Character

The Power of No

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

This space has been pretty quiet for a while. It may seem like I fell off the map. In a way, I did. You see, the past 18 months or so have been pretty challenging. Over the course of those months we have dealt with meningitis, two other bacterial infections, a tonsillectomy (which is brutal when you're a teenager), a thyroid disorder, a parent having a stroke (and subsequently becoming much more involved in that parent's care), a broken hand, vocal chord dysfunction, a concussion, pneumonia, and a cerebrospinal fluid leak (feel free to look that one up). Did I mention my husband got a promotion in June that has him working until 8 p.m. most nights?

And that doesn't even include the normal drama that goes along with raising two teenage girls.

So, in the past year and a half, I've had to make decisions about the things that I can devote my time and energy to. Unfortunately, writing was something that had to take a back seat. This poor little blog suffered from a lot of neglect.

While the past 18 months have been a little rough, I have learned one very important thing. Sometimes, we have to say no. Whether we're saying it to other people or to ourselves, it's an important word to know how to use. And I have gotten so much better at it.

You want my daughter to practice two nights a week until 11 p.m.? No. You want me to add four more things to my schedule? No. I want to blog three days a week and redesign my website? No.

When it's all you can do to just get through the day, no becomes a very powerful word. Saying no has allowed me to say yes to other things.

I've gotten to spend some time with my girls that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I've been able to watch them as they have met some challenges in the past 18 months with grace and patience (and, yes, some frustration and anger).

I was able to say yes to a weeklong vacation with just my husband. And I've been able to say yes to time with God, time that I've been able to spend just soaking up His word and His love without any pressure to have anything meaningful to say about it.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you, dear reader, to understand the power of no. This little blog is a worthy endeavor. It deserves more attention than it's getting because I know it reaches people. Maybe in the next month or two, it will get the attention it deserves. My fingers are itching to write and my brain is whirling with unsaid thoughts.

But that will come in God's timing, not mine. I'm not going to force it. When there's something to be said, I'll say it. But there will be days when no is the answer to am I going to write today. There are so many things I want to say and share with all of you about this crazy thing called parenting, but I can't do it at the expense of my own parenting.

So, look for me a little more frequently in this space in the coming weeks, but don't be surprised if it's sporadic.

And do me a favor, take a look at your own life, at the things you are filling your time with. Maybe there's something there that you need to say no to. Maybe forever. Maybe for just a little while.

You won't be sorry that you did.

Embracing Your Season

Just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. Embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.
— Lori Fairchild
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The sun is shining, and it's warm here today. We're probably still in for some more cold weather, but it's clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren't so little any more. They're growing up fast, and I'm trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn't been a lot of time to write. There hasn't been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They're only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that's hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I'm in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We're juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband's parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that's what I'll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine's Day, spring also has it's great moments -- the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He's calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you're in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When You're Not "Fine"

This space has been empty for a while. Life has been crazy -- some of the good kind of crazy, and it seems like more of the bad kind. I'm kind of to the point where I'm almost afraid to get out of bed in the morning to find out what new crisis is going to erupt.

I'll be honest, it seems like every time I open a door or turn a corner in life lately, there's been something unpleasant behind it. Very little about this life seems easy in this season.

I would love to write a blog post telling you that when we're in the hard season, all we have to do is rely on God and everything will be fine. That sounds great, but it's a lie.

You see, anyone who tells you that things will be "fine" when you're going through a rough season is wrong. Those tough seasons in our lives sometimes leave us in a place that is far from the place we started, the place where everything was "fine." Those tough seasons often mean we lose something -- a loved one, our health, a marriage. When we come out on the other side of a tough season, we are changed. We are different. And we may not be "fine."

Am I saying that God doesn't have everything under control? No. I am saying that God's plan is never for you to be "fine." It is for you to be in a place where you can see Him and share Him. It is for you to be in a place where you have to rely on Him. It is for you to be in a place where others can see Him in you.

But that place may not be easy. It may not be fun. And it most certainly might not be "fine." But one thing you can know for sure is that no matter what that place looks like, no matter where it is, God is there, too.

The truth we need to cling to in the tough seasons is this: God is there. He’s not asking us to go anywhere He’s not willing to go, too.
— Lori Fairchild

That's the truth we need to cling to in the tough seasons -- that God is there. He's not asking us to go anywhere He's not willing to go, too. And though we may shed many tears and even spend time shouting at God, He's there, He loves us, and He's walking with us -- even when we don't think He is.

There is something to learn in this season. There is growing to be done. And when this season passes (and, honestly, I hope it passes soon), I'll be on the other side a different person than I was before this season began. But I don't want to be "fine." I want the lessons I've learned and the person I've become to shine brightly for Jesus. I don't want to be "fine." I want to be His.

One Easy Day

God didn’t promise that this parenting thing would be sunshine and roses. He didn’t say this life would be easy. He did say He would be here. He did say that He would never leave us.

I sat on my front porch the other day, looked at the sky and prayed this prayer: "Lord, can I have one easy day? Please?"

I'd been trying to navigate through the waters of a kid recovering from surgery while dealing with some other drama in her life and dealing with the other child who can't seem to get organized enough to do the things she needs to do at school. Let's not forget the everyday drama that just exists when you have 14-year-old and 12-year-old daughters.

I sat on that porch after meting out discipline to one of them and wondered when parenting had gotten so hard. I love being my kids' mom. It's a calling. I love them more than life itself. But right now, I really don't like parenting.

It. Is. Hard.

Every single day is a constant struggle with one child or the other. There have been more tears shed in this house in the past month than at any time since they were crying babies. My husband is ready to move to Tahiti and come back when they're 21. I'll be honest. I am not enjoying it. I really want just one easy day.

I want one day where everyone does their homework without a fight. I want one day where friends act like friends. I want one day where everyone fills out their planner at school and knows exactly what they need to do when they get home. I want one day where no one forgets anything, no one has to stay after school and no one needs my help with math homework (I really didn't like geometry when I was the student). I want one day without drama and without tears (theirs or mine).

