Category Archives: Parenting

20 Things My Kids Should Know About Me (and maybe already do…)

My kids have a friend in CT whose dad just suddenly died of a heart attack – no warning, just gone.  It made me think about what I’d like to have made known to my kids if something happened to me.  I’m not sure I can get through this post without crying, but I think it is important to have thought through the things that are critical to me to have passed on, as well as to leave them with a smile on their face as they remember my silliness, too.  You are welcome to look in on this conversation, but you’ll have to excuse the personal nature of my post today as it will be addressed to my 4 amazing kids.

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1. I am WAY more health conscious than I live in reality.  My self-control doesn’t equal my passion for all things healthy.  I hope that I have passed on the knowledge and the passion for what great nutrition can do for your life in spite of the fact that I have fallen so short of implementing these beliefs.

2. On the flip side, I hate to exercise.  Really hate it.  If I get out and actually do it, it is because of sheer belief in it rather than passion for it.  However, in my mind, I am a marathon runner.  What does that say about me?!?

3. Without the socialization of your father, I would not be the person that I am.  His influence has allowed me to keep pace with his endless relational energy, and to be able to communicate to others that I really care and am approachable.

4. What I hear myself saying all of the time is, “That’s good enough,” and yet I really don’t like that about myself.  I wish that I had higher standards.

5.  I feel really confident in 4 things:  parenting, homeschooling, creating memories, and communicating tough concepts. That doesn’t mean I’m really good at them…I just have done them enough that I feel confident in my role.

6. One of the reasons that I feel confident about parenting is because right after I had my first baby, I attached myself to someone who had raised kids that I respected.  I sucked her dry of all of her wisdom and insight.  One of the best things I’ve ever done, and I highly recommend you to do the same when the time comes.

7. If I had more money, besides being radically generous with you kids and with others, I’d dress a lot differently.  My wardrobe reflects that “…it is good enough…” attitude.  If I knew that everyone’s needs/wishes were met, I imagine that I’d have fun picking out a wardrobe that reflects more of my tastes than it reflects being frugal.

8. I have learned to control my external emotions; however, while you don’t see me cry very often, I am really extremely emotional.  There are dozens of times a week that tears come to the surface, only to have me push them down.  It kind of scares me how deeply I feel.

9. You guys know this…I just think it would make you smile to remember if I wasn’t around: I get completely grossed out by watching someone else brush their teeth.  Truth be told, I get grossed out when I brush my own teeth.  Of course I brush, but I consider it a success if I get through the experience without gagging.  It is so bad that I brush  my teeth while I’m in the shower…with my eyes closed. (I am even getting queasy thinking about it as I write…).

10. I want so desperately for you guys to be great best friends.  I imagine (a lot more than you would think) days in the future when we all get together and completely enjoy being in each other’s company.  It is one of my favorite daydreams.

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11. I’ve decided that I don’t hate cooking – I just would like it more if I had all of the latest gadgets, the best laid-out kitchen, and the most exotic ingredients. I don’t like having to try to make the same old things taste different every evening.  I’m not very good at that.

12. Nature is a gift to me, and I  am always imagining how to craft our day so that we can be outside.  Having lots of open space helps me think, process and breathe easier.

13.  I am a really good typist.  In fact, if you watch closely during conversations, I often type what is being said.  Subtly, so that no one notices…because that would be really weird to type what people were saying, wouldn’t it? I am also a great speller, but my secret is that I have to type the word to know how they’re spelled.  If you ask me how to spell something, watch closely, because my fingers are moving to help me “visualize” how the word is spelled.

14.  My definition of happiness includes a lot, but the highlights are:  a slight breeze on a 75 degree day on the beach of the ocean, having what I need when I need it, a good book and a fire place, and hearing you guys laugh and having fun together.

15.  I am terribly nostalgic, but I don’t get to indulge in that because it makes me emotional.  And we now know how I feel about showing emotions, huh?

16.  One of the things truly puzzles and grieves me is that I have very few clear memories from my past: childhood, high school, or college.  That is one reason why I scrapbook and intentionally create memories with you guys.  I get to capture memories I want to hold on to, and capture memories I hope that you can remember.

