should expect our kids to help around the house, with siblings, and with neighbors and only reward uncommon acts of kindness.
• Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear about in the news.
• Make gratitude a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, or on the subway. Express thanks for those who contribute to us and others in large and small ways.
3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Why? Almost all children care about a small circle of their families and friends. Our challenge is help our children learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, the school custodian, or someone who lives in a distant country.
How? Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable. They also need to consider how their decisions, such as quitting a sports team or a band, can ripple out and harm various members of their communities. Especially in our more global world, children need to develop concern for people who live in very different cultures and communities than their own.
• Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress.
• Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Give children some simple ideas for stepping into the “caring and courage zone,” like comforting a classmate who was teased.
• Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country.
4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor. Why? Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They also learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults, e.g. “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party when my best friend doesn’t like her?”
How? Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect children’s thinking and listen to their perspectives, demonstrating to them how we want them to engage others.
• Model caring for others by doing community service at least once a month. Even better, do this service with your child.
• Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.
5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings. Why? Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
How? We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.
Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her. After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
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