4 Things I’ve Learned About Parenting (From Around the World)

Inviting another culture into your life and home, makes you see your life and home differently.

When we had out-of-country guests from Africa staying with us in September, it was impossible not to see my life differently through their eyes.

When I put pumpkins on my front porch, there were confused looks (No, we won’t be eating them. It’s like a fall tradition.) When we sat and watched my daughter at her once-a-week tumbling class, there were comments and questions about opportunity and privilege (all true). When I complained about having to return my (supah nice) rental car for my 10 year old van that was in the shop getting repaired, there was a long sigh from the backseat (Bring your old van to Kenya, it’s a very nice car there).

So. Yeah. Perspective.

I also couldn’t help but watch and learn from my friends–not just those visiting, but every time I step into another country, I see other people’s lives through my eyes. But over the years, I’ve also noticed a lot of differences in first and third world parenting. And while poverty or wealth, freedom or oppression influence how we do or don’t parent, it’s hard not to acknowledge that giving our kids less is often giving them more.  And giving them more, doesn’t always make them want less.

4 things I've learned about parenting from around the world

Here are things I’ve seen in cross-cultural parenting that are influencing the way I raise my kids:

  1. Less stuff, more imagination | Without a doubt, this is one of the most obvious differences in other cultures. Kids don’t have their own rooms or (often) beds or electronics. They don’t have closets full of clothes or shelves with books and toys. I think that’s to be expected in impoverished areas, but it was hard not to notice that it didn’t stop kids from using their imagination. As a matter of fact, it seemed to cultivate it. They valued their small collection of clothes and books. They created toys and balls from sticks and plastic bags. They didn’t have pocket technology and I think they are better for what they don’t have than what they do.
  2. More independence, less dependence | It’s crazy to meet a mom who leaves early in the morning for work to roast peanuts on the side of the road because it’s the best time to sell to the mob of people walking to work. She leave her baby with her 8 year old daughter and returns before she leaves for school. She repeats this when workers are returning home late in the afternoon. While we can’t or wouldn’t do this for obvious reasons, I’m amazed at the independence children have in other cultures. They run errands and contribute to the family at an early age. They often do it because there aren’t any other options, but I’ve always noticed very little whining and complaining (something I tend to hear a lot of at my house). So, it leads me to believe that kids who are given independence and expected to help also learn to solve problems (or realize what real problems are). And that might just make them less dependent on us to fix all their problem.
  3. More time outside means less time entertaining inside | I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and I think we understood and celebrated this idea a lot more than we do now. Go outside. Go play. It was the mantra of my childhood and sometimes my parents and grandparents locked the backdoor so if I whined or complained, they never even knew. I survived it. I’ve noticed this isn’t a new or old idea, it’s a way of life in most cultures. It’s good for our kids to make up games, to sweat, to understand that we don’t exist to entertain them or fill their hours with something to do.
  4. More focusing on what matters, less discontentment | Our culture is obsessed with things that don’t really matter. It may sound harsh, but I think we all know it’s true (and if you doubt it, just invite a third world family to stay with you for three weeks and explain your life). We have so many layers and conditions, so much convenience and comfort that sometimes we focus on the minor and we lose the major (without even realizing it). When we can teach our kids by our example how to focus on what really matters in this life–people and loving God and serving others, we create the perfect atmosphere for contentment.

No matter where I’ve gone, it’s the one thing we have in common that touches me the most: we want the best for our children. And this motivates us to work hard, to sacrifice, to give them what we didn’t have, or withhold what they don’t need.  It may look different from house to house, but love is common ground.

Parenting is Hard. Especially When You’re Doing It Right.

This is so hard.

I shut our bedroom door and my husband pulled me close. I tried not to cry.

We had just had a parenting night from hell.

Can I say that here?


Because if you’re a parent, you might just know what I’m talking about.

There was yelling and tears. Hard conversations, hurt feelings, consequences and the symphony of slammed doors.

In less than half an hour and three conversations, we had made three kids angry and unhappy because we are just that good.

Parenting is not for wimps.

If it isn’t hard, maybe we aren’t doing it right? my husband said quietly in my ear.

I let his words sink in.  Because too often I believe the lie that says if we were doing this parenting thing right, we wouldn’t fight or disagree or battle over opinions and attitudes. We wouldn’t hurt each other. We would be normal. We would do this better.

And to be honest, parenting would be a lot easier if we didn’t care so much. If we didn’t try so hard. If we didn’t love so fiercely. It would be so much easier not to try and raise grateful kids who put others first, who honor our rules, who strive for purity and holiness, who openly share struggles and failures, who do not give up and choose to follow Christ.