17. There are few things more satisfying to me than editing.  I love the order of it, and how things “magically” jump out at me that are grammatically wrong, or that could simply be said better.  I do, however, have to be careful not to be critical of bad editing in public.  I can be so snarky when I see billboards, signs, or publications that have poor grammar or misspellings.

18. Gardening scratches two itches of mine:  being outside and being productive.  I spend time scheming in my mind how I’ll be able to fit in more veggies and containers in the backyard (and the side of the house, and the front yard, and the neighbors’ yards…).  The process of planting and seeing things grow is only eclipsed by preparing meals from food that I’ve grown.

19. I love your dad deeply, and believe that our commitment and enjoyment of each other makes you guys all the stronger and happier.  Loving him is the best way I can love you guys, and I have worked tirelessly to be able to honestly say that I love him with all of my heart and I am so happy that I married him.

20.  I am unbelievably proud of each of you.  I don’t deserve credit for how great you guys are.  I’m not patient enough.  I’m not creative enough.  I’m not godly enough.  I’m not wise enough.  And yet, He loves me enough that He gave me you.  Mind blowing.  My heart is full with gratitude that I get to be your mom.

Me

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Strategies for Dealing with Clutter (or How to Live with a Keeper)

I am not a keeper.  I don’t like clutter, and I don’t function well when things are in chaos around me.  For all of the facets of personality and preference in which my husband and I are opposites, this is one upon which we both agree. We aren’t into knick-knacks, pointless decorations, or clutter.  That isn’t to say that those who like things around them are wrong – it just isn’t my preference.

I believe that, for all of the things that are passed on to our children by them simply observing us, this trait isn’t one of them. I think that we naturally come to either enjoy things being around us, or we don’t.  Or, we choose to keep things around us for different reasons other than having seen it modeled.

I can say this because somewhere along the journey of raising my children, I realized that I inadvertently raised a keeper.  I have a child who places value on keeping a memento as a way of keeping a memory.  She collects things while she collects memories. The objects have emotions filed with them – for her, the two go hand in hand.

I also have Goodwilled/thrown away/garage saled (garage sold?) way too many precious items. To this day, my littlest (who is 13) talks about a doll that was sold when she was 5.  Still.  To.  This.  Day.  And each time, I find myself trying to keep my head above a tsunami of guilt.

My struggle as a parent is the balance of giving grace and room for each of my kids to be completely themselves, while teaching them good organizational skills and keeping our home a place of peace for those of us in the family who are not keepers.

My mom is an example in this for me.  She keeps things – maybe not as a memory keeping tool like my daughter, but to always be ready for anything. For years, she and my dad directed high school plays in a rural school that didn’t have a budget for props or costumes.  Being a gifted seamstress, she took the costumes on herself, using any fabric on hand, from toss-away scraps to some of my (and my sister’s) high school clothes.  It became a strategic practice for her to keep anything and everything, because you just never knew when it might be needed to make the perfect prop or costume.

For years, every time I came home to visit, I was driven to purge and organize her stuff.  I got matching cardboard boxes, I got file cabinets, every organizational supply you can imagine, and went to town on her collection.

Over time I began to realize that she really knew where everything was, even in the midst of seeming chaos.  Somehow, the clutter and disorder actually held a specific code that she knew how to decipher.  Eventually I quit trying to “help” her, and relaxed in the comfort of her system.

With that delicate balance in mind, I have a few suggestions on how to help those of you who are raising keepers.

*  Be intentional about having a conversation with your kids about organizational skills.  Don’t assume that just because they live with you, they’re getting your skills.  Teach them how to approach a cleaning job.  Teach them to be systematic (start on one side of the room and work your way around) and how to be detailed.

*  On a regular basis, schedule time with your kids to purge.  Encourage your kids to evaluate their possessions as to whether or not they still hold value.  Teach them how to make decisions as to whether an item is a keep/sell/give away object.  Note of caution:  Be extremely sensitive in this process.  Don’t rush or push, threaten or bribe.  This is a very personal decision.

*  Put a rule in place that nothing can be added until something is removed. Unless you have endless space, just for practicality, something must be removed if an item is being added.

