Category Archives: Parenting

Thoughtful orThoughtless?

I bet if I ask you, "Do you know someone who is thoughtless in your life?"  Instantly a face or two will pop to the front of your mind.  Likewise if I asked you "Is there someone who comes to mind that is thoughtful?"  There wil be one or two people that will come to mind who have touched your life and your heart by this very special trait.   I’ve been thinking about the difference between the two and how I can become more and more thoughtful as the years go by.

Some of the traits that thoughtful people have are these:  Thoughtful people have full lives, but there’s still always room in their life for you.  They are busy, but not too busy to make a call to see how you’re doing or if they can help when you’re in need.  Thoughtful people do little things that show they care… they put themselves in your shoes and think what would be helpful, encouraging or in some small way make your life brighter or easier. 

Thoughtless people aren’t usually "bad" people, they just don’t think.  They don’t put themselves in anyone else’s shoes and think how their behavior affects anyone else in their lives.  Thoughtless people are often consumed by their own lives.  They are busy.  They are overwhelmed, and often are in chaos.  Most often they just aren’t even aware that other people around them have needs.  If they think about doing something, they rarely actually take a tangible step to follow through.

In all honesty it doesn’t take that much time to be thoughtful.  Small consistent gestures make a big impact in friendships and relationships.  Email has given us an almost instant and very quick way to let friends and family know that we’re thinking of them.  A quick note, one or two minutes even spent writing a paragraph or two can make someone’s day! 

Thoughtful people have developed the ability to "have the thought"… they notice others, they aren’t wrapped up in their own world. They’ve discovered the incredible joy of being a blessing to others and most thoughtful people couldn’t imagine living any other way.  The thoughtless person is handicapped in that the "thought" doesn’t occur to them so it’s impossible to be "thoughful."  

Thoughtfulness is a learned behavior that can be taught.  If you have children or grandchildren, this is an area that takes time and persistence to develop, but makes so much difference in a family.  Asking children questions such as "How do you think Mrs. Smith feels since her husband died and what do you think she would like us to do for her to make her feel a little better?"  "Susie broke her arm and can’t go play in the snow with all the neighbor kids, do you have any ideas of how we can make a special play day with her?"  I’ve learned that when I asked my children and made them think through what a good answer would be, they remembered the lesson better than when I just told them what to do.  Also, I found that when I emphasized a character trait over and over they began to understand and apply it in their lives.  As a mom, I tried to spend more time teaching them good behaviors than just getting on them for bad behaviors over and over.

The holidays are a great time to exercise the "thoughtfulness" muscle (in ourselves and in our children!)  Take a moment and think about someone in your life that a thoughtful gesture might really encourage.  Is there someone who has lost a loved one this year?  Is there someone that is experiencing depression or struggling financially?  What about a family member who might be struggling with a too-busy schedule?

One great thing about thoughfulness is that it often takes no money at all to be thoughtful!  If there’s a young mother, maybe even a young single mother in your community perhaps you can call and offer to watch her children for her one day this Thanksgiving or Christmas season to let her have a day to shop all alone.  Perhaps an older person that you know might not have the energy to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner, but would love to be included in your family’s celebration.  Is there a military wife that could use some help around the house with maintenance?

The most thoughtful gestures of all are totally unexpected and not even tied to a particular date or occasion, they’re "Just because I thought of you…"  Those of you that create your own greeting cards have an incredible resource at your fingertips!  Play with your graphics and make cards and envelopes in advance, so that they are as easy as an email to send off.  Buy a book of stamps and when you think of someone over the next few weeks take that thought one step further to THOUGHTFULNESS and take five minutes to write a personal note. 