Parenting kids upstream in a downstream world is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

We try to juggle grace and expectations and some nights all the balls come tumbling down.

But just because the road gets bumpy doesn’t mean we are off course. Actually, the right road is bumpy. The correct path does have obstacles and setbacks. The parenting journey is broken and beautiful at the same time.

We both sat on the end of the bed licking our wounds like we’d just waged war. And in a lot of ways we had.


Good parents fight for (and sometimes) with their kids.

Good parents make mistakes and apologize.

Good parents go-against-the-flow even when it would be so much easier to not say what needs to be said or enforce or follow through with what needs to be done.

Good parents cry. And doubt. And wonder. And pray.

Good parents offer grace when it’s least expected and needed the most.

Good parents remind themselves that this too shall pass.

Good parents look hard trials in the face and know they are doing something right.

Good parents recognize even good kids have bad days.

So, don’t give up, Mom. Don’t stop trying, Dad.

Yes, parenting is hard.

Especially when we’re doing it right.

What Social Media Is Offering Our Kids (And What To Do About It)

“Give me your phone,” I said as I held out my hand to one of my kids. “You’re not in trouble, but I think you need a break from social media for awhile.”

I was half expecting a war.

Instead, my child looked absolutely relieved and said, “You’re right. Thank you, Mom.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks that this was why my child was struggling with feelings of inadequacy. Because when kids are too plugged into other people’s worlds through social media, they have a more difficult time being thankful for their own.

Technology has been changing culture for years. A long look into the daily lives of our peers is always a click away. We scroll and sigh. We want things we didn’t even know we missed. And we miss things we really don’t even want.

Our culture loves social media, but social media doesn’t always “like” us back.

Social Media and Kids
For generations, kids have compared themselves to others and wanted to fit in with peers. I have several junior high memories that center around finding out on a Monday what I wasn’t invited to over the weekend and feeling left out always hurts.

Even though children today struggle with the same feelings, the world has changed since I was a kid. And social media is doing something to our kids that we didn’t have to face:

It’s offering them a live, all-access feed into the intimate and personal stories of their peers while it’s happening. Kids are invited to watch it unfold, but not always invited to participate. And worse, with likes and comments and hashtags, we’re given the power to rate and score other people’s lives.

And it’s changing how kids feel about themselves.

We decided a long time ago not to allow our children social media access until they became teenagers. It wasn’t a popular decision in our house (or with some of our adult friends). But I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve wished we waited longer.

But at the same time, sheltering our kids from the evil world isn’t a cure-all. “The problem for Christian parents isn’t in the desire to shelter children; it’s in the warped perspective that such sheltering can foster. We start thinking our kids are basically good and in need of moral direction, rather than recognizing our kids are basically bad and in need of heart transformation,” Trevin Wax said in this important Gospel Coalition article.

So, I’m not advocating we strip our kids of all social media access or ban it until college, I’m suggesting we first, understand how it’s affecting them and second, navigate it with them.

If I’m transparent with them (and you), I have to admit that sometimes when I’m scrolling through Facebook statuses or Instagram pictures, I feel jealous of what others have and discouraged about what I don’t have. When I realize what’s happening, I try to shut it down because within minutes of looking into other people’s lives, I feel worse about my own. And if I feel this way as a mature adult, it is multiplied for my children.

The average teen logs into social media at least 10 times a day and if we’re going to let them, we need to equip them. Everyone has different house rules. In our house, we monitor and limit technology and Internet usage, we filter and reserve the right to read texts, turn off data, hand in phones, and remind our kids that it’s a privilege that can be taken away. (And yes, my kids sometimes resist and rebel against these rules (and I’m not just saying that to make you feel better).

Social Media and Kids

Here are a few conversations that might be a good place to start:

  1. Talk with your kids about the term “friend.” Social media has us friending people we’ve never met. That’s not to say they won’t become a friend, but defining what true friendship is will help our kids realize what it’s not.
  2. Discuss what it means to “like” something and how it feels to be “liked” on social media. It’s a temporary high that can have a long-lasting impact on the way we feel about ourselves.
  3. Ask your kids: How do you respond when someone is bullied online?
  4. Discuss what kind of things should be said in person and not online or not at all? (Like confrontations and negative opinions).
  5. Talk to your children about when they might feel left out (because of what they’ve seen online). Suggest taking a break and spending time with people in person.
  6. Discuss oversharing.