I prayed that prayer for one easy day a week ago. And I still haven't gotten it. But God has reminded me that he didn't promise that this parenting thing would be sunshine and roses. He didn't say this life would be easy. He did say He would be here. He did say that He would never leave us.

Because, you see, God isn't interested in my comfort. He isn't interested in me having an easy life. He's interested in making me more like Him. He's interested in growing me and my kids. He's interested in forcing me to rely on Him instead of myself.

I could list off for you the lessons we've learned in this household this summer. I could tell you how much my older daughter has grown in her faith and her approach to life. I could tell you how much more of a priority it is for me to have a consistent time of Bible reading and prayer in my life. The evidence of growth in this particular season is everywhere in our family. But there have been very few easy days.

Because growing is hard. When our bodies grow, we tend to sleep more and require more food because growing is work. That holds true for spiritual growth as well. When we die to our selfish nature and become more like Christ, there are growing pains. And there are few easy days.

When we get on the other side of this intense growing season in our family, we'll be able to look back at everything that happened and know that those hard days were worth it. Right now, though, we're simply clinging to the knowledge that God is with us. We're holding fast to His promises that He'll see us through these tough parenting moments.

I know God is creating something beautiful in our family. I know that the end result will be more amazing than anything I can imagine. And I'm grateful.

But, I'll be honest, I'm really looking forward to when God says yes to my prayer for one easy day.

When Your Child is Drowning in the Tough Stuff

If your child seems to be drowning under wave after wave of tough things, remember that God is there to pick up your child — and He’s there to keep you standing as well. We’re not in this alone.

My 14-year-old daughter has taken a beating in the past few weeks. She's been sick for so long that she doesn't remember what it feels like to feel well (she had her tonsils taken out yesterday, so hopefully, she'll be on the mend soon). She's learned about the ups and downs of a relationship with a guy. She's been frustrated by her soccer situation. It's been a rough couple months, especially the past few weeks.

And I've learned something in watching her battle through these things. First, she has more grace, patience and compassion than I ever will, and second, being a teenager is hard and being the parent of a teenager is hard, too. Being a teen is hard in ways it wasn't when I was a teenager. And as a mom, I ache for my daughter and wish that I could spare her some of the hard lessons that this life is teaching her.

I know that God has it all under control. I know that he's using these things to teach her something. But I'll be honest, it feels like I'm watching my child stand in the ocean and get hit by wave after wave after wave. She comes up sputtering every time, only to get hit by another one.

That's hard. It's hard to watch your child hurt. It's hard to watch them be emotionally and physically battered by life's circumstance. It's hard to watch them come up sputtering time after time after time.

And it's hard to be the emotional rock that they need their parents to be. Because your heart is breaking for them. Every wave that hits them and knocks them down, knocks you down, too. It's hard to have enough energy and emotional reserves to keep picking them back up again when all you want to do is lock yourself in the bathroom and cry for them.

In the midst of these tough moments, though, I am always reminded that God is creating something beautiful out of what seems like a mess. He's standing in that ocean with my daughter. Not one single wave surprises Him. Not one single wave knocks Him down. When she is knocked to her knees, He's there to lift her back up. She may not be able to stand in that ocean of life on her own as wave after wave of tough stuff knocks her down, but she can lean into God's arms, absorb His strength and put her feet back under her.

And so can I. When this mom thing gets hard. When it hurts to watch my kid to get knocked down, I know that I can turn to my Father's loving arms. I know that He can give me the emotional strength to see my daughter through illness, a tough soccer season, or a broken relationship.

Standing in this ocean we call life is hard for our kids, and it's hard for us. No one ever promised us that life would be easy. But God did promise that He would always be at our side, ready to offer whatever it is that we're lacking.

So, if your child seems to be drowning under wave after wave of tough things, remember that God is there to pick up your child -- and He's there to keep you standing as well. We're not in this alone.

Why We Shouldn't Fight Our Kids' Battles for Them

battle A couple of weeks ago, my older daughter chose to have a very difficult conversation with her soccer coach. She was struggling on the field, and she felt like if her coach made a few changes in the way he was coaching her that it would make a big difference in how she played. But she had to tell him.

We talked through the situation over and over and over again. She knew that she had some issues she had to own both on the field and in the way she was mentally approaching the game. But she needed help, and she had to ask for it.

Now, my daughter is an introvert and not a fan of conflict of any kind. She did not want to talk to her coach. I offered to do it for her or to help her, but she decided it was something she had to do on her own.

So a few weeks ago, she did. She stayed after practice and talked to him. She got in the car frustrated with herself. She had cried while she was talking to him, mostly because she was so nervous. She wasn't sure she had made her points well, and she was worried about how her coach would respond.

The good news is her coach is a great guy. He listened to her and made a few small changes. The even better news is that simply having that talk gave her more confidence on the field and off.

She identified a problem, handled the situation with as much grace as a 13-year-old can muster, and learned that she can handle even the most difficult situations on her own.

And I learned something, too. I learned that when we let our kids fight their own battles, we see them grow right before our eyes. My daughter has played better on the soccer field in the past three weeks than she's played all season. Some of that is attributable to all the hard work she has been putting in. But some of it goes back to the confidence she gained from talking to her coach, from knowing that even when the situation is difficult, she can handle it herself.

And that confidence has translated into other situations off the field she's had since then. She feels like she has learned how to talk to anyone in any situation. She's gained confidence that she can tackle a tough problem and solve it.

My first instinct as a mom is to step in and help my kids. Especially if one of my kids is struggling, and I know the answer to the issue, I want to fix it. But when we do that, we rob our kids of the opportunity to gain confidence in solving their problems themselves. We take away a teaching opportunity.

Make no mistake, there are situations where we need to step in as parents, but there are many situations when we step in way too soon. Instead of letting our kids learn to be advocates for themselves and engage in simple problem-solving, we solve the problem for them.

The truth is that it's our job as parents to equip our kids with the tools they need to deal with difficult problems. If we solve the problems for them, we're not giving them those tools. We're simply removing the problem. Our kids need those problems. They need to learn that life is full of problems that have to be solved. They need to learn to look to God for wisdom and answers to their problems. They need to learn how to identify and resolve issues on their own.