If you wrestle with depression, developing your thoughtfulness muscles can become a powerful weapon to destroy the stronghold that depression can have in your life.  Depressed people have a hard time thinking about others at times, but people who think of and connect with other are rarely depressed in a debilitating way.  Even if you don’t "feel" cheerful, you can write a cheerful message to someone you know is struggling more than you are.  You would be amazed how an act of kindness can make your own heart soar!   How strong is your "thoughtfulness" muscle?  Mine needs some more regular workouts 🙂

THE SCRIPTURE OF THE DAY:  Col 3:12-14  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  NIV

COMMENT:  I love the imagery "clothe yourself."  It’s an action and a choice.  Put on patience like you put on a warm scarf when it’s going to be cold.  Decide to be gentle like you put on rubber boots when you go out into the rain!  God gives us the "clothes" but we need to choose to put them on!

 

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Doing What is “Right” Even When it Feels “Wrong,” by Audrey Jeanne Roberts

Recently I was in a discussion with a friend who is in the throes of a divorce.  At the end of the hour-long conversation, he made a comment that has rung in my ears and my heart ever since…  He said, "I chose not to do the right thing because I was sure that she wouldn’t change.  I was sure it wouldn’t change the circumstances.  In retrospect, I should have done what was right just because it was right, whether or not it produced the "right" results." 

That is a very simple, but profound observation and it has relevance to many areas in our culture.  This concept was universally accepted and lived by 40 or 50 years ago, but has somehow become lost in our modern world.  People in our world make decisions that are more based on feelings, individual happiness and the hoped-for outcome, rather than from a sense of universal right and wrong. It can be hard to chose an action that will be difficult and even painful, but sometimes "doing the right thing" means honoring responsibility and duty above my feelings and personal desires.  Sometimes it means choosing a path that seems much harder and longer than if you took the easy way out.  Sometimes it even means teaching someone about right and wrong, whether or not they want to learn the lesson. 

Last week I heard a snippet of a taped assembly at a high school in Boulder, Colorado.  There were 4 or 5 psychology professionals who were addressing the students. They actually told them, "We won’t tell you not to do drugs, drink alcohol or have sex because you’re just going to do it anyway."  So instead, they encouraged them to experiment with drugs and drink alchohol.  They encouraged them to have sex with anyone, of any sex, in any manner that they thought would be fun.  They were completely incapable of telling those students that drugs are harmful, and that they can destroy lives.  

During the question and answer session a young girl came to the microphone and asked, "If I like a boy, but he doesn’t love me, should I have sex with him?  Would you have sex with someone who didn’t love you?"   My heart broke at the question, as I heard the pain in the young girl’s heart that motivated her to ask it.  However, each of them actually giggled and casually said, "Yes, I would have sex with someone who didn’t love me."  They were not able to discern right and wrong choices and confidently tell the kids that wrong choices, lead to bad consequences that you just might have to live with forever.

These psychologists can merrily share their viewpoint with these kids and be their "buddies" for a while, but where will they be when one of them drives drunk and kills themselves, two kids in their car and an entire family on their way to visit their grandparents?  Where will they be when the fourteen year old girl girl they just counseled  has sex with four anonymous boys at a party, then discovers she’s pregnant and doesn’t even know who the father of her child is?  They won’t be there to pick up the pieces of the young man’s life who is now hooked on heroine or methamphetamines because they told him to "experiment responsibly" with drugs that are so addictive a single episode can destroy a life forever.

My husband and I were "old fashioned parents."  We made rules and did our best to enforce them.  We kept to the rules whether or not our children obeyed them, because the rules themselves were established to protect them and prepare them to live a happy life.  We said one phrase so many times that our kids now laugh and can repeat it virtually word for word, "We love you enough to have you not like us right now.  We love you enough to do what is right for you as your parents.  We want to be your friends, (eventually when you are adults) but that will happen only after we’ve done what’s best for you as YOUR PARENTS." 

Many of you who read my blog are very familiar with the bible, but I also know that many of you have never read it for a lot of different reasons.  Often people who have never read the bible, mistake it for a huge, single book that’s overwhelming to even consider reading.  However it is actually a library of 66 books, written over thousands of years, by many authors, from many different cultures who share an amazingly singular view on life and wisdom. 