So, yes, please let’s limit and monitor social media, but also let’s talk to our kids about it. They might resist, okay, they probably will resist, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

It’s irresponsible to give our kids access to a virtual world where “friends” have more say than we do. But that’s exactly what will happen if we choose to say nothing at all.

4 Relationships Every Child Needs

He was about the size of my 7-month-old son, but my Food for the Hungry guide told me he was a 5-year-old. His engaging smile drew me in to his shy handshake. He curled into a laughing ball as the orphanage director tickled him. I thought his contagious giggle must have resembled the singing of God’s angels in heaven.

Then I learned he would soon die from an incurable lung infection. He had contracted the disease on a desperate trek across a Somali desert in search for food. His parents didn’t survive the trip.

That moment—my heart broken and my understanding of the world turned upside down—forever changed me. I wanted to fix my new friend. My guide told me to let go, return home and encourage Americans to help others like him by funding projects and sponsoring children.


Food for the Hungry empowers some of the world’s most vulnerable mothers to better care for their children’s physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional needs.

In that short encounter, God began using Food for the Hungry to teach me (and, ultimately, my son) that poverty—whether physical, spiritual, emotional or intellectual—is caused by broken relationships in four areas. No human is whole without these potent bonds, so it’s important that we parents help our children develop them. Here are some ideas about how you can nurture them in your children. [Tweet this]

1 – Model a healthy relationship with God.

People who are poor in spirit usually will be poor in other ways. God designed the relationship with Him to be our most important link.

Deuteronomy 6 and 11 tell us to love the Lord, obey his commands and teach our children about His teachings by: “Talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Tell your kids that God made all of creation. Talk about His beneficial instructions for staying healthy–and model that behavior in your own life. Help them notice and appreciate how God has blessed them. Let them see you studying the Bible, praying, journaling, appropriately confessing your sins.

2 – Show your children how to love and respect others.

Caring people often exude generosity and compassion.

Romans 12:10 says to: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

The American culture has moved away from this teaching, evidenced daily on television sitcoms and news stories. As a parent, you can counteract negative cultural teachings by insisting that your children follow your lead in your behavior toward others.

Don’t allow your children to insult others, teach them about the power of their words, recognize and praise the people around you for how God has made them without suggesting that one person is better than another. Teach your children to manage conflict and give kudos for positive conduct.

3 – Teach your children to care for God’s creation.

People exhibit biblical stewardship when they correctly care for wildlife and the environment.

The book of Genesis tells us that God put humans in charge of caring for creation. Yet, the soil in many areas of the world is so depleted that it no longer can produce nutritious crops. Water is so polluted that it makes children sick.

Teach your children that God created everything and manifests through all of creation. Get them used to being around and properly treating animals. Model biblical stewardship by picking up trash and conserving water. Take your children along when you recycle harmful chemicals—unused medications and used engine oil, for example—at appropriate facilities.

4 – Create an atmosphere where self-confidence can flourish.

A child with a healthy self-esteem is less likely to fall victim to cultural lies. Children gain self-esteem by knowing they are made in God’s image and individually loved and respected by Him and you.

In his book, Have a New Kid by Friday, noted psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman outlined the ABCs of cultivating a healthy self-esteem in children: Acceptance (listen and ask questions to show you care about their interests and concerns rather than criticizing), Belonging (allowing them to take part in decisions, supporting their involvement in activities such as sports and music) and Competence (resist the urge to be over protective or do things that children can do themselves).

foodforthe hungry2Food for the Hungry has seen the profound impact of people reconciling these four relationships. Whether you live in a Nairobi slum, a Beverly Hills mansion or a middle-class neighborhood anywhere, we want to help you bring these connections into harmony in your life, to equip you to better instruct and nurture your children. We’ve created a free Bible study to get you started. You can use it in a group or on your own. Download 4 Relationships That Will Make You Whole right now. [Tweet this]

Download the Bible Study Now!

Karen Randau works at Food for the Hungry is Phoenix, Arizona. Her passion is to help the world’s most vulnerable children to thrive and reach the potential that God designed for them. Her Africa encounter set her on a path to raising a generous and caring son, who is now a young father.

Thanks to Food for the Hungry for partnering to share this post with my community.

4 Ways To Help Kids Bend the Trend This School Year

I took my teenaged daughter for some back-to-school shopping. We had a budget and one hour at the mall. I was afraid I’d created the perfect storm.