*  Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends to NOT give your kids stuffed animals.  We found that these took up so much room.  It isn’t that we are anti-stuffed animals entirely, but they become the go-to gift when someone is a unsure as to what to give a child, and eventually, their rooms will become overrun with bears, dogs, penguins, zebras, etc.

*  If at all possible, give your child their own space – either their own room, or a drawer, closet, or box, in which they can keep to their heart’s content.

I also recognize that there are some adults who are keepers.  If you have unlimited space, if your roommate or spouse is completely fine with having lots of objects around them, or if your keeping hasn’t gotten out of control, then don’t worry about it.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having stuff.

But, if you feel like your habits are infringing on those with whom you live, or if you feel like your collecting has gotten out of hand, then maybe some of the things I mentioned will help.  I hope so!

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The Stuff of Legends

Another of my life’s dreams was accomplished last Memorial Day, but since we were plotting a cross-country move, I didn’t get a chance to journal about the experience.  My apologies up front – there are a LOT of pictures in this post.  I couldn’t help myself.  It might take a while to load.

I requested of my family that we spend our holiday forsaking the picnics to which we’d been invited (all lovely offers) and trekking to New York City to see with my eyes what I’d only imagined for years.

I grew up hearing about Coney Island, complete with the boardwalk, amusement park rides, and the ocean; however, being the daughter of two teachers and living in small town Nebraska didn’t bode well to me ever vacationing in New York City.

Moving to Connecticut made that wish a closer possibility.

The first time we traveled to NYC, I was in awe.  The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden, a Broadway show, Times Square, etc.  All of these had been other peoples’ realities, they had been the settings for novels, the backdrops for movies, but never once had I imagined myself being inserted into that world.

The first Christmas that we ventured into NYC to look at Macy’s and the Macy’s Santa Claus, all of the beautifully decorated display windows, ice skaters and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, carriage rides around Central Park…it all felt like I was stepping into someone else’s reality.  What I was seeing with my own eyes had been, to me, in the realm of legend.

Over the years of living in Connecticut, we became tourists at many of the hottest NYC destinations; however, one of the places I’d always wanted to see was Coney Island.  Because it isn’t directly in the area of the traditional NYC tourist spots, we had never ventured over to Brooklyn to experience it.  On this day, we made a special trip.

I was giddy.  Not the skipping around giggling kind of giddy, but the quiet, I-can’t-stop-smiling kind of giddy.  I walked with my family just taking it all in.

We walked down the boardwalk…

on to the long pier…

through some of the shops…

…and then on to the rides.

Coney Island is known for its huge ferris wheel, called the Wonder Wheel.  The following pictures were taken of the ferris wheel, or while on the ride.  The views were amazing.

What made it really intense was that it was packed due to the holiday.  Far from being mainly for tourists, this is a local hot spot for families and singles to inexpensively play in the water.

The way we wrapped up the day was to sample the goods of Coney Island:  the corn dog.  The reputation of the corn dog eating competition, and the claim to fame of the world’s first corn dog, was enough for us to stand in a long, long line to secure one for ourselves.  All but the most dogged vegetarians in my family took a small bite.

It was a hot, hot day, and the beaches, boardwalks and shops were packed. Whereas that might normally be a detraction for me, the noisy, busy crowd only added to the mystique of the place.

Now that we have moved from the northeast, the possibility of returning here is slim; however, having truly absorbed the experience, I don’t feel the need to return.

I guess we’ll have to go explore the Alamo!

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Curbing the Competition

Today, my home is filled with the unbelievably loud antics of my kids playing with each other.  Most of the time it is goofy wrestling (and believe me, that’s not just the boys).  Sometimes it is the made up family game of “Can We Make Them Laugh Hysterically”, with one of my kids who laughs really easily as the main target.  It could also be playing card or board games, playing on the Wii, or any number of activities.

It wasn’t always this way.  Just a few years ago, the kids were constantly operating in strife, angry with each other, so easily offended, and very competitive.

One of the tactics that we employed to end the sibling strife was to cut down on the competition.  One of the phrases that we heard around the house was, “That’s not fair.”  If you hear that statement floating around your house, that is clue that there might be comparison between your kids, and comparison births competition.