And we, as parents, have to step back and let them do that. We can and should offer advice. We can and should show them how problem-solving is done. We can and should offer any type of support they need. But when push comes to shove, there are an awful lot of situations that we need to let them take a stab at solving on their own.

Because learning to solve problems is an essential skill in life. And when our kids solve them on their own, they gain confidence that we can never give them any other way.

What Do You Need to Succeed?

Succeed I've been learning a lot about success from my older daughter this week. I wrote last week about how soccer has been a rough go this season. She changed coaches. She's been hurt. She's struggling to pick up everything new she needs to know to compete.

And this weekend it all came to a head. She made a mistake in an important game that led to a goal. She made the same mistake in the next game. She came home discouraged and frustrated. She felt like she would never get it. She felt like the worst player on the team. She felt like she had let her teammates, her coach and herself down.

After the tears had been shed (a lot from her, a few from me because it's never easy to watch your kid struggle), I asked her this question: "What do you need to succeed?" The answer to that question could have been anything. She could have told me she was done playing soccer. She could have told me she didn't know. She could have told me she needed me to be quiet.

But she didn't tell me any of those things. As we talked, she identified that she needed to figure out where she was having trouble, and she needed more practice to fix it. So, we made a plan. She asked to talk to her coach and went in prepared to hear what he had to say. Some of what he told her was hard to hear, but he clearly identified three areas she needed to work on. He told her what she was doing wrong and how to fix it.

Next, we addressed how to get her more practice. We added two practices to the schedule each week to increase the amount of time she has to get touches on the ball. She's committed to putting in the practice to get better, to learn how to not make the same mistakes.

So, now she has a plan and the work ethic to follow through, but what I learned this week is that we all struggle with something in our lives. Our kids all have something on their plate that isn't going the way they want it to. And too often, we try to solve that problem for them. We try to identify the issues and fix them. What we should be doing, though, is teaching them how to identify the issues and to figure out what they need to fix them.

We need to be asking our kids "What do you need to succeed?" about everything in their lives. Because what they need to succeed may not be the same thing that you or I would need to succeed in the same situation. God made each of us different. He gave each of us the ability to tackle problems in a different way. We have to recognize that each of our children may need something different from us to help them succeed.

Success in any endeavor is ultimately up to our kids. They have to put in the work and the time to succeed. But we can help by providing them with the things that they need to succeed.  We just have to ask them and help them identify what those things are.

So the next time your child is struggling with something, set aside the temptation to simply fix the problem. Instead, ask "What do you need to succeed?"

Don't forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life's everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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Locker Room Courage

Locker room 1 We had tears in the locker room this weekend. My younger daughter played in a hockey tournament in Des Moines. Her team lost the third-place game, and my super competitive daughter was frustrated. She was also tired and irritated about some teasing from her teammates.

As I hugged her and talked her through her frustration, I was struck by the courage she displays every time she steps on the ice. Forget that hockey can be a brutal sport, and you have to be pretty tough to play it. Forget that she willingly steps on a sheet of ice knowing that she will block a shot, take a hit or be tripped by a stick. All of that takes courage. But it's the courage she shows in being herself that leaves me in awe, wishing that I had half as much courage as she shows every day.

You see, girls hockey has taken off in certain pockets of this country. If you live on the East Coast, the West Coast or in the northern Midwest, you can take your pick of girls' hockey teams. But here on the plains of Kansas, we don't have a lot of kids who play hockey at all, much less girls who play. There are a few girls on her team and a handful of girls who play for other hockey organizations in her age group, but there isn't a girls' team for her to play on. There isn't a support system for girls' hockey here.

To play this sport, she has to play mostly with boys. She has to be willing to step on the ice, many times as the only one with a ponytail doing so. She has to be willing to prove that she belongs over and over again. She has to work to fit in when we travel with the boys -- because she's the only girl.

And she does it all mostly with grace and determination. It seems as if she does it almost effortlessly. But then there are the moments in the locker room when the tears roll down her cheeks. There are the moments when she comes home from practice frustrated with something one of the boys said to her or upset about a coach sending her to a lower skill group just so she can be with the other girls. And that's when I realize that to be true to her love of this sport, it takes courage.

It takes courage in great measures to be different. It takes courage to stick it out when the going gets tough, when the boys are more than she can handle and the desire for someone else to just be like you is overwhelming. Honestly, it takes more courage than I think I could muster.

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I know that the lessons she's learned about staying true to who she is and how to muster up the courage to be different are ones that will stay with her through her whole life. Knowing that even when the going gets tough she's willing to be the person God created her to be, makes me confident that the courage she's learned in these childhood years will make her a force to be reckoned with as she gets older.

As her mom, I wish this road were a bit easier for her. I wish that we could offer her more than just hugs in the locker room when it gets to be too much. But I know that God is molding her into the person He needs her to be and these lessons in courage will pay big dividends in the future.

Sometimes, though our kids choose to do things that take courage. When they do, they need our unwavering support. They need us to bolster them. They need us to be there to offer the hugs and the encouragement to keep going.

Through it all, though, I know this: My daughter amazes me every time she chooses to put on her hockey gear and step on the ice. I watch in awe, and I learn something about courage from her every single day.

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6 Steps to Help Your Child Deal With Difficult Situations

difficult Two weeks ago, my older daughter was blindsided by a decision that adults had made. That decision affected a really big part of her life in a really big way. It caused a lot of hurt and frustration for my daughter that we are still dealing with. It forced my daughter to accept a new direction for reasons she didn't understand. It's been hard, and it's been the cause of a lot of tears.

One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is helping our kids deal with things that happen that our kids had no part in. When you're a kid there are so many other people in your life who can make decisions that will affect your life. Often, our kids don't get a say in those decisions.

And explaining those decisions to our kids can be difficult, especially when we might not agree with them entirely ourselves. But that's our job.

It's our job as parents to help our kids navigate through things that may seem unfair or downright mean. It's our job to help our kids see that while that decision may not seem like the best one at the time, God can use it for good. He can take those circumstances that seem so crummy and create something beautiful out of them.