One of my favorite books in the bible is Proverbs.  It was written for the most part by King Solomon who collected wisdom from the world around him and his personal observations.  Just one example of the relevance to today’s life of the book of proverbs is,  "Better to be poor and honest than a rich person no one can trust.  Prov. 19:1.  Stolen bread tastes sweet, but soon your mouth is full of gravel.  Form your purpose by asking for counsel, then carry it out using all the help you can get.  Gossips can’t keep secrets, so never confide in blabbermouths.  Prov. 20:17-19  (I’ve quoted from The Message, which is a modern version of the bible.  So often when I read these words I realize that for all that the world has changed, we humans aren’t any different than those who lived thousands of years ago!   Proverbs speaks continually of the wise and the foolish.  Wisdom is another way of expressing making the right choices, and foolishness is another word for the wrong choices.

As I love my children and want to protect them from the consequences bad choices will make in their lives, my loving Heavenly Father has given me a handbook to help me as His child.  He set down rules not just so He can boss me around, but to protect me in the same way I want to protect my kids.  In my almost 45 years of following Him I have never once found His instructions to be wrong.  The world around me has constantly shifted in its opinions of what is right and wrong!  Many ways that I was instructed to raise my children when I first became a mother, have now been refuted.  If I had followed them, my children would have been damaged, but instead I followed the principles I learned from God’s word and doing the "right thing" has led to the "right results."  Perhaps it’s because the God that created us also knows what is best for our lives. 

Many times over the years I’ve had to choose to do the "right" thing even when it didn’t feel good.  Almost every time it has ultimately produced the "right" result, but sometimes it hasn’t.  When that is the case it’s usually because someone else in the situation had a free will and chose to go a different way.  But I’ve also learned that when I choose to do right whether or not it works out, I am at peace either way.  Doing the "right" thing often means things like telling the truth even if you’re going to be embarrassed by it, or choosing not to steal even if you know you woudn’t be caught.  Doing the "right" thing sometimes means refusing to cover for your boss when he/she wants you to lie for them knowing it could ulitimately cost you your job.  Doing the "right" thing might mean telling a young couple that having sex might feel good for the moment, but can hurt both of them in the long run and maybe even change the course of their lives forever.

Whether or not you hold to the bible as your standard of right and wrong, I hope you will take time to think over what your standards of wisdom and foolishness are.  What do you KNOW will lead to a better life and what do you KNOW can lead to horrible consequences?  Please don’t be afraid to share those with your children!  Hopefully, you’ll be able to help your children understand that when they choose to do "right" they win no matter what the outcome is.  When they overcome their feelings and choose the right action, you’re teaching them a skill and a discipline that can translate into every area of their life in the future.  Being led by internal standards rather than ever-changing feelings, leads to a stable and peacable life.  Conversely, making decisions based on the avoidance of pain can lead to more and more devastating consequences, as my friend who is in the middle of his divorce has come to understand.  He is realizing that enduring what was in retrospect a little bit of pain, would have been so much better in the long run, than blindly running away from it and heading into the unending, overwhelming fire-storm of pain that is what has come out of his decision.

I think I’m going to add a verse from Proverbs each day to my blog, as a reminder (to myself!) about what is really important in life!  And just maybe you’ll enjoy them too.  Remember, someone wiser than me once said, "Parenting isn’t for cowards!" 

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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For Children… Which is More Important, Self-Esteem or Mastery?

I raised my children right smack in the middle of the "praise your children for everything they do" revolution.  Praise them for going potty.  Praise them because they are special.  Praise them a hundred times a day and they'll grow confident and strong.  Aspects of this self-esteem concept have troubled me over the years, but I just couldn't quite put my finger on why or how.  Now that my children have grown and I've seen the fruit of this teaching mature in our culture, I'd like to make a few observations about what I think might be a better, more effective approach in raising children.