As I analyzed where the competition was coming from, I realized that I was treating my children as a group.  When we went anywhere, we went as a group.  If we went grocery shopping, my goal was to get all 4 into the store, get all 4 to keep their hands to themselves, and to have all 4 not screaming at the same time. Keeping them alive, safe, and quiet was a huge task, and thinking of them as one unit instead of four little individuals allowed me to wrap my brain around my overwhelming goal.

I called them my herd.  My herd went in, my herd went out.  My herd went to bed, my herd got up.  For me it meant that each one had been grouped as a collective to make my job easier.

Recognizing this, I started to change the way that I talked and thought.Instead of giving time to the herd, I started pulling each one aside for individual time.  Instead of planning my days with all of them involved in every activity, I started scheduling outings so that I could take just one or a couple with me.

I also started calling them out individually.  Instead of calling them all to dinner, I started by inviting each individually to come.  Instead of assigning a general clean up time, I started assigning specific chores to specific people, listing them out by name.

What each child wants is to feel individual, unique and special.  When you treat them as individuals and focus on each child alone, you’ll be surprised at how much comparison and competition is limited in your family.

I’m not saying that this simple change of thought – from the herd to individuals – will stop all arguing and fussing in your home, but I am suggesting that it is a good place to start.  After all, we like to be thought of us special and contributing something unique to the family.

In the family of God, He knows us.  He says that He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7), that we’re the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), and that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26).   He says that we were wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that He knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5).    I could go on and on – the Bible is full of references to how He special He thinks that we are.

Give it a try!  Make a practice of treating your kids, or kids around you, as unique and special individuals, without trying to treat them all equally or the same. Tell me how it makes a difference!

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What is Parenting Success?

How do I, as a parent, define success?  The question is a really valid one, and one that deserves to be part of a parenting philosophy that guides your actions.

Do you define success by whether or not you’ve been completely consistent throughout the day?  Throughout the child’s life?

Is success defined by kids that bring you honor by their behavior?

Is success defined by kids that make it through adolescence without a major mistake?

Is success defined by kids that are followers of Christ?

Or could it be something completely different?

Let me suggest that successful parenting could be defined not by the product that you produce, but the process of daily parenting.

Because my faith in Jesus guides every aspect of my life and all decisions with my family, I believe that my faith in Jesus should guide my parenting. Therefore, to me, successful parenting has less to do with the outcome of my child’s behavior, and more to do with whether or not my daily parenting brings glory to God.

When it comes down to it, my amazing children all have their own wills and their own stories.  I do believe that I have influence over the choices that they make, but I certainly don’t have control over their lives.  Since that is the case, the definition of success should be based less on whether or not my kids succeed based on a certain standard, and more on whether or not I’ve brought honor to my faith along the way.

Obviously, because I believe so strongly in finding parenting mentors, and because I’ve read and written quite a bit about parenting, I think there is a lot to being well equipped for the job of parenting.  I strongly believe in doing research and studying for this position.  However, a lot of advice and a lot of information in books revolves around the idea that, if you follow specific steps to parent, or if you model your parenting around various philosophies, your children will turn out great.  The implied message is that if your kids don’t turn out as you hoped, or as you were promised in the book, you did something wrong.  You didn’t work the system specifically enough.

I’ve known way too many fantastic parents who did everything “right” but ended up with kids who followed the “wrong” path.  One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, a pastor whom I highly respect, had a brother who spent his adult life in jail.  The same parents, the same parenting process, a completely different result.

If your instinct is to make yourself feel better by trying to figure out where other parents made their parenting mistakes, what inconsistencies must’ve been in play, what signs they might’ve missed, then you’ve defined parenting success differently than I have.

What I have seen, both in scripture and in life experience, are examples where the right philosophy and methods were used without netting good results, but God was still glorified.

If that is the case, then don’t be so quick to judge yourself (or others) if your kids:

…don’t listen and obey the first time.

….throw temper tantrums repeatedly.

….don’t treat others with kindness even though you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to do so.

…don’t choose the right friends.

…don’t follow the spiritual path you’ve dreamed for them.