Since we've been dealing with this exact issue for the past few weeks, I wanted to share the steps we've taken to keep our daughter focused on moving forward and not getting stuck in the unfairness of the situation.

1. Let your kids vent their feelings.

When something unfair or unwanted happens to our kids, it can be easy to shove their feelings aside. There's nothing you can do to change the situation, so why dwell on it, right? But our kids need to be able to express how the situation makes them feel. We shouldn't expect them to suddenly be happy with a situation that they didn't create. Our kids need time to process through the situation, and that requires that they have an outlet for their feelings. Be the person they can talk to. Let them know that their feelings are valid. Give them a reasonable amount of time to vent and cry if they need to.

2. Be honest about the situation.

If your kids have questions about what led to the decision that has made them so unhappy or frustrated, answer them honestly. Don't be judgmental, but let your kids know the sequence of events that led to the situation. Try to be objective about those events, even if it's hard. The decision has affected your child's life. They have a right to know the age-appropriate explanation of what happened.

3. Point out the steps that need to be taken to move forward.

Your child needs to know that while the situation may seem crummy at the moment, they do still need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. They need to know that they have to move forward. Help your child decide on what steps they need to take to make the best of the situation. They may need to talk to someone else. They may need to adjust their own thinking. They may simply need to be encouraged to give the new situation a chance.

4. Remind your child that adjusting to change takes time.

While God has a plan in mind that will use this situation for good, it may not happen overnight. It may take a while before your child can see how God is using the situation for good. Remind your child to be patient and to look for the bright spots along the way.

5. Be your child's biggest champion.

If there's something you can do to make the situation easier for your child, do it. There are moments when we need to step back and let our kids navigate their own way, but when a situation arises that our kids didn't create, it's OK for us to step in and be an advocate for our kids. When our kids are simply trying to process through a difficult situation, they may need our help to find their way. And that's OK. That's why they have us.

6. Keep an eye out for the good.

God promises that He works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). That means that no matter how difficult the situation, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep your eyes peeled for that light and point it out to your kids when you see it. Remind your kids that God isn't going to leave them stuck in the difficult times forever. Good is coming. We just have to be looking for it.

Difficult situations aren't fun for our kids, and they're not fun for us. There's nothing worse as a parent than to see your child hurting. But God gave our kids parents to help them find Him even in the difficult times. We just have to keep our eyes on Him and wait for Him to work things out for good.

Is Your Love Dependent on Your Child's Performance?

parents I made a parenting mistake this weekend. And my daughter called me on it.

We were at my daughter's very early morning, very cold soccer game. She was struggling with it being her first game back after several weeks off for an injury. The field was wet, and the ball was skipping. She went to kick the ball right in front of where I was sitting on the sidelines. She missed. And I yelled her name in a harsh tone of voice.

My daughter was already frustrated because she wasn't playing as well as she wanted to. Her ankle hurt. And her mom expressed frustration with her play.

I try really hard not to be an overbearing sports parent. I try to tell my girls I love watching them play no matter how they play. I try not to overanalyze their games. We try to let sports be just something else that they do -- not the thing that defines their worth.

But on Saturday morning, I got caught up in the game. I got caught up in my daughter's concern about her playing and her frustration with her ankle. I yelled, and she heard me.

When she came off the field, she was in tears. She was upset that her ankle still hurt. She was upset that she hadn't played well. But the thing that made it all worse was that I had yelled at her. "You sounded more mad than my coach was," she said.

That's when I knew I'd blown it. That's when I knew that I'd taken one step back on this parenting journey that is so often a constant dance of two steps forward and one step back.

You see, my job as a parent is to be there. It's to pick my kids up when they fall. It's to let them know that they are loved no matter what. It's to have their backs all the time.

Because when my kids come off the field after a bad game or home from school after a frustrating day, they need to know that I love them not because of how they played or what grade they got on their test but because of who they are. They need to know that there's one place in this world that's safe, at least one person in this world who loves them no matter how they perform.

It's easy to get caught up in our kids' sports or artistic endeavors. It's easy to focus on performance over character. It's easy to crush our kids' spirits because we forget that what they do on the sports field, the dance floor or at school isn't a reflection of their worth.

When we parents become so caught up in our kids' performances that we forget the performance has nothing to do with our child's worth, we diminish who our kids are. When we focus only on performance, we reduce our kids to numbers and deeds. We lose sight of their personality and the plans that God has for them.

Simple words that we utter without thinking can make our kids think that we care more about their performance than we do about them as people, so we have to be careful. We have to think about what we say. We have to let our kids know we care more about them than we care about their performance. Because when we give the impression that we only love them when they perform well, we give our kids the impression that love is conditional. We turn love into something that has to be earned.

And when we do that, we can make our kids questions God's love, too. If our love is conditional when our kids have every right to expect it to be unconditional, then how can they trust that God's love is unconditional?

Our kids should never have to question whether we love them. They should never have to question if God loves them.

Our words have power, and we need to use them well. We need to use them to let our kids know they are loved no matter what. We need to use them to make sure our kids never think their worth is based on their performance. We need to simply be careful and choose our words wisely. Because when we do, we teach our kids the true meaning of unconditional love.

Gaining Perspective on Losing

Dwell My older daughter played her first soccer game of the season on Saturday. She was so excited, dressed in her uniform at 9 a.m. for a 12:45 game. She couldn't wait to get on the field.

It didn't take long for things to go sour. She forgot her conflict jersey (and we needed them). Her first few minutes on the field, she made several mistakes. Her team lost 6-1, and she came off the field discouraged and almost in tears.

Having a bad game and losing is never fun. Knowing that you didn't play to the best of your ability and let those around you down hurts. Making mistakes is tough.

My daughter had a rough rest of the afternoon and evening. She still had to referee two games in hot, humid weather. She didn't feel all that great. And she kept reliving her mistakes in the game -- over and over again.

But here's the thing: my daughter is a solid soccer player. She doesn't often have games like this. When she makes a mistake, she puts her head down and tries harder next time. By the second half of her game, she was playing better and made some good plays. She was part of setting up her team's only goal.

