Parenting situations

When Mom Can't Fix It

We like to say our younger daughter marches to the beat of her own drum. She's a square peg in a round hole.

She is precious and funny and fabulous. But so much of the time, she just doesn't fit. I wake up a lot of mornings wondering if I'm failing this amazing child that God placed in my care.

If you have a square peg/round hole kid, there's so much that you just can't fix about the world. You can't make the rest of the world change to accommodate your kid. You can't force people to see what you see. You can't make the struggle to "fit" any easier.

And every year, you think this might be the year that he or she fits in just a little bit better. This might be the year that they find their tribe.

And nearly every year, you watch their hearts break as they get left out of a party or an outing. You watch them struggle to find a group of kids who accept them for who they are. Your heart breaks as they struggle to be who God made them to be while the world tells them to be something else.

And you come to the realization that you can't fix it. You can't swoop in and fight the battle for them. They have to do it themselves. They have to make the decision to be exactly who God created them to be.

But, I'll be honest, as many times as my knees have hit the floor for my march-to-the-beat-of-her-own-drum kid, I have asked God why He doesn't make it just a little bit easier for her. Why doesn't He provide that tribe? Why is it just so hard?

And I've come to the conclusion that the only things we can do for our square peg/round hole kids is to love them right where they're at. We have to be their biggest cheerleaders, the tear moppers and the safe haven.

And we can pray. Pray without ceasing. Even when it seems like those prayers go unanswered. Even when the world seems bent on forcing our kids to fit a mold they just don't fit.

Because God is there. He loves our kids so much more than we can. And he has a plan for that precious child. He made them to march to the beat of their own drums for a reason.

We just have to love them and hold them and smooth the path for them until that plan comes to fruition. Then we'll get to see just how perfect that beat they march to is. 

 Image by  designblossoms

The Days Are Long but the Years Are Short

 photo credit:  design blossoms

photo credit: design blossoms

It was graduation weekend here this weekend. My older daughter had a few graduation parties to go to, and my Facebook feed was filled with graduation pictures.

This year, though, we were only involved in graduation on the edges.

In two years, though, that will be me -- the mom with tears in her eyes watching her daughter walk across the stage and journeying from childhood into adulthood.

Someone once told me when my kids were toddlers that the days are long but the years are short. And that is so true. I find myself sitting here thinking about all the things I still want to do with my daughters and all the things I still want to teach them.

It seems as if this year has been one of simply getting through. We've had a lot of changes, a few health issues and all the drama that goes along with having two teenage girls in the house.

But, today, as I sit here thinking about the two years I have left with my older daughter at home, I'm reminded that this life as a mom is about so much more than just "getting through." It's about teaching my girls all they need to know to thrive in this world and about pointing them toward the path God has for them.

When I started this blog so many years ago, my daughters were small. I thought I had all the time in the world to be intentional in my parenting. Today, I am reminded that being intentional is what it's all about. Choosing to make the most of the teachable moments and remind my girls that God's path is the best one is what my parenting should be all about.

So, today, fellow mommas, I want to encourage you to be intentional. Make the most of the moments. Use your time this summer wisely. Be intentional. Take every opportunity to point your kids in God's direction.

Because the days are long but the years are short.

Teaching Our Kids to Make Good Decisions

 photo credit:  design blossoms

photo credit: design blossoms

Decisions. Our kids make them every day. And from the time they can walk and talk, we parents spend a lot of time teaching our kids to make good ones.

It seems that the older our kids get, the more important their decisions become. With two teenagers in our house, the mantra in our house is "Don't make a decision so stupid, you can't fix it." I tell my girls all the time that they're going to make a wrong choice every now and then. We all do, and teenagers are definitely entitled to a stupid decision or two. But, I tell them, don't compound a stupid decision by making a life-changing one trying to keep us from finding out about the stupid one.

Here's the thing, though, my girls didn't start learning about good decisions when they became teenagers. They started learning about good decisions almost from birth.

When they were toddlers, we taught them to choose not to put their finger in a light socket or touch a hot stove. When they headed off to school, we taught them to make good decisions about how they behave in the classroom and in the friends they choose. Now that they're teenagers, we're teaching them to make good decisions about how they spend their time, what they do in a car and whom they choose to hang out with.