Those issues shouldn’t determine whether or not you’ve had success as a parent.

So how do you know if you’re succeeding or not?

I propose that the starting point to answer that question is looking at whether or not your process of parenting glorifies God in each and every parenting opportunity.

If you have to correct your child, did you do it lovingly?
Did you do it with patience?
Were you self controlled?
Did you set the right example?
Did you act out of the spirit instead of the flesh?
Did your behavior point your children to God?

Of course, the above standard is simply a goal – we are not going to be perfect. And the good news is that even our imperfections can point our kids to God if we follow through with humility, ask for forgiveness, and model that though we might fail, we’ll keep on trying through His strength.

Please don’t misunderstand me…I care desperately how my children turn out.  I believe that we should forever be working towards training and leading them.  I find comfort in Proverbs 22:6 where it says that if we train up our children in the way they should go, then when they’re old they’ll not depart from it.

However, when it is all said and done, it is not about me or my kids, it is about God.  If He has been glorified by my actions, whether they be successes or failures, then I have been a success.

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10 Survival Tips for Introverted Parents

Being an introvert can make parenting a challenge.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I had a personality/giftings expert tell me that, based on my personality alone, I should never have kids.  I function best with plenty of solitude, being able to start and complete a task in one sitting, and to have my day structured and organized.  In short, I am an introvert.  In this expert’s opinion, child raising and introvertedness create a difficult pairing that is almost too great to overcome.

While I wholeheartedly agree that being an introvert and being a parent create unique challenges, I also believe that it is absolutely possible to do, all the while remaining sane.  There are a few strategies that I’ve found can be put in place to help the process go more smoothly.  I wanted to take a minute today to submit several ideas that I’ve found that make parenting as an introvert a bit easier.

#1  Require a no-unnecessary-noise zone.
One way for me to cope well is to keep noise to a minimum.  I recognize that having kids around intrinsically means there will be noise, and often times fun and noise go hand in hand.  I realize that I can’t have (and really don’t want) a completely noise-free zone.  However, we do have a rule that there will be no unnecessary noise.  Unnecessary noise means things like tapping, yelling, repetitive mouth sounds, loud singing, etc.  The phrase, “No unnecessary noise…” is heard often in our home.

#2 No two noisemakers going at the same time.
This relates closely to point #1; however, it zeros in specifically on things that make noise that might compete with one another, such as:   TV, computer game sounds, radio, toys that make noise, instruments, videos, singing, etc.  In our home, no two noise makers are run simultaneously.  And yes, there have been many fights discussions as to whose noise maker wins out – but in the end, it is better for me to wade through the dispute and have a relatively quiet place to reside.

#3 Mandatory nap/quiet time.
This suggestion incorporates creating emotional and physical moments of rest. When my four were little, we had mandatory nap time.  As they grew older, we shifted to enforcing a mandatory quiet time.  That time included reading books, resting in bed, or drawing.  Any activity that involved me or involved a potential fight between the siblings was nixed.

#4 Early bedtime.
Of course the time is negotiable, but having your kids go to bed early gives you space to rebuild your reserves for the coming day. My kids’ bedtime was always 7pm.  Even as they got older, we still maintained that time.  (Even until they were 10 or 11, they still went to bed at 7.) They could read in bed, listen to tapes in their rooms or play quietly, but they knew that I was “off duty” at 7pm. Since the time that my kids have barely been able to have real discussions, we have talked about how their early bedtime was much more about my need for replenishment than their need for rest.  I explained that it was motivated by my personality, and that I would be a better mommy if I had time in the evenings to recharge and refuel.

#5 Having kids stay in bed in the morning until an agreed upon time.
Even from the youngest of their ages, my kids have had a set time when they could get up.  When they were really little, they were to stay in their beds until we came to get them.  As they got older and could tell time, they knew to stay in their rooms until the designated time arrived.   That gave me a predictable beginning to my day, and allowed me to get mentally and physically prepared to handle the busyness that was to come.

#6 Have the day planned.
For me, having a structure/schedule is essential to my peace of mind.  Looking at the day as a blank slate is paralyzing; therefore, having a general agenda planned is so helpful.  Taking the few minutes that it takes to plan out events is well worth the mental energy saved throughout the day.