She couldn't see any of that, though. All she could hear in her head was her coach saying the defense had let the team down. All she could think about were the plays she messed up. All she could focus on was whether she'd get another chance to do better.

When we make mistakes, it's sometimes hard to regain perspective. And it's especially hard if you're 13 and still learning what perspective even is. Which is why our kids have us.

Part of our job as parents is to help give our kids perspective. It's to help them understand that one bad day, one bad game isn't the end of the world. It's to remind them that there will be another chance, another day, another game to get it right. It's to pull their focus off of themselves and to get them to focus on the bigger picture.

Because that's how God treats us. He sees our mistakes. He knows our tendency to beat ourselves up over the past. But He doesn't dwell on those things. He doesn't keep reminding us of them. He forgives us and moves on. He separates our sin from us "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12)

So, no matter what it is that our kids are struggling to get over -- a big game loss, a mistake at school or a fight with a friend -- it's important that we help them find perspective, that we help them see that there will be another chance. Because dwelling on mistakes doesn't help. Learning from them does.

The Root of Meanness

pain 1 Yesterday I finally got rid of a migraine that had lasted for three days. The weather has gone from sunny to stormy pretty quickly the last couple of days, and the changing barometer nearly always causes a migraine.  I felt really crummy because the weather was making my arthritis in my knees act up, too. Three days of pain will make you pretty cranky.

And I didn't deal with that crankiness well. On Sunday, I took it out on my husband. I snapped his head off a number of times. Yesterday morning, I all but told my kids to get lost.

You see, pain can make you act in ways that you don't normally act. When the pain gets intolerable it can make you lash out at those around you. It can make you mean and cranky.

And sometimes we forget that. We forget that pain -- physical or emotional -- can overwhelm a person to the point where they push away the people who are most likely to help. It can be so all-consuming that in an attempt to make themselves feel better, a person can be mean and cranky.

It's important that we teach our kids that most of the time people who are mean and cranky are hiding pain of some kind. Those actions and words that hurt others are often rooted in pain of their own.

Our kids are going to encounter other kids who say mean things. Our kids are going to come up against adults who aren't very nice. We need to be teaching our kids to view those people with compassion and to not return mean words or actions with more of the same.

When our kids run up against a bully or if one of their friends are being mean, we need to remind our kids that those mean words or actions are probably rooted in some kind of hurt in that person's life. We need to remind our kids that hurting people deserve our love and compassion. We need to help our kids understand that pain can make people do things they wouldn't normally do.

Because that's how Jesus treats hurting people. When Jesus was confronted with people who lashed out at Him, He responded with love. He willingly placed himself in the hands of people who wanted to kill Him because He loved all of us hurting people. He understood that the desire to hurt Him didn't come out of simple meanness, it came out of the hurt and emptiness of a life separated from God. And His response was to bridge that gap with love.

So, the next time you or your kids are faced with hurtful actions or words from another person, look beyond the actions. Remind yourself and your kids that you don't know the hurt that person is facing. You don't know their pain. Think of ways that you and your kids can respond in love and compassion. Because that's what Jesus did for us.

Let Them Fail

failure11 I spent the weekend in Minnesota with my younger daughter for a hockey tournament. It was a tough weekend. Her team didn't score a goal in five games, and the other teams scored a lot. My daughter was pretty discouraged.

When we got in the car to go home, I asked my daughter what her coach had to say when they came to the bench after a shift. She told me, "She said 'good job.' I don't know why she said that. If you let in a goal on your shift, you didn't do a good job. You failed at your job. That's not a 'good job.'"

My first reaction was to disagree with my daughter, but as I thought about what she said, I decided that she actually knew what she was talking about. You see, our society has leaned heavily toward praising our children for even the smallest accomplishments. We've worked hard to take the sting out of losing to the point where some leagues don't keep score. We hand out participation trophies and certificates just for showing up.

But, you know what? The kids know the truth. They know whether they played well or not. Whether there's a scoreboard at the field or not, every child on the field knows what the score is.

Our society has tried so hard to protect our kids from failure that they don't know how to deal with it. We've made failure OK. We've dressed it up by taking away the score-keeping and telling kids they've done a good job even when they haven't. And that's not fair to our kids.

You see, our kids need to fail. They need to not always have someone pat them on the back. They need to learn to fall down, dust themselves off, get back up and try again. They don't need to be showered with false praise.

As parents, we need to let our kids fail. We need to use failure as a teaching tool. We need to let failures teach our kids grit and determination. Because it's only when we fail that we learn to approach situations differently. It's only when we fail that we learn to appreciate success. It's only when we fail that we recognize our need to be forgiven.

If we never allow our kids to fail. If we praise them even in the midst of an abysmal failure, we lead our kids to think they can do no wrong. We allow them to believe that even their failures are praiseworthy. And that attitude can keep them from recognizing their need for God.

If our kids believe they can do no wrong, then what do they need God for? If we create a society in which children are not allowed to fail, we create children who don't understand the concept of sin. We raise children who believe they can do everything on their own.

So, let your kids fail. Let them learn the feeling of discouragement that comes with failure. Teach them to evaluate their failures and figure out what they can do differently the next time. Because it is in their failures that our kids will recognize their need for an ever-loving, ever-forgiving and ever-present God.

3 Things That Matter Most in Parenting

3 things I took my older daughter to St. Louis this weekend for a soccer tournament. Her team lost the game that decided who would go to the finals. After two great games, they really didn't play well in the last game. I took home a frustrated and sore young lady.

As we were making the four-hour trip home through the rain, I had some time to reflect on what it is that we're doing as parents. To some people, the weekend we just spent (my younger daughter and husband were in Minnesota for hockey) may seem crazy. And as I drove home, I really wondered whether it was worth it.

But as I pondered, I boiled our parenting down to three things. We want our kids to be healthy, filled with joy, and aware that character matters -- to us and to God.

Being healthy and filled with joy aren't always things that I, as a parent, can control. Our kids can get sick or injured. It's our job as parents to make sure they receive the care they need to get healthy. We just spent four weeks rehabbing an injured foot for my older daughter. She received the OK to play this weekend about an hour before we left. There wasn't anything I could do to make it better except take her to the physical therapist and pray.

