Mean What You Say

There was a time (I’m sure there has been more than one!) when my children were driving me crazy. Crazy like they haven’t stopped talking, shouting, arguing all afternoon and I wanted to pull my hair out.

I made the mistake of saying just that – “You’re going to make me pull my hair out!” My middle son who is very literal looked at me all perplexed and asked, “won’t that hurt?”

There was another instance when my oldest son and I were discussing his Halloween costume. He was going to be a giant inflatable dinosaur and we were talking about how it “blows up”. My youngest again looked confused and said, “I don’t want him to blow up .That will hurt him.” He thought his brother was going to quite literally explode in his Halloween costume.

This kid keeps me laughing and on my toes, but also constantly reminds me of the importance of saying what I mean. There are many children who don’t understand sarcasm or slang and it is imperative that we say exactly what we mean when speaking to them. The words coming out of our mouths have the ability to leave a lasting impression – good, bad or otherwise.

It should always be our intent to leave a positive impression, however, if we’re constantly saying one thing, but doing another, we’re telling our children we can not be trusted and we will not do what we say.

Say what you mean and mean what you say so your children will always be aware of what is expected of them. By being conscious of the words coming out of our mouth we can limit the stress our children experience in confusion.

When we mean what we say, we’re reiterating that we are trust worthy and will care for their needs. By choosing our words carefully, we can bond with our children through consistency, reminding them they are safe and secure.

Allow Them to Create Their Own Space

When children entered my home, my OCD tendencies really took a beating. I spend a lot of time swallowing the urge to fix messes and straighten toys. I want my children to take ownership of their things, their spaces. I don’t want to constantly be fixing it for them (even though it makes me crazy!) and I want them to be responsible for the things they say are important.

This is a life lesson wrapped in an opportunity for growth and bonding. When children are given the opportunity to create their own space, they are more likely to take pride in and maintain it. Giving them control over the small aspects of life builds trust.

In my home, I had to slowly give them the freedom to create their own space. I wasn’t able to throw my hands in the air and shout, “have at it!”, but that’s ok! Even in small doses, bit by bit, your child is learning responsibility as they tackle the new task. This is an especially good technique if you are worried about your child’s ability to maintain a space.

As silly as it sounds, it started with allowing my children to hang pictures on their walls. There were words misspelled and they used the kind of tape that would peel the paint, but I left them there. It was amazing how excited the children were to show people their bedroom. Why? Because it was suddenly theirs and they were taking ownership.

Allowing children to create their own space doesn’t have to be an extravagant makeover! Allowing children to create their own space simply has to be an openness to their input, their ideas.

Start small by allowing them to hang pictures or choose their comforter and work your way from there to larger furniture and even paint. You can help your child feel secure in their space by trusting them to make some decisions about it. 

Encourage Them to Tell You Stories

We’ve talked about telling our children stories about their past and about the past of those they love. We’ve talked about open communication and today I suggest you encourage your children to tell you stories.

Whether they be made up or of their day at school, encourage your children to express those stories. Working their imagination or working through emotions as they detail their day will help them become better communicators. Giving our children the floor for speaking their stories instills a sense of identity, allowing them to showcase who they are.

This is especially important in instances of foster and adopted children who come into your home at an older age. Allowing them the opportunity to tell stories opens avenues for you to get to know them on a deeper level. Storytelling promotes bonding as you create a sense of understanding and respect. Knowing where someone came from is a huge benefit in figuring out how to have a positive relationship with them.

Sometimes the stories relayed are of situations you weren’t aware of or aren’t proud of. Keep calm and allow it be a learning experience. When we react calmly, our children will be more likely to come to us again in the future.

When we encourage our children to share the stories of their life, we are encouraging them to own their choices. Own who they are.

Cook Together

In the second grade my oldest son had the assignment of demonstrating a “how to” project. We went back and forth on what he wanted to do and he finally decided to show his class how to make chocolate chip cookies. Don’t get the wrong idea, this was a how to make chocolate chip cookies from a pouch demonstration, not a from scratch demonstration.

Regardless of whether we used a pouch or individual ingredients, my son was thrilled to be cooking with me. He may have been thrilled with the batches and batches of cookies we made while practicing but I like to think it was the act of cooking with me that brought him so much joy.

Cooking with children is such a beneficial experience! Not only does it form bonds through collaboration and the mutual love of food (who doesn’t love food?), it is an extremely educational experience. There is reading involved through recipes and math through measuring. Sequencing skills are used and safety measures are discussed.

Cooking with children is a multifaceted adventure that you would otherwise be doing alone. Invite your children into the kitchen starting with small jobs, slowly increasing as they grow in confidence and ability. Instill self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment as they taste and enjoy their final creations.

Creating something that you can enjoy together is a special experience. By cooking with your children you are teaching them valuable life skills while also encouraging independence, direction following and follow through.

You have multiple opportunities every day to form bonds through chocolate chip cookies, pizza, meatloaf or more!

Don’t Force It

You know that feeling when you want something so badly you feel like you’d give or do just about anything to get it? The feeling that tells you if you try harder or work more it will happen? There will be a day that feeling directly correlates with the relationship you have with your children.

I pray that it is short-lived and inconsequential. I pray that maybe it doesn’t happen at all, but when/if it does, my advice to you is to not force it. Don’t put so much energy into forcing a relationship that you inflict more cracks than repairs.

Children are fickle beings especially as they get older (I haven’t yet experienced this, but have heard from those who have!). Even when they know, wholeheartedly, they need and love you, they will push boundaries and push you away. This is not the time or opportunity to exhibit dominance and force your position in their life. This is the time for you to be the steadfast, unfaltering rock they need.

As a foster / adoptive parent, it is our desire to lift up every child who enters our home. We wish to surround them with our love and dote on them tirelessly, but some simply aren’t ready for it. Some are trying to understand and work through the trauma they’ve experienced while others are so used to being let down their walls are built of sturdy rock.

These moments are not our opportunity to push harder, but rather stand firmer. In not forcing a relationship, but rather enduring the storm by their side, you are showing them you respect their boundaries, but are still available.

Encourage bonding with your children by not forcing it, but allowing it to happen more naturally. Show your child respect by maintaining the boundaries they set while still enforcing your own. Build bridges by giving them space to work on themselves and they will eventually invite you in to help.

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