By the time our kids are teenagers, most of the decisions they make are going to be made outside of our direct line of sight. We may get the opportunity to advise them beforehand or to dissect the decision afterward, but a lot of the time, we have to trust that they will use what they have learned about making good decisions up until that point to make a good one now.

So, how do we teach our kids to make good decisions, no matter their age?

1. Cover them in prayer. All of our parenting begins with prayer. To be effective parents, we have to cover our children and our parenting in prayer. My most common prayer for my kids is "Lord, let them be wise, and if they don't have wisdom themselves, let them ask you for it."

2. Teach them to seek God first. When our kids are faced with decisions, whether they are 4 or 18, we want to teach them to look to God for the answers. When they are little, this can simply be talking to them about what the Bible has to say about the situation in simple terms. As they get older, we can teach them to look up what the Bible has to say and read it for themselves.

3. Help them see the consequences of each decision. For younger kids, this often means letting them experience the consequences firsthand. However, for older kids, we can help them walk through the logical conclusion of each decision. Tweens and teens don't often have the ability to look at the long-term consequences of their actions. They need us to help them walk through decisions and find consequences (good and bad) they may not be able to see.

4. Let them make the wrong decision. Our tendency is to protect our kids, but if we save them from the consequences of poor decisions, then we deprive them of the opportunity to learn how to make good ones. I'm not suggesting you let your toddler electrocute himself or you let your teen wreck the car. I am suggesting that the toddler reap appropriate consequences for ignoring the rules and that your teen be allowed to suffer the consequences of not turning in their homework. Experience is a great teacher, and some kids simply have to learn things by doing it themselves. When we let them experience the natural consequences of their actions, we are hopefully letting them learn how to make a better decision next time.

5. When they make a poor decision, stay calm. Offer consequences and discipline if necessary, but don't do it out of anger or frustration. Do it because your child needs to learn to make better decisions. Walk your child through the consequences of their decision and point out the different decisions they could have made that would have created a different result.

6. Love them no matter what decision they make. Our kids need to know they are loved unconditionally, even when they make poor decisions. Even if their poor decision-making results in consequences, make sure your kids know they are loved despite their actions.

Parenting our kids well means we have to focus on teaching them to make good decisions. It's a learned skill, one that even as an adult, I am still learning. Be consistent, offer grace and pray. As a parent, that's the best decision you can make.

Let Your Kids Sing in the Rain

This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain, and all the moms who let them.
— Benj Pasek
 photo credit:  design blossoms

photo credit: design blossoms

A couple of months ago, I was watching the Oscars. It's the only awards show I watch. I don't really know why. I don't see that many movies, but I love to watch the Oscars. Maybe it's the glitz and the glamour of a world I'll never know. Maybe it's the fashion. But I think, most likely, it's that I enjoy listening to people who have achieved their dreams. I love to see the looks of joy on their faces and hear the names of the people they want to thank.

During this year's Oscar ceremony, Benj Pasek, a songwriter, won the Academy Award for best original song. During his speech he said these words: "This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain, and all the moms who let them."

For two months, those words have rattled around in my brain. Because Benj Pasek had a mother who allowed him to follow his passions, he now has an Oscar to sit on his shelf. I want to be that kind of mom.

You see, God has blessed me with two fabulous daughters. And they each have special gifts and talents. It's my job to nurture those gifts and talents so God can use them in the future. Sometimes, though, that's hard. Their dreams and ideas don't always line up with what I would want.

My older daughter plays soccer, and she loves it. She wants to play in college and is working to make that dream a reality. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I don't really like soccer. I think it's a boring game, and if I had my choice, I would never watch another soccer game. But my daughter loves it. She has a passion for it. It is her "sing in the rain" moment. So I have spent a good portion of my life as a mom sitting on the sidelines of a soccer field, cheering her on. I have learned the rules of the sport and can carry on a fairly intelligent conversation about soccer most days. It's not what I would have chosen, but it's clearly a God-given passion for her.

Letting our kids "sing in the rain" can be hard for other reasons, too. We all want our kids to be well-liked and to fit in with other kids. Sometimes our kids' interests and personalities just don't mesh with what the world wants them to be. That's when it's difficult as a parent to decide how much to encourage our kids to be different and how much to encourage them to fit in.

