Tag Archives: kids

Different Parenting Techniques for Introverted and Extroverted Kids

I was one of those mothers who’s firstborn child made her look really good.  My firstborn was (and still is) a really easy kid, sweetly introverted, and geared at pleasing.  As a matter of fact, my first two children were really easy.   When the second one came along and was equally obedient, polite, gentle, and brilliant, he confirmed my suspicions about the world’s greatest parent thing.

What I asked them to do, they did.  When I told them where we were going, they were excited about it.  When I told them to go to bed, they did without fussing.  They made eye contact when being introduced, were quiet when I needed them to be, and were flexible with my schedule.  They were introverts who enjoyed just being with me, without trying to drive the agenda.

And then my third came along.  He was different from day one.  He was born with opinions about everything.  He cared about when he ate, he cared about the condition of his diaper, he cared about who was holding him, he cared about the position of his head and how he was being held.  He wasn’t a cranky child, but just an extrovert that came into the world with ideas about how the world should listen to him.

He made parenting an adventure.

And then my fourth came along.  From day one, she ruled the roost.  She was a healthy baby, but from months 3 – 10, she cried constantly if she wasn’t being held.  And being that she was my fourth child and I had 3 others to care for, she wasn’t held all that often.  Those months were very, very loud.

If I thought that my third born had opinions, I found that I was redefining what that meant based on my fourth child.  My youngest came born to rule, and she let everyone know it.

Very early on in the life of my youngest, we realized that we had to completely relearn how to parent.  Things that I took for granted with the other 3 were now complicated.  Ways that I enforced discipline had to be modified.  Styles and tones of communication had to change.

Some people call kids like my 3rd and 4th strong willed.  I choose to say it is having strong opinions.  The difference to me is perspective.

Strong willed has been portrayed as negative.  A strong will is just asking to be broken, to be put in its place.  It is a challenge to the authority of adults and must be taught who is boss.

But I believe that the opinions, leadership, and strength of a classic strong willed, extroverted child are gifts that will lead them directly into the will of God.  If we break them, sideline them, or communicate how frustrating they are, then we are running the risk of destroying the very gift that God has placed in them to accomplish things greater than we can imagine.  Their passion, emotion, stubbornness, etc are exactly the kind of traits that can be used in radical ways – and I want to be able to step back and know that I did nothing but encourage and shape those gifts.

My two extroverted 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, extroverted 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, 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 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.  

Unlike my more compliant children, my extroverted 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 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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I left my newborn in a grocery store

So yes, I must confess:  I left my newborn in a grocery store.

Before you freak out on me and deem me a terrible mother, I should also say that it was my 4th (because that makes everything better…:-) and it wasn’t for very long.  This same child locked herself in our car when she was 2, in the middle of a Texas summer, while we  searched the neighborhood for her. She thought the idea of playing in the car was fun and climbed back into the car when noone was watching.  (I’d guess the temperature inside the car was about 120 degrees.)  This same child also walked off from me in a huge shopping mall the last few days before Christmas when she was 5.  Security was called, we all frantically looked for about 40 minutes, and were 5 minutes away from locking down the entire mall when someone spotted her and returned her to me.  She is, and has always been, a very independent thinker.

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Of course, that doesn’t explain me leaving her in a grocery store.  I just shared all of that to free some of you up from the grip of perfectionism.

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On the day in question, she was probably 2 weeks old and it was the first time I was venturing with all four of my kids to the grocery store.  Admittedly, I was quite distracted.  My  hands were really, really full.  So full, in fact, that while I had come in to the store with my hands very full, I left with my hands still very full – just not quite as full as they should’ve been.

I approached checkout, set my daughter in her car seat carrier in the next checkout lane over to free up some necessary space, finished my transaction, and walked out.  It wasn’t until I got to the car, having secured my other 3 kids in their seats, that I counted.  Yep – I was missing one.  I ran back in, very discreetly picked her back up, and walked out.  No one had even noticed.

As parents, in spite of our best preparation, reading up on all of the latest theories on parenting, things happen.  The baby that you eagerly anticipated for 9 months won’t stop crying.  The bliss that was supposed to be the first few weeks of your child’s life is shrouded with postpartum depression.  All of the great advice that you’ve been given fails the first time your child looks at you and says, “No!”

I’m not advocating a cavalier, carefree attitude towards the supervision of your children, but even with the best of intentions, mistakes happen.  Let’s free each other up to have honest discussions of what we’re going through, and strip the veneer of perfectionism.  I am so far from perfect – and yet my kids have survived, are respectful, love each other and love their dad and me.  And this was achieved in spite of the fact that I might’ve, maybe, possibly, occasionally left my children unattended in public places.

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Confession: Labor and Nursing May Not Go As Smoothly As You Expect

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The go-to book for pregnant moms for a decade has been What To Expect When You’re Expecting.  I had it in my newly created parenting library during the years that I was producing children.  It is so much fun to try to connect with the development of this little life as it is happening, instead of having to wait until birth day to see what has been cooking inside.

However, one of the drawbacks of this book is that at the same time that it logs day by day the development of your baby, it also logs all of the things that can possibly go wrong.

