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Posts tagged ‘Parenting’

How a Parent’s Affection Shapes a Child’s Happiness for Life

SOURCE:  Sandi Schwartz/Gottman

How often do you hug your children?

We all live busy, stressful lives and have endless concerns as parents, but it is clear that one of the most important things we need to do is to stop and give our kids a big loving squeeze. Research over the past decade highlights the link between affection in childhood and health and happiness in the future.

According to Child Trends – the leading nonprofit research organization in the United States focused on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families – science supports the idea that warmth and affection expressed by parents to their children results in life-long positive outcomes for those children.

Higher self-esteem, improved academic performance, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to this type of affection. On the other hand, children who do not have affectionate parents tend to have lower sself-esteemand to feel more alienated, hostile, aggressive, and anti-social.

There have been a number of recent studies that highlight the relationship between parental affection and children’s happiness and success.

In 2010, researchers at Duke University Medical School found that babies with very affectionate and attentive mothers grow up to be happier, more resilient, and less anxious adults. The study involved about 500 people who were followed from when they were infants until they were in their 30s. When the babies were eight months old, psychologists observed their mothers’ interactions with them as they took several developmental tests.

The psychologists rated the mother’s affection and attention level on a five-point scale ranging from “negative” to “extravagant.” Nearly 10 percent of the mothers showed low levels of affection, 85 percent demonstrated a normal amount of affection, and about six percent showed high levels of affection.

Then 30 years later, those same individuals were interviewed about their emotional health. The adults whose mothers showed “extravagant” or “caressing” affection were much less likely than the others to feel stressed and anxious. They were also less likely to report hostility, distressing social interactions, and psychosomatic symptoms.

The researchers involved in this study concluded that the hormone oxytocin may be responsible for this effect. Oxytocin is a chemical in the brain released during times when a person feels love and connection. It has been shown to help parents bond with their children, adding a sense of trust and support between them. This bond most likely helps our brain produce and use oxytocin, causing a child to feel more positive emotions.

Next, a 2013 study from UCLA found that unconditional love and affection from a parent can make children emotionally happier and less anxious. This happens because their brain actually changes as a result of the affection. On the other hand, the negative impact of childhood abuse and lack of affection impacts children both mentally and physically. This can lead to all kinds of health and emotional problems throughout their lives. What’s really fascinating is that scientists think parental affection can actually protect individuals against the harmful effects of childhood stress.

Then in 2015, a study out of the University of Notre Dame showed that children who receive affection from their parents were happier as adults. More than 600 adults were surveyed about how they were raised, including how much physical affection they had. The adults who reported receiving more affection in childhood displayed less depression and anxiety and were more compassionate overall. Those who reported less affection struggled with mental health, tended to be more upset in social situations, and were less able to relate to other people’s perspectives.

Researchers have also studied the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for infants. This special interaction between mother and baby, in particular, helps calm babies so they cry less and sleep more. It has also been shown to boost brain development. According to an article in Scientific American, children who lived in a deprived environment like an orphanage had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who lived with their parents. Scientists believe that the lack of physical contact in the orphanages is a major factor in these physical changes.

Finally, numerous studies on the effects of massage show the positive benefits it offers to reduce anxiety in children. Massage is also a good way for parents to connect to their children, both physically and emotionally. Starting in infancy, a parent can begin to massage their child, which can create a strong bond. Studies have shown children and adults who receive massage experience less anxiety during academic stress, hospital stays, and other stressful events.
So, how can you bring more hugs into your family’s day?

From the moment you bring your baby home from the hospital, be sure to hold, touch, and rock them in your arms. Spend many precious moments caressing your baby so that their skin can touch your skin.

As they get older, be playful by doing fun activities like dancing together or creating silly games like pretending to be a hugging or kissing monster.

Set a reminder to make sure hugging is part of your daily routine. In the recent Trolls movie, the Trolls wore watches with alarm clocks that would go off every hour for hug time. If that’s what it takes, then set yourself an alarm. Or make sure to give your kids a hug during certain times of the day, such as before they leave for school, when they get home from school, and before bedtime.

Another interesting idea is to use affection while disciplining your child. As you talk to them about what they did wrong, put your hand on their shoulder and give them a hug at the end of the conversation to ensure them that, even if you are not pleased with their behavior, you still love them. If your children hit their sister or brother, hug them and explain how hugging feels better than hitting.

Finally, be careful not to go overboard and smother your kids. Respect their individual comfort level, and be aware that this will change as they go through different stages.

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It’s Not Your Job to Entertain Your Children

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Jenae Jacobson

There’s more to mothering than keeping your kids amused.