When it comes to joy, there's only one source for that -- God. Psalm 16:11 says, "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." True joy is found in God's presence. For our kids to know joy, we have to lead them to God. We have to teach them about the great things He has done. But the truth is that we can't make our kids seek God. We can teach them and pray for them, but they must choose to follow God to receive His joy.

So our job becomes to make sure that God is an everyday part of our kids' lives. We can't just take them to church on Sunday and expect them to have a fulfilling relationship with God. We have to weave God into everyday moments in our lives. We have to pray with and for our kids, open up conversations about who God is and the amazing things He has done. We have to point out places where we see God at work. Because the ultimate goal is to lead our kids to Him so they can experience His joy.

The last item on my parenting list is something that we have a lot of control over -- making our kids aware that character matters. My kids play some fairly rough sports (if you don't think soccer is brutal, watch the pros play sometime). They often come home bruised and battered. It would be easy to leave character on the sidelines when the play gets rough. It would be easy to be upset with teammates when they lose. It would be easy to forget who they are on the field.

But character matters everywhere. It's not something you can leave on the sidelines. Who you are on the field needs to be the same as who you are off of the field. And that's true for every endeavor our kids undertake. The only way they can truly understand that, though, is if we're teaching them over and over and over again that it's important to be a picture of God everywhere they go and in everything they do. They can bring glory to God no matter what they're doing -- but only if they understand that character matters.

We can teach our kids that character matters by making it a priority in our parenting. When we see something on the field or when they're playing with their friends that doesn't stand up to the character test, then we need to point it out and talk about what to do differently next time. When we discipline our kids, we need to not just deal with the actions but with the character underneath. Character matters to God, and it should be the focus of our parenting.

As you have a few spare moments in your day today, consider what your parenting priorities are. Do you put an emphasis on health, joy and character?

How to Pick Your Battles

battles My older daughter wanted to dye her hair with Kool-Aid the other day. It's apparently all the rage to use Kool-Aid to dye your hair funky colors. It washes out in a couple of weeks and doesn't hurt your hair. So, I said OK.

A few years ago, I probably would have cringed at the thought of letting one of my girls dye their hair an odd color. But I've learned a few things along the way in this parenting journey, and chief among those things is the idea that you have to pick your battles.

I learned that lesson best with my younger daughter. Strong-willed doesn't do my daughter justice. When that child digs in her heels, it takes a bulldozer to move her. I realized pretty early on that I could either fight with her about everything or choose carefully the things that are worth the battle.

So, now, especially as our girls get older, we try to choose wisely the issues that we make a stand on. There's a simple question we ask ourselves before doing battle with one of our girls: Is this about safety or respect? If the answer is yes, then it's an issue we're willing to stand our ground on. If the answer is no, then it's an issue we're more willing to negotiate on.

Safety is easy. If the activity will cause harm to our kids, then it's not something they can do. Respect is a little broader. If the issue is about behavior that isn't respectful to someone else, themselves, or someone's property, then it's a behavior that needs to be corrected.

The second category is based on Matthew 22:39 when Jesus is talking about the greatest commandments: "And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" Our kids have to learn to love and respect themselves to be able to love and respect others.

We've found that these two broad categories serve us well as we decide what issues are important in dealing with our kids. They keep us from focusing on the little things that don't matter in the long run. And they keep us from having to list out a lot of rules for our girls.

As parents, it's sometimes really easy to get caught up in laying down rules for our kids to follow. Sometimes we set up rules because they're important for our kids' safety. Sometimes we set up rules because we want our kids to learn how to respect themselves and others. But sometimes we set up rules just because something bothers us. Or we set up rules because we don't want to spend the time discussing the issue with our kids. And that's when we find ourselves doing battle with our kids.

Our kids need rules. They need boundaries. They need to know we have a certain set of expectations for them. But they also need room to grow. They need room to be themselves. They need room to try new things. We simply have to make sure our rules aren't stifling those behaviors.

However you choose to set up boundaries in your home, make sure that the reasoning behind those boundaries is solid. Make sure it's biblical. Make sure you're leaving room for your kids to express who God made them to be. Make sure you're picking the right battles to fight.

Why We Play Sports

Sports1 We have friends who think we're crazy. They don't understand why we spend four nights a week at a sports practice. They don't understand why we're willing to give up most of our weekends to go to soccer and hockey games. They don't understand why we sacrifice downtime to let our kids play competitive sports. Sometimes I wonder if we're crazy, too.

Then moments like Saturday happen when I watched my younger daughter step on the ice not to play a game but to teach others how to play the game. I watched this child who five years ago couldn't stand up on the ice take the arm of another little girl and escort her across the ice for her first taste of hockey.

Or there are soccer seasons like this one where I've watched my older daughter go from being a kid who had lost her confidence both on the field and off of it to becoming a still quiet, but confident, young woman -- all because a coach told her he believed in her.

It's these moments that make it all worthwhile -- all the driving, all the schedule juggling, all the freezing cold hockey rinks, all the rainy soccer games. It's the building of character and the teachable moments that keep us on the field and on the ice.

You see, I can teach my kids without sports. I can teach them how to win and how to lose well in life without them ever stepping onto a soccer field or a sheet of ice. I can teach them to honor God, be kind to others, and respect those around them without them ever scoring a goal or defending a pass.

But, for our family, sports gives us a place to test those lessons out. It creates an incubator for learning to follow God even under pressure. It gives my kids an opportunity to truly be a picture of Jesus even in the midst of a tense moment. It gives them opportunities to put all those lessons into practice.

Plus my kids love to play. They are passionate about their sports. They would rather play their sport than do just about anything else. We rarely have whining or complaining about heading to practice or games. And if God gave them a passion for it, then we want to give them the opportunity to pursue it.

Not every kid loves to play sports. Not every kid even likes sports. I'm not saying that every kid should play. What I am saying today is that every kid should have the opportunity to pursue their passions. Every kid should have a place where they can test out the lessons you're teaching them at home. Every kid should have an opportunity to perform under pressure. Whether that's on the sports field, on the stage, in the artist's studio, on the dance floor, or at a scouting event, we need to make sure our kids have an opportunity to pursue their passions and practice what we're teaching them.