But, here's the thing. God created your children and mine to be unique. There should be no one else like them in this world. Every child should be allowed to "sing in the rain" even if it doesn't conform to what the rest of the world is doing.

Our calling as parents is not to raise children who fit in. It's not to raise children who are just like us. Our calling is to raise children who are seeking God and His plan for their lives. And His plan doesn't often require us to conform to what the world wants. It often requires us to stand out -- to be those people who "sing in the rain."

So, today, I want to encourage you to let your kids "sing in the rain." Let them be who God created them to be. Encourage their gifts and talents, even if they're not what you enjoy. Help them stand tall when no one else is standing with them. And love them for who they are.

The Quiet Kids

quiet-kids
quiet-kids

I'm the mom of a quiet kid. She's the girl in class who knows the answers but rarely raises her hand. She'll talk with you if you talk to her, but she's not likely to speak up much otherwise. It takes work to get to know her, but she's a treasure to know when you do.

Some events in our lives in the past few days has me thinking about the quiet kids. These are the kids who when you go to their parent-teacher conferences in middle school and high school, you can clearly see some of the teachers trying to figure out which kid you're talking about. These are the kids who are well-behaved and never seem to have a bad day.

It's not that they don't have bad days. It's just that they don't want to be the center of attention. They shy away from the spotlight and don't volunteer to share their joys and troubles with everyone.

And the reality is that these are the kids that can be overlooked. They aren't outgoing and attention-grabbing. They aren't trouble makers. They are adept at hiding their feelings and blending into the background.

The quiet kids actually bring a lot to the table. They listen more than they speak, which means when they do speak, they usually have something important to say. They observe more than they interact, which means they often have a keen understanding of human nature. When you do get to know them, when you make the effort to get past that exterior reserve, you can find that they have plenty to say, that they have a great sense of humor and that they are willing to share the deepest parts of their soul with you. But it takes effort.

Too often, adults and other kids aren't willing to put in that effort. The quiet kids can get shunted aside and overlooked as adults give their attention to the gregarious ones and the trouble-making ones.

The reality is, though, that these quiet kids need your attention. They need you to spend time getting past the surface and really getting to know them. They need your interest, your love and your attention.

God created these quiet kids because the world needs people who listen and observe. He knew we needed the quiet thinkers to help solve problems created by those of us who jump without looking.

But our society values the outgoing, life-of-the-party personality. That makes it easy to miss the quiet kids. It makes it easy to not notice when they're having a tough time. It makes it easy to assume that they don't have problems.

Today, look around, see if there are any quiet kids in your life. If there are, put in the time and effort to get to know them, to invest in them. Because those kids need your attention, your love, your understanding just as much as the attention-grabbing, outgoing kids. The truth is, they may need it more.

What Do We Tell Our Kids About the Election?

No matter who wins the presidency, God is still on His throne and is still in control. Our collective free will may leave us with a poor choice for president, but God can use anything for His purpose.

Usually, I love election year. I love to watch democracy at work, and I enjoy sharing a civics lesson or two with my kids.

This year, my girls are 13 and 15. It's a perfect time to have great conversations about how democracy works. We should be discussing candidates based on their stand on the issues. We should be having conversations about character and leadership.

Instead, we're discussing what qualifies as sexual assault. We're talking about email security. We're having dinnertime talks about "locker room talk" and infidelity.

And, like so many parents, we are struggling to help our kids understand that these are the two people we have to choose from for president. I find myself wondering how I explain to my girls that the person who will be the next president will be missing all of the moral ingredients that I've been trying to culture and grow in them.

I sit and ponder how exactly I tell these two girls whom I have raised to be strong women of character that one of the candidates for president just demeaned all women and pretty much said he could do whatever he wants with women because he has "power."

I have talked to plenty of parents who are struggling with the same issues. Instead of civics lessons, we're having basic moral lessons during this election. We have R-rated debates. We have name-calling and egoism. It's frustrating as an American, but it's more frustrating as a parent.

So, here's what I'm telling my girls about the election. Here's hoping it might help you, too.