I fear that we are headed down a slippery slope when it comes to one aspect of parenting.  And we at least need to start talking about it.

For some reason we have this strange belief that it is our job to entertain our kids all. the. time.

In case you aren’t convinced … feel free to browse Pinterest for a few minutes or visit one of the amazing blogs with activities for children. I, too, am guilty of spinning my wheels day after day, trying my hardest to provide fun experiences for my children … all in the name of being a good mom.

Yes, we want our kids to have a happy childhood with a variety of experiences. But this certainly doesn’t mean that the mark of a good mother is spending all her time creating and engaging her kids in those activities.

My goal as a parent is to raise my children to know, love, and emulate Jesus.  Entertaining them is not what should take up the majority of my focus. My focus should be on others, just as Jesus’ was. After all, the two greatest commandments are loving God and loving others.

So, what is a mother to do?

Meet their needs of feeding, changing, and bathing? Yes.

Teach our children? Yes.

Engage with our children in play? Yes.

Enjoy our children? Yes.

Play with our children? Yes, although not every minute of the day.

Encourage our children to think of others before themselves? YES!

Laugh with, tickle, and kiss our sweet babies? OF COURSE!

Entertain our children every minute of the day? No.

The fact is, when we make it our mission in life to make sure that our children are entertained and having fun, we are teaching them that life is all about them! It also can prohibit children from using their imagination and creativity to come up with something fun to do on their own.  This is a problem with my firstborn—I continually entertained him from birth to 2 years of age, when his little brother was born, and now he has a hard time playing on his own.

Rather than going out of our way to find ways to entertain our kids, let’s go out of our way thinking of opportunities that we can serve and love others together.

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This article originally appeared as a post on MomLife Today®, FamilyLife’s blog for moms.

Chores, teamwork and high expectations: The 15 habits that raise responsible kids

SOURCE:  Dr. Laura Markham/Motherly

We all want to raise responsible children. And we all want to live in a world where others have been raised to be responsible, a world where adults don’t shrug off their responsibilities as citizens. So how do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world?

You begin by seeing responsibility as something joyful for your child, instead of a burden.

All children want to see themselves as “response-able”—powerful and able to respond to what needs to be done. They need this for their self-esteem, and for their lives to have meaning.

So, you don’t really need to teach them to handle themselves responsibly in the world; you just need to teach them they have the power to contribute positively and relate to them so they want to do so.

If you focus on helping your child take charge of his life, and support him as necessary to learn each new skill, your child will want to step into each new responsibility. Instead of your holding him responsible, he becomes motivated to take responsibility for himself. It’s a subtle shift, but it makes all the difference in the world. The bottom line is that kids will be responsible to the degree that we support them to be.

Here are 15 everyday strategies guaranteed to increase your child’s “response-ability” quotient.

1. Raise your child with the expectation that we always clean up our own messes.

Begin by helping your child, until she learns it. She’ll learn it faster if you can be cheerful and kind about it and remember not to worry about spilled milk.

Encourage her to help by handing her a sponge as you pick one up yourself, even when it’s easier to do it yourself. As long as you aren’t judgmental about it—so she isn’t defensive—she’ll want to help clean up and make things better.

So when your toddler spills her milk, say “That’s ok. We can clean it up,” as you hand her a paper towel and pick one up yourself.

When your preschooler leaves her shoes scattered in your path, hand them to her and ask her to put them away, saying kindly “We always clean up our own stuff.”

You will have to do this, in one form or another, until they leave your home. But if your approach is positive and light-hearted, your child won’t get defensive and whine that you should do the cleanup. And when kids hear the constant friendly expectation that “We always clean up our own messes…Don’t worry, I’ll help….Here are the paper towels for you; I’ll get the sponge…” they become both easier to live with and better citizens of the world.

2. Kids need an opportunity to contribute to the common good.

All children contribute to the rest of us in some way, regularly. Find those ways and comment on them, even if it is just noticing when she is kind to her little brother or that you enjoy how she’s always singing. Whatever behaviors you acknowledge will grow.

As your children get older, their contributions should increase appropriately, both within and outside the household. Kids need to grow into two kinds of responsibilities: their own self care, and contributing to the family welfare. Research indicates that kids who help around the house are also more likely to offer help in other situations than kids who simply participate in their own self care.

Of course, you can’t expect them to develop a helpful attitude overnight. It helps to steadily increase responsibility in age appropriate ways. Invite toddlers to put napkins on the table, three-year-olds to set places. Four-year-olds can match socks, and five-year-olds can help you groom the dog. Six-year-olds are ready to clear the table, seven-year-olds to water plants, and eight-year-olds to fold laundry.

