We all heard it growing up – if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. We heard it from our moms, dads, grandparents and teachers. We’ve probably said it to our own children. It’s such a pertinent phrase, too that we really need to take to heart when we speak about the people our children love.
It may be their teacher or someone even more significant like their biological mother, but no matter who, if that person holds a special place in their heart, our words should always reflect kindness. In general our words should reflect kindness across the board, but we’re all human and it can be a challenge at times. When it comes to the people our children love, however, we really must make it a priority.
Our children’s hearts are fragile. There are plenty of negative things in this world bruising their hearts and working against them. Don’t be one of them. You may not understand, or even like, the people your children love, but you love your children so be the bigger person for them.
In our case, the biological parents of my children have stories I never thought I would be a part of. They have stories of unimaginable trauma and although there is much with which I don’t agree, the fact remains that they are still my children’s biological parents. My children do, and forever will, have a connection with these people. They do, and forever will, love them.
It’s my job to foster that in appropriate ways. My nine and eight year olds don’t need to know the nitty-gritty details of their biological parent’s background. Eventually when they are older they will come to know those details, but right now, it’s my job to allow them to embrace the love they feel for them.
We can bond with our children by speaking kindly of those they love. We can bond with our children by encouraging and supporting their feelings about other people. Speak kindly about those they love and build a bridge of understanding, compassion and respect.
As someone who admittedly likes control, it is sometimes very difficult for me to have children. It’s difficult to allow them choices, let mistakes happen and watch as they work through problems. It would be so much easier to tell them what to do, how to do it and simply lead them by the hand through this journey called life. I know, however, that is not the best way to raise competent, kind and able adults so I swallow the urge to control and allow them to be little people. I allow them choices.
Allowing our children choices encourages bonding as it provides opportunities for learning and growth. Allowing choices also creates a relationships where trust is prominent because we are allowing them to make their own decisions.
As with all things, there are boundaries to this and I am not encouraging you to allow your young children to make unsafe or inappropriate choices. When your children are young, letting go of some control and allowing them to make the choice of what to wear to school is an easy start. It gives them the opportunity to begin creating a style and also allows them natural consequences that serve as powerful learning experiences. Your child will learn pretty quickly that it is not a wise choice to wear shorts in December. Your allowing them to make that mistake and choice forced them to own their choices and learn from them.
As your children age you can give them more opportunities to make choices with the goal being they will eventually be confident and competent to make the more difficult choices of late adolescence and adulthood. When we neglect to give our children the opportunity to make choices, we are doing them a severe disservice.
By allowing our children to make choices, we are not shielding them from mistakes. By allowing our children to make mistakes, we are instilling resilience and the chance to learn.
As much as we’d like to, we can’t shelter our children from the world, but rather we need to prepare them for it by allowing them choices.
When you have nearly a half-dozen children, it’s difficult to find individual time with each of them. It’s difficult, but it’s imperative to do so. In our home we celebrate our children’s adopt-a-versary. It is a day that we don’t dwell on the legal portion of their adoption, but rather simply dwell on them as an individual. We allow them to choose the activities and we go on a date with only us – mom, dad and child. It is a day that my children look forward to every year and they absolutely eat up the undivided attention.
Once a year is not sufficient, however, and we must make an effort to spend one on one time with our children on a regular basis. Our children need to know they are a priority and making time in our schedule to spend time with them is our pleasure, not a problem.
When you spend one on one time with your children, you are encouraging bonding by providing opportunities for communication and connection. You are embracing the relationship and proving it’s importance. When you spend one on one time with your children, you are raising a child who will be more successful in future relationships.
It doesn’t have to be an extravagant all day date or celebration to be beneficial! Make a habit of spending time each evening before bed with your individual children. We do it while praying each night, giving the children an individual opportunity to discuss their worries and praises. I have a friend who has pillow time with their child each night and it is an open opportunity to ask any question. There is no question off limits and there are no consequences for the questions asked. This is a safe time for the children to bond with their parents through open communication and an empowering opportunity to let them know their thoughts and questions are valued.
Spending one on one time with your children builds a relationship of trust, love and respect. It reminds the child – especially those in a large family – they are unique, valued and equally important in the dynamic of the family.
I love books! I have tried to instill a love of reading in my children and although they haven’t quite reached my level of love for books, they are getting closer. I have a small problem with buying children’s books though. I just can’t help it! I see a good story with catching illustrations and it must be added to my collection. My bookshelves are no longer neatly organized as there are too many books and not enough space, but it’s a problem I enjoy having!
As an adult, books are an escape for me. I love to read because I like to leave reality and go on adventures in the comfort of my own home. I want my children to know that luxury as well. I want them to love reading, but more, books for children contain many valuable lessons. Books encourage bonding by helping them realize they are not alone in their struggle, thoughts, successes and joy. I want my children to know it’s okay to embrace who they are and to know they are not alone.
Encourage your child in where they are in life by finding books that support their current situation. Is it the first day of school? There’s a book for that. Is there a new baby coming into the family? There’s a book for that. Struggling with body insecurity, lying or bullying? There are books for that! Children relate to books as they see the story play out in bright pictures on the page. They can connect with you as you read it to them and they can connect to the characters in the story.
Children will feel understood and supported when you read books that celebrate who they are. Children will be more apt to embrace and celebrate who they are when they feel connected to others who have experienced similar situations and feelings.
If you are looking for a book on a specific topic, stop by your local library or do a simple google search! The possibilities really are endless and children’s literature is an incredible resource to help us as parents support and encourage our children.
Life is busy, right? It’s basically the whole premise of this blog series! How we’re busy yet still need to make the conscious effort to find time and ways to bond with our children. The key word is conscious. We have to purposefully make time to ensure we are providing opportunities and acting in a way that creates bonds with our children.
Likewise, we have to consciously listen to our children and show it. There is always something more we could be doing, but we can not let it be at the expense of listening to our children. We can not continuously say through our actions that what they have to say is not important. Ultimately, we are telling them they are not important!
It’s hard! I understand it completely with a house of four children, a dog and a husband, I often feel as if someone (or something!) wants to talk to me every minute of every day. Sometimes I simply want to be immersed in my book without discussion or washing dishes listening only to the plip plop of the water droplets. Sometimes I just want to be left alone.
Unfortunately, our children don’t quite understand that desire and in our attempts to be left alone, all they see, feel and hear is rejection. When we don’t actively listen to our children, we’re encouraging an attitude of unworthiness.
We can encourage an attitude of worthiness and confidence by listening when our children speak. By putting our phones down, stopping what we’re doing and making eye contact with our children, we are reiterating that what they have to say is worth listening to and important. Even when it’s not actually important to us, it is still important to them. Embrace what they love, encouraging their passions.
Children will do what they see and when they see us listening to them and showing it, they will be more apt to actively listen to others. Model this to your children, building their confidence and self-worth while simultaneously instilling positive future behaviors.