  1. Everyone sins. Both of these candidates aren't perfect. They have both done some despicable things. God loves them anyway. We should be praying for them to recognize their need for God in their lives.
  2. Power corrupts. Machiavelli said it best when he said "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." The pursuit of power can make you do things and say things that are abhorrent. When people become blinded by power, they can't see the mess they are making in their wakes.
  3. Character still matters. Even though these presidential candidates are lacking in character, it does still matter. Character is the only thing that will help you hold a steady course. When you are lacking in character, when you have no rock to base your life on, you will end up saying and doing terrible things.
  4. God is still in control. No matter who wins the presidency, God is still on His throne and is still in control. Our collective free will may leave us with a poor choice for president, but God can use anything for His purpose.
  5. We have survived bad presidents before. This country has survived corrupt, character-less presidents before. The beauty of our system is that the president does not have absolute power.
  6. Our country needs prayer. Our presidential candidates only reflect the heart of our country. These two were voted to be the nominees, which means that our country had no interest in  nominating people of character. We need to be praying for our country daily.
  7. Objectifying women is wrong no matter who you are. This is not a conversation I thought I would need to have when it comes to the presidential election, but our sons and daughters need to hear this over and over again in light of the events of the past week.
  8. I don't know who I'm voting for. I've been honest with my kids about the fact that I can't vote for either candidate. My conscience won't let me. So, I may not vote for president. I may vote third party. I may write in my dad. I may draw a big smiley face on my ballot. I don't know.

These are not the conversations I thought I would be having surrounding the democratic process of electing a president. But they are the conversations that we need to have with our kids.

When You Don't Know What to Do

When we don’t know what’s best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.
— Lori Fairchild

I have this daughter. She's 12. She's smart. She's funny. She's compassionate. She's stubborn. She's challenging. She sees the world through a lens I don't have and marches to a beat I don't hear.

And she is, oh, so hard to parent. She makes me think hard every day. She makes me question whether I'm doing the right thing every week. She makes me pull my hair out at least once a month.

And she makes me want to hold her tight and hug her hard every single minute. Because this world is tough when you just don't quite fit. When your heart wants to do the right thing, but it's a struggle to find your spot. When no one else seems to see the world quite the way you do.

As her mom, I want her to be everything that God designed her to be. I want her to be the beautiful, compassionate, joyful person that I see not nearly often enough. I want her to examine the world through that lens that is so uniquely her own, so I can find out just what she's going to do with that perspective.

I have often said I would like to live inside her head for just one day, so I can see the world as she sees it. Because the world she sees, I think, is very different from the one I see.

I love all of that about her, but it makes it so very difficult to parent her. It makes it hard to know what to do when she has problems at school. How do you encourage her to fit in when the things that make her not fit in are the very things that you know are going to serve her well in the future? How do you decide if the struggles she's having are important for her character or simply unnecessary and a change would be good? How do you know you're doing the right thing for this child who is so very different from you?

You don't. You don't know. You may never know.

All I can do for this child of mine is pray hard over her. All I can do is wipe the tears when they come, deal with the frustration when it erupts, and hug her close and let her know she is loved by both me and God -- even when she is at her most unloveable.

The only thing I can do is take comfort in the fact that God knows.

God. Knows.

He knows her better than I ever will. He knew her before she was formed. And He surely loves her more than I can.

And He is the source of wisdom. So, when I don't know, when we don't know, what's best for our kids, we have to go to the one who knows them better than we do. We have to lay our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross and let God carry those burdens.

Because He knows.

He knows what to do when we do not.

When Mom Isn't Enough

When disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.
 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

“I didn’t get invited to the birthday party.”

“My friends were mean to me at lunch today.”

“Everyone else has a date to the dance.”

Any one of those statements is designed to break a mom’s heart. And over the 14 years I’ve been raising two girls, I’ve heard each of those and many more.

Every time it happens, I look at whichever child is uttering those words and wonder. I wonder why others can’t see what I see. I wonder why they can’t see that my quiet, loving, sensitive child is a force to have on your side with her strong sense of loyalty and wicked sense of humor. I wonder why they can’t see that while my quirky, exuberant, brilliant child may not fit any mold that’s ever been cast, her different way of thinking brings so much to the table.

When your child gets left out or hurt by others, it’s hard to help them. It’s hard to convince them that they are beautiful, smart, funny and worthy of friendship and love. Because you’re their mom. You have to say those things, and they know it.

There are no magic words that can heal the hurt. There’s no amount of ice cream or brownies that will make the sting go entirely away.