I've been thinking on this for 3 or 4 days and woke up to find an article in the Wall Street Journal "The Most Praised Generation Goes to Work," (subscription required) that addresses the impact of people who can't function without effusive praise in the work place.  Like every generation before us, my generation had our own struggle with the areas of lack in our parents.  Many of us struggled with parents that often were negative, critical and never praised, so we swung too far in the opposite direction thinking that would be better.  As usual, wild swings of the pendulum are more often simply polar opposites that are both errors.

Here's a few differences between effective and ineffective praise.  Praise for real accomplishments and effort has real value, effusive praise for simply "being" does not.  Praise for a character trait that is being built into the heart of a child such as honesty, integrity, diligence or caring is extraordinarily valuable.  Praise for being beautiful is hollow, as beauty or the lack of it is a quirk of nature.  However, praise bestowed for having a beautiful heart is earned.  The important difference is praising for things that are worked towards and earned has lasting value, praise for things that aren't earned is hollow, empty and does not satisfy the hunger of a child's heart it simply creates a greater hunger… a child's heart knows the difference.  There is value in competing for an honor and achieving it, there is little value when an "honor" is bestowed upon an entire class so that "no one feels bad."  Our oversensitive culture is producing more overly sensitive and self-centered people than confident and selfless individuals. 

The scripture encourages us in many places to live our lives in a way that is pleasing (or will bring praise or honor) from the Lord, rather than men. One such example is Col 1:10: And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, NIV.  There is a reward that is greater than the praise of men.

Children that grow up with excessive, un-earned praise can be devastated later in life to find that no boss is going to follow them around and praise how well they refiled their file folders at the end of the day!  They are going to be held accountable to actual achievements at some point in life, and we do them no favors by not starting that process when they are young.  At some point children must learn to know deep within their hearts that they did a job well, they mastered it… whether or not anyone else compliments them on it.  There's a significant difference between self-esteem and self-respect, and I believe of the two, the latter is of greater benefit in life.

A light-hearted example of this is seen every year on American Idol.  If you've ever watched the early auditions phase (a truly painful experience) you have seen people that obviously have absolutely no skill or talent audition.  Why?  Most often they say it's because their family members have told them how well they sing!  Were their family members being loving to them, to encourage them to pursue an area they had no talent in?  Were the judges mean for telling them the truth? 

Praise is important, vital and it is hard for a child to grow healthy and strong without it… yet it is not impossible for a child to grow strong without a single word of praise from his or her parents.  How?  Usually only if they become accomplished and achieve mastery of some significant area of their lives.  So, what if healthy, true praise were added to mastery, how much more successful can an individual become?  What then, do I mean by mastery? 

Mastery is to take on a task, such as baseball and learn the skill set that is required to succeed at it.  Mastery is to love art and begin to learn the concepts and techniques required to execute a painting that shows skill, beauty and is appreciated by others.  No matter the intellectual capacity of any child… it is likely that he or she can master some area in life that holds interest for them.

Mastery can be a long-term process.  If an individual loves children and sets the goal of becoming a teacher, he or she will need to attend years of college to become an educator.  She will have to take many classes that she may not be interested in.  He must master the materials required to become certified to teach, or he will not be.  However, once mastery is achieved, the very skills acquired in its achieving the goal, begin to be used to make a difference in the lives of children.

Your children need to attempt tasks that are hard for them to master.  It's possible that in setting hard goals, they might attempt something they might fail at, but remember true success is only achieved if there is a chance of failure!  That might mean learning the piano and sticking with it until they have learned to "master" it at what ever level they are capable of.  It might mean learning how to sew clothes or earn badges for Girl or Boy Scouts.  There are many valuable lessons he or she will learn in the process of mastering a skill; such as they can accomplish hard things, if they work at it one step at a time and that each skill learned helps make learning the next skill all that much easier. 

I was "forced" to learn to sew as a child.  At first I was interested, but when beautiful objects didn't just fly off of my sewing machine, I soon began to lose interest.  I didn't like that they took long hard hours of pinning, sewing, tearing apart and re-sewing.  I hated that my mother didn't accept sloppy work and made me tear it apart and start over again.  Unlike many of today's parents, who would have let me stop when I whined and complained and made life miserable for them, my mom was "mean."  She made me sew 1/3 of my school wardrobe or I wouldn't have any new clothes, period! 