3. Remember that no kid in his right mind wants to do chores.

Unless you want your child to think of contributing to the family as drudgery, don’t make him do chores without you until they are a regular part of your family routine and one that your child does not resist. Your goal isn’t getting this job done, it’s shaping a child who will take pleasure in contributing and taking responsibility.

Make the job fun. Give as much structure, support, and hands-on help as you need to, including sitting with him and helping for the first thirty times he does the task, if necessary. Know that it will be much harder than doing it yourself. Remind yourself that there’s joy in these tasks, and communicate that, along with the satisfaction of a job well done. Eventually, he will be doing these tasks by himself, and that day will come much faster if he enjoys them.

4. Always let children “do it myself” and “help,” even when it’s more work for you.

And it will always be more work for you. But toddlers want desperately to master their physical worlds, and when we support them to do that, they step into the responsibility of being “response-able.”

So instead of rushing through your list, reframe. You’re working with your child to help him discover the satisfaction of contribution. That’s more important than having the job done quickly or perfectly. Notice that you’re also bonding, which is what motivates kids to keep contributing.

5. Rather than simply giving orders, try asking your child to do the thinking.

For instance, to the dallying child in the morning, instead of barking “Brush your teeth! Is your backpack packed? Don’t forget your lunch!” you could ask, “What’s the next thing you need to do to get ready for school?”

The goal is to keep them focused on their list, morning after morning until they internalize it and begin managing their own morning tasks.

6. Provide routines and structure.

These are crucial in children’s lives for many reasons, not the least of which is that it gives them repeated opportunities to manage themselves through a series of not especially inviting tasks.

First, they master the bedtime routine and cleaning up toys and getting ready in the morning. Then they develop successful study habits and grooming habits. Finally, they learn basic life skills through repetition of household routines like doing laundry or making simple meals.

7. Teach your child to be responsible for her interactions with others.

When your daughter hurts her little brother’s feelings, don’t force her to apologize. She won’t mean it, and it won’t help him. Instead, listen to her feelings to help her work out those tangled emotions that made her snarl at him.

Then, once she feels better, ask her what she can do to make things better between them. Maybe she’ll be ready to apologize. But maybe that will feel like losing face, and she would rather repair things with him by reading him a story or helping him with his chore of setting the table, or giving him a big hug.

This teaches children that their treatment of others has a cost and that they’re responsible for repairs when they do damage. But because you aren’t forcing, she’s able to choose to make the repair, which makes it feel good, and makes her more likely to repeat it.

8. Support your child to help pay for damaged goods.

If kids help pay from their own allowance for lost library books and cell phones, windows broken by their baseball, or tools they’ve left out to rust, the chances of a repeat infraction are slim.

9. Don’t rush to bail your child out of a difficult situation.

Be available for problem solving, helping him work through his feelings and fears, and to ensure that he doesn’t just sidestep the difficulty. But let him handle the problem himself, whether it requires offering an apology or making amends in a more concrete way.

10. Model responsibility and accountability.

Be explicit about the responsible choices you’re making:

“It’s a pain to carry this trash till we get to the car, but I don’t see a trashcan and we never litter.”

“This sign says parking is reserved for handicapped people, so of course we can’t take that spot.”

Keep your promises to your child, and don’t make excuses. If you don’t follow through when you promise to pick up that notebook he needs for school or play that game with him on Saturday, why should he be responsible for keeping his promises and agreements with you?

11. Never label your child as “irresponsible”

Never label your child as “irresponsible,” because the way we see our kids is always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, teach him the skills he needs to be responsible.

If he always loses things, for instance, help him develop the skills he needs. For instance, teach him to stop anytime he leaves somewhere—his friend’s house, school, soccer practice—and count off everything he needs to take home.

12. Teach your child to make a written schedule.

It may seem like overkill, but in our busy 21st-century lives, all kids need to master this skill by high school, or they simply won’t get everything done.

Begin on weekends during middle school, or earlier, if their schedule is busy. Just take a piece of paper, list the hours of the day on the left, and ask your child what he needs to get done this weekend. Put in the baseball game, piano practice, the birthday party, and all the steps of the science project—shop for materials, build the volcano, write and print out the description. Add in downtime—go for ice cream with dad, chill and listen to music.

Most kids find this keeps their stress level down since they know when everything will get done. Most important, it teaches them to manage their time and be responsible for their commitments.