All we can do is be there when they cry, pick them up when they fall, and love them through it all. Because growing up is tough. They’re going to get left out. They’re going to get hurt. And we’re not enough to heal the hurt.

But God is.

God is the ultimate healer. He heals the broken-hearted. We know that we can’t fix all of our kids’ problems or heal all their hurts. And our kids know it, too. That’s why we have to point them in the direction of the One who can heal them. While we’re loving our kids through the disappointments and the hurts that life brings, we have to point them toward their loving Father who is ever so much more powerful than us at bringing healing.

Because as much as I love my girls, God loves them more. He delights in binding up their wounds. He hears their heartbreak. He collects their tears in a bottle. Because He loves them. He loves them enough to send His son to die for them.

So, when disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids about Texting and Social Media

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

My kids are 12 and 14, and they have their own cell phones. The deal around here is that when you go to middle school, you get a cell phone. When you turn 13, you get limited and monitored access to social media. Your phone is always subject to being monitored by mom or dad. Any text message or social media post is fair game. If we find something we don't like, then there are consequences ranging from losing access to social media to losing your phone entirely.

In the past few months, we've encountered a few situations where social media and texting have caused some hurt, anger and frustration in our house. And I've boiled it down to a common factor: lack of respect.

We talk a lot about respect in our house. Most of the rules we have are based on the idea that other people deserve respect. But those little devices in our kids' hands make it easy to forget that concept. It's easy to say things we don't mean when we don't have to look the other person in the eye. It's easy to ignore someone when they aren't standing right there. Minor disagreements turn into major ones when teens try to resolve them via text because it's impossible to determine intent or tone in a text message.

I've been working with my girls to help them understand that texting and social media are a tool of communication but not the only tool. And here are some of the do's and don'ts I'm trying to impart.

1. Don't say anything in a text or social media post that you wouldn't say to a person's face. Just because it's digital, doesn't make your words any less hurtful.

2. If you're having a disagreement, request that you get together to talk it out. It is almost impossible to successfully resolve a disagreement via text or social media because you're missing key clues to what the other person really means. You can't see facial expressions. You can't hear tone of voice. When emotions are already high, those nonverbal cues are important.

3. Never end a relationship via text. This seems to be the choice du jour of teens today. Ending a relationship via text is easy. You don't have to deal with any of the other person's emotions, and you don't have to have a conversation. But it is incredibly hurtful. Ending a relationship via text hurts in ways that doing it face to face does not because to text a breakup tells the other person that you don't value them or the relationship you had enough to extend the common courtesy of a face-to-face conversation. Ending a relationship is hard -- and it should be -- but it should be done in a way that doesn't devalue the other person. A text breakup does just that. Short of an abusive relationship (in which case there are a whole host of other issues involved), a relationship should never be ended via text.

4. Think about whether what you're posting is going to hurt someone else's feelings. My older daughter's friends went through a stage where they posted those memes where you tag different friends for different things -- best friend, tallest friend, goofiest friend, etc. Someone always got left out or was upset about what they had been tagged as. Nothing good comes from memes and comments that ask you to choose among your friends. It's best to just avoid those things altogether.

5. Use text and social media to praise your friends and share fun conversations. Use it to figure out your homework or make plans for the weekend. Text and social media are a great tool for communicating with others for simple things. They are a great way to stay in touch when life gets really busy.

6. Don't post things that embarrass other people. Sometimes it's funny to post a silly picture or a funny quote from a friend. As long as everyone is in on the joke, it's fine. But if your friend specifically asks you not to post something, then don't. Don't use social media as a way to embarrass or get back at someone else.

7. Remember that whatever you post on social media is public. Your future college and future employers can see it. Don't post things that will come back to haunt you later on.

8. Use text and social media to be an encourager. Offer praise and encouragement through text and social media. It is a great forum for that.

9. Don't use social media and text to offer criticism. Criticism and correction should always be offered face to face. It's hard to correct someone in love via text.

10. Don't let social media and text become a replacement for face-to-face relationships. There's only so much interaction that can take place via text and social media. You still need to get out of the house and hang out with your friends together. And when you're together, put the phones away.

In this digital world, it can be hard to keep up with what our kids are doing on their phones. The key to teaching them how to be responsible with text and social media is to remind them to treat each other with love and respect. If our kids remember that they are called to "love one another" at all times -- even when texting and using social media -- they will be on the road to successfully navigating this digital world.