Because what good is a passion if you can't do anything with it? What good is knowing Jesus if you can't share Him with others? What good is building character if there's never a chance to test it?

Our kids can only learn so many lessons in our homes. They can only practice so many behaviors. They can only follow God so far. We have to give them the chance to step into a situation that might be a little tense, a little frustrating, a little overwhelming for them to practice all that they have learned in our homes.

Because it's in those situations that character is built. It's in those situations where they can see God at work. It's in those situations where they can learn to make good choices. It's in those situations where they can truly decide where their passions lie.

And that's why we play sports. It's not the goals. It's not the wins. It's not the talent. It's not the competition. We play sports because my girls have a passion for them, and it gives them an opportunity to practice what they have learned at home.

What opportunities are you giving your kids to fulfill their passions and practice what they are learning at home?

 

5 Ways to Encourage Sibling Love

Sibling love My girls started the day yesterday sniping at each other. That's become a fairly frequent occurrence lately.

It has been a long, cold, snowy winter. We're in for another blast of cold weather this weekend. I'm so ready for spring. And so are my kids. We've spent way too much time cooped up together this winter. And it's beginning to show in our behaviors.

My girls are 22 months apart in age. It's great to have them so close together when they get along, but when they're not being friendly with each other, it's miserable.

If you have more than one kid, it's fair to expect a certain amount of griping and fighting with each other. No one gets along with another person all the time, and our kids are just beginning to learn to solve their own problems. But when that griping and fighting reaches epic proportions, it's probably time to sit down with your kids and remind them of how families act.

If you're struggling to put the lid on sibling rivalry, consider doing these five things:

1. Limit the electronics. Our kids live in an age where they spend a lot of time communicating through electronic devices. When they get so tied to electronics, they forget how to communicate in person. We have a rule that you can't use electronic devices in the car if there's someone else in the car with you. No texting someone who isn't there when there's someone to talk to right next to you. (We ease this one for long car rides but for trips around town, this is a firm rule.) We also don't allow electronics at the dinner table or when we're at a restaurant. Those are perfect opportunities for our kids to learn to converse and form relationships with the people in their own families.

2. Make time for family. Set aside some time to spend time together as a family. Have a movie night. Play games. Go for a walk. Cook a meal together. We try to do one of these things once a week. When you set aside time for family, you're telling your kids that family is important. You're letting them know that they should value each other and the relationships within the four walls of your home.

3. Set up intentional ways to encourage each other. Teach your kids to be encouragers. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up." Encouraging each other is a great way to build loving relationships in your family. If one child has a game, take the other one with you to cheer the first child on. If one child has a test, remind the other one to wish him good luck. Start a system of encouraging notes. Create mailbox or pail of some kind for each member of your family. Mount it on their doors or hang it on their doorknobs. Encourage each member of your family to leave encouraging notes in the other family member's mailboxes.

4. Work together. Create tasks that force your kids to work together. This is a great way to help your kids appreciate each others' abilities and to force them to learn to work through any issues that arise. Have one chore a week that your kids have to do together. When you're working on a big household project, get your kids working together. When they learn they can accomplish more together, it builds their relationship.

5. Pray for each other. Teach your kids to pray for their siblings. Nothing softens hearts and changes attitudes like prayer. It's almost impossible to stay angry with someone while sincerely praying for them. Create a prayer list in your house where everyone can add things they want prayed for. Encourage your kids to pray for their siblings' requests.

Our homes don't have to be filled with bickering and strife. We can teach our kids how to love and respect their siblings. It just takes some time and patience on our part.

Why Hard Work Matters

hard work My girls aren't overly fond of Saturday mornings. That's our chore day. They have small chores that they have to do every day like make their beds, clear the table and clean up after themselves, but Saturday is the day we vacuum, mop, clean the bathrooms and dust. Barring a soccer or hockey game, Saturday morning brings chores.

Like most kids, my girls tend to whine and complain their way through their chores. They don't like how long it takes. They don't want to put in the effort to do the job right (which generally means they get to do it twice). They would much rather be doing something else.

Truthfully, it would be faster and easier to do those chores myself. I don't do them myself because my kids need to learn to work. They need to learn what it means to be a part of a family that works together. They need to learn to do a job right the first time.

Our kids are growing up in an entitled world. They're growing up in a world that has made childhood the center of the family. They're growing up with more access to stuff than any generation before them. And a lot of times, they're growing up not knowing how to work hard.

Too often, we hand our kids everything they want and need without making them work for it. We simply get it for them. They don't have to learn to work. They don't have to learn to save. They grow up thinking the world is going to hand them everything they need on a silver platter.

The truth is that when they graduate from high school or college, they're going to be on their own. The world isn't going to owe them anything. They're going to have to work for the things they need. They're going to have to do a job right the first time or they'll lose it. They're going to find that nothing gets handed to them on a silver platter.

That's one of the reasons it's so important to teach our kids the value of work when they're young. It's one of the reasons that chores are so important. It's one of the reasons that making our kids redo a poorly done job is imperative.

God asks us to do everything as if we're doing it for Him (Colossians 3:17). He asks us to follow Him and do His work. If we're not raising kids who know how to work hard, then we're not raising kids who can follow God well. We're not raising kids who will stick with a tough task that God has given them because they never learned how to do something hard.

Our kids need to know how to work hard. They need to know the sense of accomplishment of a job well done. They need to know what it's like to earn and manage money. And they need to know how to do those things before they leave our homes. They need to be able to make mistakes, suffer the consequences of a job done poorly, and enjoy the rewards of a job done well before they're in a situation where it matters.

If you aren't giving your kids opportunities to learn about hard work, start today. They need to know how to work hard not just to survive in the world when they're grown but also because God doesn't always ask us to do the easy stuff.