13. All kids need the experience of working for pay.

All kids need the experience of working for pay, which teaches them real responsibility in the real world. Begin by paying your 8-year-old to do tasks you wouldn’t normally expect of him (washing the car, weeding the garden), then encourage him to expand to odd jobs in the neighborhood (walk the neighbor’s dog or offer snow shoveling service in the winter), move on to mother’s helper/babysitting jobs when it’s age appropriate, and finally take on after school or summer jobs. Few settings teach as much about responsibility as the world of working for pay outside the family.

14. Create a no-blame household.

We all, automatically, want to blame someone when things go wrong. It’s as if fixing blame might prevent a recurrence of the problem, or absolve us of responsibility.

In reality, blaming makes everyone defensive, more inclined to watch their back and to attack than to make amends. It’s the number one reason kids lie to their parents.

Worse yet, when we blame them, kids find all kinds of reasons it wasn’t really their fault—at least in their own minds—so they’re less likely to take responsibility and the problem is more likely to repeat.

Blame is the opposite of unconditional love.

So why do we do it? To help us feel less out of control, and because we can’t bear the suspicion that we also had some role, however small, in creating the situation.

Next time you find yourself automatically beginning to blame someone, stop. Instead, accept any responsibility you can—it’s good practice to model this by overstating your responsibility, without beating yourself up. Then, just accept the situation. You can always come up with better solutions from a state of acceptance than a state of blame.

15. Teach your kids that, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, they not only have the right to be an individual, they have an obligation to be one.

Studies show that people who take responsibility in any given situation are people who see themselves as willing to be different and stand out.

That’s the kind of kid you want to raise.

50 Things You Can Say to Make Your Child Feel Great

SOURCE:  Janel Breitenstein/Family Life Ministry

A list for parents who want their children to know their love and God’s love.

1. I’m proud of you. And even if you weren’t so fantastic, I’d still be proud.

2. I believe you.

3. The way you _____ is such a perfect addition for our family. God knew just what we needed when He gave us you.

4. I know you and I haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye lately. But I want to let you know that I accept you whether I agree with you or not, and I’m committed to working on our relationship so we both feel understood and secure.

5. I can’t believe how _____ you are. I can’t imagine the plans God has for you!

6. You know, you may not feel very _____, but God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you the way He did, and it was just how He wanted to express Himself. I love you just the way He made you. And I wouldn’t have wanted Him to do it any differently.

7. No matter how royally you mess up, I’ll always be glad you’re mine, I’ll forgive you, and I’ll love your socks off.

8. I saw how you _____. I’m so proud of you.

9. I forgive you. And I won’t bring this up again, okay?

10. I want to hang out with just you tonight. What do you want to do?

11. I remember when I _____. I felt so _____. I don’t know if that’s like what you’re going through, but it was a tough time for me.

12. I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me for _____?

13. I got you this, just because.

14. Lately I’ve really seen you grow in the area of _____, like when you _____.

15. Yes, there is food in the house.

16. I admire the way you _______. In fact, I could learn a lot from you in that area.

17. That was a really wise choice.

18. No chores today.

19. I trust you.

20. You’re really growing into a young man/woman of character. I can’t tell you how exciting that is!

21. Go ahead and sleep in tomorrow.

22. I had no idea you could do that! You impress me.

23. What do you think?

24. I canceled your appointment with the dentist.

25. I love your dad/mom so much! He/she is so _____.

26. I love being around you.

27. I’m so glad you’re home.

28. Thank you!

29. I love doing _____ with you.

30. You are one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. I am so humbled God gave me you.

31. I feel so proud when I’m with you.

32. You handled that so well.

33. I made your favorite _____.

34. I’m trusting that God will take perfect care of us. He’s always done it before! Can we pray together about this?

35. With God’s help, your dad/mom and I will never, ever get a divorce.

36. That looks great on you.

37. If I were in your shoes, I would feel so _____. Is that how you feel?

38. Would you turn your music up?

39. You are so well-disciplined in _____.

40. I sent you a big ol’ care package in the mail.

41. That was so courageous.

42. Do you feel like I’m understanding you?

43. If there were one thing you could change about me as your mom/dad, what would it be?

44. You have some real gifts in the area of _____.

45. Let’s go to Grandma’s!

46. It is so cool to watch you grow up.

47. Just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you.

48. I miss you, but I’m glad you’re having a good time!

49. You make me so happy just by being you.

50. I love you so much.

5 Things to Teach Your Kids About Failure

SOURCE:  iMom

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way.

My own experiences with failure have been some of my most important life lessons. I learned things I never would have learned any other way. Growing up, every time I had to speak publicly, I was terrified, and most often felt like I failed because I wasn’t articulate enough. I hated the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that public speaking brought up for me. I kept trying though and pushing through those awful feelings until eventually I learned how to speak publicly without any fear at all. If I would have let my first failure keep me from trying again, I never would have had the joy of sharing my life story and speaking to thousands of people at a stadium event.