But JCPenney’s never disappoints. We had a blast! She loved the huge selection of clothes and trendy items. Every time I shop with my girl, I learn a lot about what’s in style. I learned kimonos are a thing now. And of course, my daughter can rock one. She has a great sense of style and clues me in on what’s hot and what’s not (She explained jogger pants to me and told me Sophisti-Casual is one of her favorite trends (see kimono).

And every time we spend time together, I learn more about who she is becoming. In-between looking for cute tops under the JCPenney’s “Bend the Trend” signs, we talked about doing just that: Looking for ways to stay true to ourselves. Kids face a lot of pressure to fit in at school (church and homeschool co-ops, too) and they need to know who they are and who they belong to. Bend the Trend is another way of saying be yourself in your own unique way.

We looked at some of the hottest trends: the printed backpacks, layered necklaces, long pendants and statement earrings and talked about what fit her personality. When we encourage our kids to bend the trend with what they wear (and not over-worry about looking like everyone else), we give them more than just stuff. We give them:

1. Confidence In Who They Are On The Inside, Not Just What They Look Like On the Outside | Most kids care a lot about what’s on the outside-it’s part of growing up and well, fitting in. But when they can be comfortable in their own skin, they become confidant on the inside and out.


2. A Positive Attitude Even on The Bad (Hair) Days | If you have a teenage girl or you’re a woman, you know this is a real thing. A positive attitude will remind our kids there’s always tomorrow.


3. A “New Kid” Outlook |My kids had the experience of being the new kid in school and they know how hard it can be trying to figure out where you belong. Bending the trend, means they can put themselves in other people’s shoes and reach out.

4. A Belief That Comparison Kills Contentment | One thing my daughter loved about shopping at JCPenney’s was the ease of making every item uniquely her by pairing up items like this trendy Arizona top with a sheer kimono. When our kids can be confidant in their choices, without comparing themselves to others, they can find contentment.


Connect with JCPenney’s on social media. Visit them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Google+.

And give a Back to School #ShoutOutDay on August 12th!

What top trends are on your Back-to-School list this fall? Tell me in the comments and you could win a $100 JCPenney gift card!

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5 Ways To Change America From The Dinner Table

We were on the 3rd hour of the trip and somehow the youngest convinced the other two to watch a scratched version of Shrek the Third on the DVD player in the backseat.

As we drove, my husband looked over at me and said, “Why do we own this movie?”

I shrugged and pointed to the old album of discs we keep in the car for moments of travel desperation.

At one point, I guess we were both tuning in because we heard our soon-to-be third grader ask why one of the princesses was a man dressed like a woman with heavy stubble.

“Because someone thought it would be funny,” a sibling answered.

Subtle, Hollywood.

Terrell and I talked about the way kids movies, TV shows and teen books are filled with innuendoes, edgy subject matter and an obvious effort to normalize alternative lifestyles to the next generation.

“It’s easy to ignore, laugh or shrug it off, but we need to point this desensitizing out to our kids when we see or hear it. And turn it off,” he said.

It’s part of teaching our kids what we believe is right and wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I cringe at the world I’m raising my kids in.  My online feed is a battleground of opinion and the daily news is like a horror show.

It’s not just that our culture vies for an anthing-goes-lifestyle, it’s that we don’t understand the value of life. We live in a world where a lion’s death trumps a human’s life. We live in a world where the senseless death of an animal causes more outcry than the brutal dismembering and selling of unborn babies.

Yes, both are wrong, but one we abhor, and the other we make possible through legislation.

Recently, I ran across an old quote from my favorite President and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head:


I’m not political. I don’t jump on every bandwagon or issue.  I don’t engage on Facebook when someone says something I don’t agree with and I honestly try not to jump into controversy (although occasionally I stumble into it here). I’m a wife and mom and writer and most days between those big jobs and saying yes to God, there’s not much left when I fall into bed.

But I can see that America is changing. And I can see that American needs to change.

And I have to agree with The Gipper-great change for our country starts in the center of our home at the table.

It’s the place we communicate with one another, care about each other, celebrate and challenge each other. The table is the place we teach our children right from wrong, it’s our lectern. It brings us together, so together we can change the world.

When we intentionally tackle tough issues, cultural shifts and trends, and communicate truth to our kids over a meal, we are giving them something secure to come home to in a world that is balancing precariously on a sandy foundation.