If you are a mom that dwells on fear, you have to selectively read that book, drawing out the things that spark your imagination and faith, and skipping the parts that provide a feast for your fear.

There are so many great resources out there to help moms-to-be have great experiences with labor and the first days after having a baby.  Some are really helpful.  But some seem like they might have been written by people who don’t walk in the same reality that the rest of us do.  They promise things that I certainly didn’t experience.

My advice for labor is to put together a great plan for the delivery room that helps you be intentional about the experience that you’d like to create, but be willing to set that plan aside if things don’t go as you expected.  The goal of labor (besides having a healthy mom and baby) is to walk out of the delivery room saying, “That was awesome!”  For me, that meant fighting through the pain and fear and not using pain meds.  For others, it means walking in declaring that you’d like to be fully medicated/anesthetized.   For yet others, it means water birth, midwife-led, or home birth.  Whatever the case, remember that not all things go as planned, and emotional flexibility is really important.

And let me also say that for most people, nursing a newborn hurts.  It is valuable, the most natural and healthiest route for your baby (and for the new mom), but it also can be quite painful.  I certainly am not trying to be Debbie Downer, but again, I think that it is important to walk into the process with all of the information possible.  It might be a glorious experience from the first time your baby latches on, but odds are that it will be a bumpy road in the beginning, and that a lactation consultant will be your best friend.  Use their expertise liberally.

It is my opinion that our lives are neither about being perfect, nor avoiding pain at all costs, but about going through it, together, and finding grace for the experience.

(Image courtesy of imagerymajestic found on http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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Confession: I Really Wanted a Son

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I was talking with a dear friend who just found out she is pregnant with her first baby.  While she has initiated conversations about child raising in the past, the conversations have just gotten more desperate and specific.  The impending arrival of her bundle has brought a lot of insecurities to the surface.  What I heard in her concerns has been reflected in conversations I’ve had with many others over the years.  There seems to be a pattern of expectations on how the new mom will feel – how the new mom will function.  I thought that I’d do a little series on exposing expectations that we have as parents that aren’t talked about much in the mom circles.  The things that a “perfect” mom wouldn’t feel (or admit to feeling).

The first one:  I’ll be happy with whatever gender my baby has, as long as its healthy.

Beautiful, loving, and gentle sentiment.  To some it may actually be true; however, my guess is that more often than not, we have strong opinions/wishes/hopes of what the make-up of our family will look like.  We certainly wish/hope for healthy children.  And if we’re honest, most of us have hopes about how many we’ll have and what gender they will be.  We need to permission ourselves to have hopes, be disappointed as often as not, and to be honest about it.

So here’s my raw confession:  I really wanted the opposite gender.  I mean, really wanted.  As in, I cried when I heard that I was having a girl.  Sobbed.  I always thought having a son first would set the stage for the perfect family.  My husband would be the world’s best dad to a son, and this perfect boy would step into the natural responsibility of being a great, protective, and comforting big brother.  And then we had our little girl.  Of course, I loved desperately and deeply my daughter when she arrived.  She was an ornament in our lives, and the exact personality and gender that we needed to begin our parenting journey.

Did I learn my lesson?  Of course not!

When I found out that I was pregnant again, I once more had strong opinions about what gender should be next.  This time, I had imagined that having 3 girls would be the perfect family composition.  I was sure of it.  Convinced of it.  I had allowed my imagination to see myself floating through flowery fields with my 3 lovely girls, their golden hair flowing in the wind.  I would dress them alike, teach them the wonderful ways of femininity, and watch them share deep secrets amongst each other.

But a sonogram revealed a little boy’s anatomy which quickly burst my bubble, and had me bursting into tears yet again.

Repeat the scenario 2 years later when I found out that I was pregnant with my second boy.  Seriously, I cried immediately outside of the Dr.’s office after seeing a boy on the sonogram.  Not the pretty, serene crying that sophisticated people call “weeping”.  I grieved.  Ugly crying.

With each birth of these amazing babies, I was instantly smitten.  I was able to step back and bask in God’s wisdom for my family, snuggling with my three amazing children.  His ability to manage my life was and is indisputable.  They are irreplaceable and forever have my heart.

(When my 4th baby’s gender was identified, I didn’t cry.  That, however, wasn’t because I’d matured and had learned to control my expectations, but because I actually desired the gender that I was getting!  My eldest daughter had prayed for a baby sister, and when I turned up pregnant, I knew that we HAD to have a girl for her desires to be fulfilled.  When the Dr. told us that we were actually having a girl, I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I’d not once gone into a gender-revealing sonogram appointment and left with my expectations fulfilled!)

I’ll have to let someone else speak who has adopted children, but I’m sure there is an aspect of this to which you can identify.  I’ve seen and heard enough to know that not all things go as planned in the adoption process!

I felt like it was important to get out on the blogging world that it is normal to have hopes and wishes of what our family will look like.  It doesn’t disqualify us from being parents, nor does it diminish our ability to nurture and love these little offspring.  If you are a natural planner who likes things in order, there are a lot of things in your parenting journey that you will have opinions about, but that won’t be in your control.  We all have to learn that it is completely OK to have opinions, and it is also healthy to relax in His wisdom for the things we can’t control.

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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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