It’s never easy to watch our children fail. But we can take heart that failure can actually make our children stronger, more resilient and more empathetic if we teach them to handle failure the right way.

Here are 5 things to teach your kids about dealing with failure.

1. Failure Happens to Everyone.

Even the best baseball players get hits only 3 out of 10 times at the plate. No one wins them all. It’s a normal part of life. Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

Teach your kids to expect failure, and help them realize it’s okay to fail, because we learn from our mistakes and failures.

2. Failure Isn’t a License to be a Bad Sport.

Failing is not a good feeling, and it’s okay to be sad or disappointed when we fail. But we don’t want to take it too far and start blaming others or pouting. Teach them to find the lesson in it, which can soften the negative feelings. Help them learn how to not be too hard on themselves.

3. Failure Can Lead to Success.

Thomas Edison tried dozens and dozens of times before he invented the modern light bulb.  We really can learn from our mistakes. Help them process through their mistakes and failures, so they can see the process of learning in action.

4. Failure Teaches Us Humility.

If we don’t experience failure, how can we really relate and encourage others when they are experiencing defeat?

5. Failure is Not Who We Are.

We need to teach our children that their true value comes from just being. They need to know they are loved, whether they win or lose, make a mistake or not.

31 Questions to Help You Be a Better Parent

SOURCE:  Janel Breitenstein/Family Life

Answer these questions with honesty, humility, and dependence on God’s power.

Feeling passionate about parenting? If you’d genuinely like a shot in the arm for your parenting, perhaps these questions can get you started. But remember: Their effectiveness is proportionate to your level of honesty, humility, and most of all, dependence on God’s power to make His presence a reality in your children’s lives.

1. What are the most significant cravings of each of my kids’ hearts?

2. How am I doing at building a relational bridge with my children? Do I “have their hearts”? Do they feel connected with and encouraged by me? Do I feel connected with them?

3. When I’m honest, what top five values do I feel most compelled to instill in my children? Would those line up with the top five values God would want my children to have?

4. What are each of my children’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?

5. Am I being faithful to pray diligently, deeply, and watchfully for my kids? (For a great FamilyLife resource on this, click here.)

6. Which child in our family is most likely to be overlooked,  and why?

7. Which child tends to receive most of my attention? Why?

8. How do I believe other people see each of my children? How do I feel about that? What portion of others’ opinions could I learn from, and what should I set aside?

9. Are my children developing more into givers than takers?

10. What life skills would I like my children to develop this year?

11. What are the events on the timeline of my children’s lives that have the most impact?

12. In what ways have my children exceeded my expectations?

13. Do I have any expectations of my children that have become demands that I clutch out of fear, rather than hopes that I seek from God by faith?

14. In what ways do I feel disappointed by my children? What can I learn from this? (For example, about what is valuable to me, about how God has made my children, about loving as God loves, etc.) What should I do about this in the future?

15. What is my greatest area of weakness as a parent? My greatest strength? What are my spouse’s?

16. In what ways are my children totally unlike me?

17. What did my parents do particularly well? In what ways do I hope to be different? (Is there any forgiveness that needs to happen there?)

18. What events from my childhood are important for me to shield my own children from? Are there ways that this has led to excessive control?

19. In what areas are my children most vulnerable?

20. What do I love about my kids? About being a parent?

21. How well do my spouse and I work as a team in our parenting?

22. How am I doing on preparing my children to be “launched” as thriving servants for God in the real world?

23. What can I do to equip my children to love well? To be wise? For successful relationships?

24. How is my children’s understanding of the Bible? How would I describe each of their relationships and walks with God?

25. Who are the other influential people in my kids’ lives? As I think of my children’s friends, teachers, coaches, etc., how can I best pray that they will complement my parenting and my kids’ needs?

26. Am I replenishing myself and taking adequate rests, so that my children see the gospel work of grace, patience, and peace in my home?

27. What are each of my kids passionate about? How can I spur on and develop their God-given passions?

28. How am I doing on teaching them biblical conflict resolution? Am I teaching them to be true peace-makers … or peace-fakers, or peace-breakers?

29. How authentically do I speak with my kids? Am I building a bridge of trust and security through my honesty and openness with them?

30. Am I striking a good balance between protecting my kids and equipping them for whatever they may encounter when they step outside of my home, now and in the future?

31. What great memories have I recently made with my kids?

Parenting: Going Beyond “How was your day?”

SOURCE:  The Gottman Institute

 

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