When we turn our table into a tool, our home becomes a classroom, and our children world changers.

change America from the dinner table

5 Ways to Change America From the Dinner Table:

1. The Table Creates a Healthier Family  | It might sound too simple, but simply having dinner together makes an impact on the family and eventually the world. It’s far too easy to let the busyness of schedules, sports, school and society interrupt dinner. Research shows the long term emotional and educational benefits to families is monumental. It’s the best time to connect and communicate, to check-in with each other. There are countless health benefits of eating dinner together, but the “parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent bad choices and addictions later,” research says. So, basically, we are better when we eat dinner together.

2. The Table is Where We Break Open Both Kinds of Bread | Food is a great opportunity to introduce culture and new countries to our family. What better way to learn about oppressed people groups or impoverished areas or intriguing cultures than by getting a small taste of how other people eat and maybe live? Food opens the door to the rest of the world and makes room for perspective, one of the best gifts we can offer our family. Our dinner table can become a pulpit where we open God’s Word and compare and contrast and consider truth with a verse here and Bible story there. It’s not about quantity (and with kids, it’s often not about quality), it’s about consistency. Breaking Holy Bread at the table is a significant way to say to our children–this matters as much as eating. It’s imperfect and messy, and it’s important. It’s life.

3. The Table is Where We Talk About Current Issues (or the latest kid’s movie) | Gathering around the table affords us the chance to talk. Sometimes it’s goofy and silly and seemingly insignificant. (Don’t believe that.) But some nights, it’s family communion where we connect with each other and God on a deep level. When we make this time a priority, we make room for this to happen. Talking about our day at school and work one day leads into praying about the bully on the playground and the stress of a tough boss on another.  When we linger at the table and lay our thoughts and opinions on it, it becomes the perfect place to talk about what’s going on in our world.

4. The Table is Where We Teach Absolute Truth | Truth has become a bad word in our culture where nothing is absolute and standards are doubled and everything is subjective.  Murder is okay inside the womb, but not out. We have freedom to live however we want, unless our religious convictions make someone uncomfortable.  “God’s word is truth.” (John 17:17) If we explain to our children what the Bible says about right from wrong, we are teaching them truth that doesn’t change.

5. The Table is Where We Learn to Love | The table is where we model manners to our children. It’s where we teach babies basic communication and toddlers courtesy. The table is a place of comfort with favorite foods that remind us of home and fond memories we carry with us as adults. It’s the place we learn to take care of and love other people.  When absolute truth is taught and love isn’t, judgmental and pious Christians are fostered. But when we teach and exemplify love of God and others (especially to those we don’t agree with), over our own opinions and desires, we raise kids who change the world.

[image source]

Why Service & Hard Work Are Two of the Best Things We Can Give Our Kids

My teens spent a week as counselors at our church’s kids camp earlier this summer.

They spent a week in the hot Texas sun singing crazy camp songs, cheering and high-fiving a cabin full of young campers.

They spent a week tying shoes, passing out bandaids, and encouraging homesick hearts.

They spent a week putting others’ needs before their own.



More than once, I got a message from an adult at camp letting me know my kids were giving the week everything they had. They came home without a voice and a load of stinky laundry and fell in bed for a 5 hour nap.

That first night back at our dinner table, they begged to go on the youth missions trip a few weeks later to do construction projects for some marginalized people in a Texas community. We didn’t really have it budgeted or planned and my first response was to say no. I could tell my kids were disappointed.

Later, my husband said, “Honey, let’s rethink this. Our kids just spent a week serving others and instead of complaining about all the work, they are asking for more. They want to spend a week on an air mattress repairing homes for marginalized people in a segregated area. I know it will cost us, but this trip could be priceless.”

I thought long and hard about his wisdom. Because I know how physical, selfless work and serving others has turned my life upside down.

I’ve seen how working at the Mercy House warehouse a couple of days a week has got my kids thinking less of themselves and more about others.


When we told our kids we were reconsidering, they offered to contribute some of their own money. I knew something good was going to come from this.

service and hard work are two of the best things we can give our kids

They left on a Sunday and the first update from my daughter read, “Mom! We just finished our first day of hard work. Today was so hot and we are so tired! We are giving this lady a new floor, so we had to rip out the old one, leaving a huge hole in her floor and then add new supports, more flooring and then tile. It was a lot of work, but it was fun!! This lady’s house needs a lot of work, but we are just doing what we can. I miss you. Tell everyone I said Hi! Love you!”

So. Yeah, my kids are working their tales off this week as construction workers for the disadvantaged and they are having fun! Who knew?! Most importantly, they are being changed from the inside out and probably don’t even realize it.