#7 Plan quiet activities for yourself (journaling, walking outside, etc).
Having activities that provide refilling, that fuel the introvert within you, are so key to being able to stay positive and pleasant throughout the day.  Find those things that restore your soul and regularly participate in them.  Plan your day with those elements included.

#8 Find activities to do with your kids that replenish you.
It is important that you recognize which activities throughout the day fill you or drain you.  The activities that both entertain my kids and replenish me are reading to them, playing board games, going on walks, etc.  I encourage you to think through the activities that you do with your kids and pinpoint which ones have a better chance of being replenishing to you.  When you plan your day, plan more activities that fall into that replenishing category.  Recognize which activities are draining, and if trying to creatively craft (or something like that) stresses you out, schedule it in very limited amounts.

#9 Use your introverted strengths.
As a whole, introverts are good with attention to detail and researching. Schedule your day so that most of your energy is spent moving in your strengths.  In one of my previous posts, I talked about how one of my daughters wanted Valentine’s Day cards handmade.  Not considering myself very creative, I realized that I could use my strengths of research to look up what handmade crafts might be available on the internet.  Instead of stressing over completing a task that took me out of my natural abilities (which is always draining), I found a way to use my strengths to see her project completed.

#10 Be intentional about face time with your kids.
If you spend quality time with kids – make eye contact and listen actively – they will feel really heard and connected to.  Parenting children who truly feel heard makes the parenting interaction so much easier.  Throughout the day when they get annoying, try to stop and intentionally listen to them (instead of brushing them off or making it clear how busy you are).  You might just see that the escalation of distress will cease.

Your unique personality, whether it be a demonstrative extrovert or a reserved introvert, is a gift from God.  As a parent, you have unique gifts that you pass on to your kids, and understanding your personality and working with the gifts that you have make you more effective in your role as a parent.

Let me know what other techniques you use to thrive as a parent!

 

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Raising the Opinionated (Strong Willed) Child – Part II

My two opinionated kids are the spice of our family.  Their ideas are never-ending, their spunk is enlightening.  They have motivation and drive to accomplish anything to which they put their minds.

However, they also need to be parented differently than my two that are more compliant and introverted.  Every strength in our character/personality has an opposite side to it, and the opinionated kids among us are no different.

If you have an opinionated child, you know that:

 – While they have the potential to be great leaders, they have a tendency towards bossiness.
The most opinionated of my children has the capacity to be the strongest leader among us.  She can walk into a situation, assess what needs to be done, and then with ease assign tasks to people.  What a gift!

And yet, as the youngest of four, she has no one to lead.  When she walks into a situation and starts assigning tasks to her older siblings, they look at her like, “Umm…who do you think that you are?  Do you realize that you are YOUNGER than me?!? ”  They are quick to remind her that she has no authority to be bossing them around.

Without the maturity of tact and relational skills, leadership becomes bossiness.  With no one around to train a young leader how to be tactful and strategic with people, they will grow up to be the condescending, bossy, tactless boss that we all know.

I believe it is my role, as her mother, to train and develop those tendencies within her.  It is my job and privilege to help my gifted daughter to temper her strength with character, patience and love.
* * We do that with many reminders throughout the day.  From a very young age, I have found myself so very often asking her to take another shot at whatever she had just said, saying it in a different, more loving, tactful way.
* * We practiced communicating kindly.  In non-stressful situations, I have had her practice phrases that would be more tactful options, and I have had her work through various circumstances where she could either jump into a situation and take over, or jump into the same situation and lead tactfully.
* * We found places for her to practice her leadership gifts (she became a teacher’s helper at dance class, for example).

 – While they are able to express their opinions with great passion and emotion, they have a tendency to be moody.
My two younger children walk in extremes.  I have often said that, with them, when there are tears, you don’t know whether they just stubbed their toe, or cut the whole toe off.  The emotions are the same for either situation.  If you cross their wills, even if it is just a simple command that they don’t wish to fulfill, the emotion you’ll get is as if you just asked them not to save the world from a cataclysmic catastrophe.  It can be exhausting to try to reign in an opinionated child.