Sewing taught me life lessons that were greater than purely the application of sewing skills to a task.  I learned to read and follow directions, to figure things out on my own without a teacher, I learned that sewing was a skill that was made up of a hundred little skills — when I learned how to do an armhole, that skill applied to every garment I ever wanted to make from that day forward.  I gained the confidence that though a task looked impossible, if I broke it up into a dozen little steps I was more likely to accomplish it.  The first time I looked at a set of directions I was overwhelmed, but after a few years I skimmed through them looking for anything I didn't know how to do and often found there were none!

If you help your child build the ki
nd of true self-image that is produced through this kind of mastery, you help them to build an internal self-confidence that is far more valuable in experiencing a successful life, than any life based on externally sustained self-esteem can ever produce.   May God give you the wisdom to know how lead your children to seek the Praise of God rather than men and to seek excellence in everything they do.

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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Letting Children Go So They Can Fly!

The hardest thing we as parents are called to do is let our children go.  We struggle to fully release them into success or failure… with the full consequences and rewards of each.  The best way to do this is start the day they were born!  Because if you haven't gotten really good at it, by the time that you finally "have" to it will tear you apart!

The reason I'm writing this post is that I was scrapbooking a page for my daughter, Jacqui today.  My children have often "whined" that mom designs scrapbooking things for everyone else in the entire world, but never uses them for them (great guilt-manipulators aren't they?!)

Letting go In putting the layout together, it brought back all the memories of having to walk away that last time, get in the car and drive 10 hours home.  I'm crying now as I write this… it was devastatingly hard.  Those who have been through it know, those who haven't… there's really no perfect way to prepare for it except to know that it's coming one day.

It is easier to let go when you trust that your child's values are sound and have been time-tested.  It is easier to release them into the Lord's hands when you have prayed with them through decision after decision they have made throughout their short lifetimes.  It is easier when you know that they have learned to seek and love wisdom and recognize foolishness and its consquences.  It's easier when you have seen them grow in responisibility and maturity.  But the only way you'll really know that they believe all the things you've taught them, is to walk them through real, life-impacting, decision-making processes while they are still in your home.

What do I mean by this?  Giving them increasing authority to make decisions and bear the consequences of those decisions while they are still in the safety of your own home.  For example, your child is a Junior in High School and fights you constantly about being asked "Have you done your homework today?"  Releasing them might mean discussing that they will be given the responsibility of managing their own time in regards to doing their homework and with that freedom from reminding, also comes the responsibility of bearing the consequences if the work isn't done.  Then outlining those consequences as they pertain to life in general (failing grades etc.) and specific consequences in the family if they are not accomplished (loss of car privileges, etc.).

We often want our children to be totally responsible before we give them responsibility, but that isn't how it works.  We have to give them responsibility in order for them to become responsible.  If you don't control something, it's not possible to be responsible for it.  If someone comes in behind you and makes things right, you don't discover the consequences of doing a job wrong.  One reason that children raised on a farm often develop a great sense of responsibility is that if they don't care for the animals they are entrusted with, those animals can actually die.  They are depending on them for their very lives.  Also, if the farm doesn't  prosper, they don't prosper… there is direct correlation between choices and consequences both bad and good.

Letting go starts with allowing your three year old to tie his or her shoelaces even though you know they will just come untied because they haven't "done it right!"  Letting go is not doing anything for your child that he or she can now do for themselves.  It means letting them bear the consequences of not getting up early enough in the morning to fix their lunch… going hungry for a day or fending for themselves is a good opportunity for them to learn a life lesson.  It means not driving 20 minutes to school to deliver the term paper that they left at home — even though it may cost them a one or two grade drop.

Letting go is the hardest thing you will be called to do as a parent, but if you don't you'll never know the joy of a soaring heart as you watch your child fly straight and well.