We live in a culture where kids are often encouraged to do nothing and avoid things that are hard. We often don’t find selfless serving kids headlining in the news. But not only can our kids do hard things, they should. Here’s why.

6 amazing things kids learn through hard work and service:

  1. It’s harder for them to think about themselves when they’re busy thinking about others.
  2. It’s easier to be thankful for things they normally take for granted. Hello, a floor.
  3. It’s something our kids can feel really good about. Can you hear the pride in my daughter’s text?
  4. It’s something that is contagious they want to keep doing. See above.
  5. It’s always more fun than they think it will be. I have the texts to prove it.
  6. It’s become clear that working hard and serving others matters. I’ll let you know if this carries over at home.

I only got one text from my son all week. It read, “Mom, I love you. The week has been amazing! We just washed each other’s feet and now we’re at Dairy Queen. Serving rocks!”

8 Ways We Make Parenting Harder (Than It Already Is)

There’s no doubt about it: parenting is hard.

The kind of hard that makes you want to pull the covers over your head and cry yourself to sleep an hour after you’ve fist bumped your husband and proudly declared: we rock at this parenting thing.

Yeah, that might have happened this past weekend.

And to make matters worse, we learned in the news that crayons and ibuprofen (two of our greatest parenting resources) are probably going to kill us in the end.



I’m obviously no expert. But I’ve been parenting long enough to have some hindsight, retrospective thinking, afterthought and other words that are appropriate after you recognize you’ve messed up.

I’m convinced we don’t set out to make parenting harder on ourselves, but I’ve found that when I overstep or overcompensate (even out of love and concern), I often rob my kids of an important life lesson.

Here are 8 ways we make parenting harder than it already is:

1. When we try to fix all their problems

I hate seeing my kids upset. But life can be upsetting. We need to experience sadness to know true joy. We need to walk through disappointment to recognize success. My kids have experienced some disappointments in friendships and I’ve tried to step in and help (also known as making matters worse). But when I stepped back and let them work it out on their own, we’ve all been amazed at what God has done to restore relationships and deepen friendships.

2.When we don’t admit we are wrong

I’m really good at this one. I expect my kids to apologize, but find I have a hard time doing so. The other night I was standing in my kitchen in a heated moment with one of my kids and I knew I was as wrong as they were. Nothing diffuses a situation more than saying “I’m sorry.” And sometimes we need to be the first to say it.  As soon as the words came out of my mouth, the tension lifted and we were able to talk through the issue.

3. When we make small things a big deal

I’ve lost my mind over messy rooms and toy-covered floors. And I regret it. That’s not to say teaching our kids to clean up after themselves isn’t important and necessary–it is. But when we make it a constant battlefield, we do more harm than good. Let the little things stay little, so we can focus on what really matters: growing a deep love in their heart for God and others.

4. When we constantly criticize them

I have watched my children’s faces crumble at my harsh words concerning their clothes or room or whatever. I would give anything to take them back. We often lose all the ground we gain with our tone and words. Our words can speak life or death. I’m learning it’s better to say nothing than something hurtful.

5. When we don’t let them fail

My first instinct is to protect my kids from failure.  But I’m proof that God teaches us in our failure as much as he does our success. Sometimes letting them bomb that school assignment or miss out on allowance because they didn’t do what you ask them is really a gift we give them.

6. When we give them what they want when they want it

I’ve learned this one the hard way. Kids are naturally selfish and usually will take all we give them. When we meet every demand, we feed the instant gratification beast that cannot be satisfied. It’s okay for kids to wait. It’s okay for them to work for what they want. It’s important that we let them.

7. When we compare our kids to others

Recently, I’ve been guilty of this one and I’ve hurt them by making comparisons. Every family is messy–even the ones we admire, especially those. We all have problems and challenges. And I wouldn’t trade my kids for anyone else’s, but when we compare, that’s exactly the message we’re sending our children.

8. When we refuse to listen to them

I’m convinced that we talk too much. When I quietly wait (and don’t push, prod or pepper with questions), my kids talk (especially my older ones). Life isn’t a monolog where we monopolize the conversation, pass the mike. I’m always amazed and impressed with my children’s opinions and insight and confessions when I hush. I ask God to make me a better listener all the time. Because I think it will also make me a better parent.

Yeah, parenting is hard. But what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

P.S. When I shared the news about the crayons and ibuprofen with my husband, he said, “We will survive! Kids are resilient. When we were young, we used to break open glass thermometers so we could play with the ball of mercury. We turned out just fine!”