Once again, training kicks in.
* * We don’t overlook/ignore the emotional roller coasters, we discuss them.  Even as little kids with limited verbal abilities, we’d talk about where the strong emotion was coming from, and how they could manage it better.
* * We’d offer them tools to manage extreme emotion, such as, as little kids, jumping up and down, or as a little older kids, taking a few minutes alone to depressurize, reflect and pray.
* * We don’t let strong emotions bully us into changing our minds.  If the idea that an emotional outburst, or a display that they feel strongly enough about something, makes them think that they actually get what they want, then they will continue to do so without ever maturing and learning better coping skills.  We don’t allow for emotional manipulation in our home.

 – While they won’t settle for less than what they believe is right and just, they have a tendency to believe that everyone else is wrong.  They have a tendency to test the limits.
Those of you with highly opinionated (strong willed) kids are out there stating a sarcastic, “No…”   This is life with an opinionated kid.

Unlike my more compliant children, my opinionated kids love a good debate. They love to take a rule and test the limits to see if it really applies to them. They love to see if you, as a parent, really mean what you say.  They are the toddlers who, when you tell them not to touch the lamp, walk right over to it, look you in the eye, and touch it.  As they get older, they are the kids that will take a boundary that you set and, without hesitation, will defiantly tell you that you are wrong or unreasonable.

While the other statements I previously made have been more about training the child, I believe this one is more about training the parent.
* * With an opinionated, strong child, you have to mean what you say.  You have to give direction and boundaries without hesitation, but don’t require something of this child that you don’t really feel strongly about.  The reason for that is that they will test you, cause you to question what you’re asking, and more times than not, will convince you you’re wrong.  If you’re  not careful, you will end up backing down on the majority of rules that you put in place.  Sometimes you’ll back down because you change your mind, but  more often than not, it will be because the requirement isn’t worth the fight you encounter.  On some days, this will be how you spend most of your day.
* * Pick your battles.  This is very similar to the suggestion above, but brings parenting outside of just the rules, and takes it to the specifics of your day.  An opinionated child can argue about anything:  whether they will wear their coat today, whether they want cereal out of the green or red bowl, whether they want their hair color to be green or red.  In each situation, decide whether or not this is a battle to be fought, or a situation to let go.
* * Offer them choices.  Choices where you can agree with either option.  Such as, “Do you want to wear the striped shirt or the orange one?”  “Do you want to want to eat cereal or oatmeal?” “Do you want to ride with your leader, or do you want to walk home?”  Giving your child options helps them have an outlet for their opinions.  They will feel a little more in control of their lives, and you should have fewer arguments.
* * Find support for yourself.  Surround yourself with others who will either back you up on the stands that you take, or will be a source of encouragement and building you up.
* * Journal/write/be well rested/have you day well planned out.  Being organized, being at your best, and taking time to review your day are all helpful strategies to staying filled.  Being with a combative, strong child can be quickly draining, so you need to make sure you are ready and organized for each day.
* * Look for the delightful aspects of your child.  Maybe it is just me, but in the heat of a confrontation, it is easy to lose sight of the gentleness within your child.  It is easy to see your child as one-sided, as the one who makes life difficult.  Stop, take a break, and remind yourself of all of the beautiful things about that child.

 – In their weakest, most tired moments, or when they’re under stress, they tend to move into control.
I state this just so that you, as a parent, can be aware of it.  Most opinionated kids will become more bossy (controlling what others do), and more disagreeable (controlling their circumstances).  That doesn’t mean that you let all training slide, but it hopefully will give you understanding, that in turn will give you more patience, and therefore allow you to parent with more love.

I want to close with that idea that in our home, we place very high the value of knowing what our personality styles are and accepting each other for who we are.  We teach them that we were placed in this family together to make each other stronger, and that we are not to put down, belittle, or judge each other based on our weaknesses.  However, we also recognize that we are not perfect, there are more areas of immaturity than maturity, and we don’t expect our kids to react lovingly every single time.  I hope that these ideas shared help you feel normal and give you some ideas on how to parent (and enjoy) your highly opinionated child.

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