Audrey Jeanne Roberts 

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Parenting With Purpose

It can feel so overwhelming to be a parent… If you can't get them to toss their clothes in the dirty clothes hamper how on earth are you going to get them to do the really important things in life well?  On most days, if you're like me, you struggle just to make it through the day, let alone accomplish something besides surviving! 

Sometimes when life itself is a challenge, it can be hard to think about the finish line of parenting.  What do you want your children to know before they leave your home?  What values in life are the most important?  How do they learn to make wise decisions and recognize the symptoms of foolish ones?  One of the best ways I know of, is to take time to clarify for yourself what were the most important lessons you've had to learn in life and what the values are that you want your children to hold to.  If you create even a short list of important things to focus on, you'll be much more likely to be successful than just drifting along without any clear destination or plan.

Perhaps one of the easiest examples I can share with you of how we approached parenting with purpose in our home, would be in relationship to teaching our children about marriage.  I came from a family that had two generations of divorce.  My grandmother was divorced in the 1930's and my own home was destroyed by divorce in the 1960's (when almost no one else was divorced).  I experienced firsthand its devastating effects and didn't want my children or grandchildren to experience it for themselves.  

I realized that I didn't learn algebra by accident and very few important lessons in life would be best taught by accident either!  So, in addition to the basics of brushing their teeth, keeping a clean house and learning how to learn in school, I wanted to make sure they could recognize what makes a good marriage in the first place.  Then what it would take to make their marriages grow and thrive.  I realized I needed to learn before I could teach them!  I read books, listened to wonderful resources like Focus on the Family (www.family.org), Family Life (www.familylife.org) and tried to put into practice what I was learning in my own life.  In many ways, I simply taught them what I was learning, but at an age appropriate level.

Children learn in a lot of ways, and of course the best way is by observing our lives. If Mom snipes at Dad behind his back, they learn it's okay to disrespect your husband if you disagree with him.  If Mom and Dad have a disagreement, but show their children that they can argue without being disrespectful, they teach them valuable skills of conflict resolution.   If we have a loving marriage, they learn what one looks and feels like, and how husbands and wives should treat each other. 

Hopefully by watching our marital interactions they won't be likely to settle for a relationship that is distant and strained, or be attracted to someone who is negative and critical.  One warning, when you teach by example, you'd better make sure you "practice what you preach!"  because they sure quickly notice when our words don't match up with our actions!

Another of our clear purposes in parenting was to make sure our children understood the difference between wisom and foolishness.  We wanted to help them connect the dots of cause and effect, i.e. foolish choice "A" led to the consequences "B, C & D."  Wise choice "A" led to these successes.  On the foolish side of the equation, they observed someone in our lives have an affair, get pregnant, get divorced, marry the individual they had an affair with and then saw the consequences to their life and the lives of their children.  We discussed in advance what was likely to happen and why.  They correctly anticipated the problems that would inevitably come and because they had been discussed in advance, really observed the consequences and remembered the lessons they taught. 

A positive lesson they learned from observing wise decisions was watching their cousin and her husband delay gratification and live simply in order to complete their college educations.  They lived in a tiny apartment, drove old cars, and didn't go shopping for new clothes and luxuries for what felt to them like a really long season.  Yet our girls saw how short the time really was and how quickly the time passed.  Once they both graduated, their careers opened up and they began to see the fruits of their wise choices, including their cousin being able to be achieve the desire of her heart and be a stay-at-home Mom. 

We're real people, and we've experienced our share of failures as well as success on this long road of parenting.  Keep in mind that children are a 30 year crop.  If you missed that post, you can read it here.  Knowing in advance the values you hope to instill in your children makes you much more likely to seize an opportunity for a discussion when it presents itself.  We found that little by little, through big discussions and little observations our children's values have been formed.  Life has tested them, our children have even challenged them at times and as each has passed into young adulthood we've experienced the joy of finding that our values have truly become their own. 

What's your purpose, your goal as a parent?  May God grant you the wisdom to discern it, the creativity to communicate it and great success in achieving it!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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