Teaching Courage on President's Day

courageI was going to write about President's Day today but decided I couldn't do any better than this post from the archives. Enjoy! Today is President’s Day. Most kids are out of school. Most parents don’t have the day off from work. President’s Day is an odd, little holiday. It seems to be best known for the fact that stores have pretty good sales. We don’t spend a lot of time celebrating the day. But President’s Day is a great opportunity to not only talk about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but it’s a great day to teach your kids about courage.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word courage? My favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz, so whenever I hear the word courage, I immediately hear the Cowardly Lion saying the word in his gravelly, stuttery voice. In that movie, the Lion thought he didn’t have courage because he was always afraid, but the Wizard told him that courage didn’t mean never being afraid. Like the Cowardly Lion, our kids can get confused about what courage is.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s standing up for what’s right even in the face of your fear.

As Christ-followers, we have an extra advantage when it comes to being courageous. We have God with us. While God commands us to be courageous, He also promises to go with us wherever we go. He promises to be standing by our side, even in the midst of battle. In Joshua 1:9, God says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

We are commanded to be courageous. God tells us not to be afraid because even against the longest odds, He will be with us. Joshua faced some tough situations in his job of leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. He was outnumbered and overmatched in many battles, yet because God was on His side, He prevailed.

President’s Day is a great time to talk with your kids about courage because it celebrates the births of two men who stood up for what was right in the face of difficult situations. George Washington led the Continental Army against the British in the American Revolution. He had an army of farmers and shopkeepers with no formal military training to fight against the biggest military power in the world. The situation was daunting, yet he persevered and won. His reward was to lead a group of separate states and diverse people to become a country. Another daunting task. In both these situations, he showed courage and strength.

Abraham Lincoln led the United States through one of the darkest periods in its history — the Civil War. He chose to end slavery in the United States, despite the fact it made him extremely unpopular with the slave-owning South. He did what was right in the face of difficult opposition. And he paid the price for it with his life when he was assassinated.

We can use the lives of these two men as a springboard for a conversation about courage with our kids today. We can capture the everyday moment of this holiday and use it as a time to teach our kids about God’s command to be courageous.

  1. Talk with your kids about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Ask your kids what they know about these two men, then give them some age-appropriate information about what they did and why they are important. Talk about the courageous decisions that they made.
  2. Ask your kids to define courage. Talk about how courage is not the absence of fear. It’s standing up for what’s right in spite of your fear. Ask your kids to give you an example of a time when they were courageous.
  3. Read Joshua 1:9. Talk about how God commands us to be courageous and that He promises to be with us to help us in situations where we need courage. Post Joshua 1:9 in your house somewhere and work to memorize it together this week.
  4. At dinner this week, ask your kids to think of ways they have been courageous during the day. Write those things on a piece of paper and hang it next to wherever you posted your verse. Remind your kids that being courageous doesn’t always require a big action. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping someone who’s not well-liked at school.
  5. Give each of your children a piece of paper. Ask them to write a simple prayer that they can say when they lack courage. Remind them that God is the source of courage. Hang the prayers in their bedrooms where they can see it. Explain that it’s a reminder for them to pray when they lack courage.

President’s Day is a great time to help your kids get a handle on courage. Use the example of these two courageous men to point your kids to the source of true courage. As your kids take Joshua 1:9 to heart, they will become young men and women of courage.

The Danger of Labels

labels Middle school. Those two words may be the most anxiety-producing words in the English language. Say them out loud to a group of adults and you'll get story after story of how awful those years were. Say them to a group of elementary-school kids, and you'll get questions about whether they're going to get stuffed in a locker and how they'll ever manage to find their classes. Say them to a group of middle-schoolers, and you'll hear all about how they can't wait to get to high school.

Middle school is a tough age. It's an in-between time. Bodies are changing. Opinions are forming. Things that were once your child's favorite are now relegated to a spot in the closet. Things you didn't even know they liked are now their favorites. Those years from 10 to 13 are a tough, confusing time.

And they're made even worse when our kids spend time comparing themselves to others. Whether it's grades or clothes or activities, our kids spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others. They place labels on themselves and each other. "She's smart. He's an athlete. She's a musician. He's a skater." Our kids pigeon-hole themselves and others by putting labels on each other after they've compared themselves.

That comparing and labeling is harmful because it gives our kids a one-dimensional view of themselves. It makes them see themselves as only capable of one thing. When our kids focus on only one of their abilities and talents, it makes them feel that all of their self-worth is tied up in that talent.

God didn't make athletes and musicians and smart people. He made every single one of us in His image. He made every single one of us to be a reflection of Him. That means that each of us, and each of our kids, is a complex person. We can't be boiled down to one label.

My older daughter often gets labeled as an athlete. "She's really good at sports," we hear. She is very athletic, but that's not all she is. She's also smart, funny, a great problem-solver, and someone who is full of perseverance. When someone labels her an athlete, it leaves out so much of who she is that it makes me cringe.

If our kids hear one label often enough, they will begin to believe that that's all they are capable of doing. They will lose the idea that they are "fearfully and wonderfully made" in all areas. They will begin to focus on just that one thing that everyone else thinks they are good at.

But what happens when that one thing fails them? What happens when the athlete gets hurt? What happens when the smart kid gets a C? What happens when the musician meets a piece of music she can't master? That's when our kids begin to question their value. That's when they begin to wonder at their worth.

When we talk to our kids and when we talk about other kids, we need to be careful not to label those children. We need to be careful to view them as well-rounded people, not just a single-talent person. We need to point out all of a person's qualities to our own kids. And we need to correct our kids when they start to label others. We need to remind them that there's more to a person than just one attribute.

And when our kids find themselves being labeled, we need to remind them that they are more than just one trait. We need to point out to them that they are a "masterpiece" created in God's image and just like a masterpiece has many colors, they have many talents and traits. We need to help our kids resist the need to fit into a single box -- because God didn't make them to fit in a box; He made them to fill a role in His plan.

Take a minute today to examine how you talk to and about your kids. Think about how your kids talk about themselves and their friends. If you find any of you tend to pigeon-hole others or yourselves, take steps to change the way you talk about yourself and others. Make it a point to look for other things to praise in your kids than the ones that fit the labels they've been stuck with. Because all a label does is limit your child's possibilities.