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.

Don't Let Fear Rule Your Parenting -- The Rest of the Story

As our kids head back to school, let’s be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them — even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

A little over a week ago, I wrote this post about not letting fear rule your parenting. The next day, I got a phone call from my 14-year-old daughter in Ecuador saying her throat felt like it did when she had an abscess in it.

If you want to know fear, send your child to a foreign country and have her call you and tell you she's sick and needs medical treatment. She got to spend part of her day in an Ecuadorian hospital and ended up on the first flight home, cutting her trip short.

After writing that blog post about not letting fear rule your parenting, I was confronted with a situation that made me wonder whether that was the right tactic to take. If I'd just kept my daughter home, she would have been here when she got sick again. I wouldn't have spent 24 hours wondering if she was going to be OK. I would have had her right here where I could check on her. All of those thoughts went through this mom's very worried mind last Tuesday morning.

But do you know what one of my daughter's first questions was? She asked me if she could go back to Ecuador next summer. Despite not feeling good and being scared and sick in an Ecuadorian hospital, she couldn't wait to go back. The experiences she had, the friends she made and the joy she found while in Ecuador for a week ministering to others far outweighed the crumminess of getting sick and having to come home early.

I know that God wanted my daughter on that mission trip. He's given her a huge heart full of love and compassion along with a fearless spirit that revels in new experiences. He wanted her to have a taste of what that looks like on the mission field.

But Satan did not. There's nothing Satan wants more than for us to hide behind our fear to keep us from doing what God asks of us. Satan would have loved for fear to have kept me from putting my daughter on that plane. He would love for fear to keep me from letting her go again.

But even though this experience was gut-wrenching for me as a mom, even though her trip didn't end like anyone had planned, God still triumphed because we didn't let fear hold us back. My daughter should be good as new soon (she's having her tonsils taken out on Aug. 31), and she's already started working to earn money to go back to Ecuador next year. She had an amazing experience in Ecuador that will change her life forever. She has the best opening line of a "What I did this summer" essay that I've ever heard (I started my summer in an American hospital and ended it in an Ecuadorian one). And I was stretched as a mom to let go of my fear and trust God with this child of my heart more than I ever have before.

I was reminded once again of something I learned when my kids were very young. They are not mine. They are God's. I just get to be in charge of them for a little while. My biggest job as a mom is not to get in the way of what God wants to do in their lives. And when I do take steps to allow God to work, I have to be ready for Satan to attack because he doesn't want me or my kids growing in our faith and confidence in God. He wants fear and worry to hold us back.

Won't you join with me in not allowing Satan to have that kind of power over us and our kids? As our kids head back to school, let's be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them -- even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

Don't Let Fear Rule Your Parenting

Ecuador
Ecuador

A little over 12 years ago, I sat in a doctor's office and was presented with the fact that the baby I was holding in my arms shouldn't be here. I was told that 99% of babies with her particular health issues miscarried before they were born. In the weeks that followed, as a young mom of two kids under the age of two, I made a few decisions about the type of parent I wanted to be.

You see, I had been handed a miracle, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that all kids are miracles. There are so many things that have to come together just exactly right to create a healthy baby. The fact that that happens more often than it doesn't is a miracle.

I found myself having to answer the question "What do I do with these two miracles?" So I made a few hard and fast decisions in those first weeks of my second daughter's life. One was that I wanted to be an intentional parent. This blog is an outgrowth of that decision. The other big decision I made was that I never wanted to parent from a place of fear. I didn't want my decisions about what my kids could and could not do to be based on fear because irrational, paralyzing fear is not from God. It is a tool that Satan uses to keep us from doing the hard things that God asks us to do.

In the past 12 years, I've had a few moments where I've had to remind myself of that decision not to parent from a place of fear -- sending my girls off to their first sleepover or their first overnight camp, sending my 7-year-old out on the ice for the first time to play hockey with a bunch of boys, sending them off to their first day of middle school. But never has that decision been tested more than it was last Thursday when I put my 14-year-old daughter on a plane to Ecuador.

Two doctors had expressed reservations about her going on this trip. She'd been really sick not a week before. She was still on antibiotics. Every single fiber of my being was screaming that I should keep her home where I could keep an eye on her. But God was clearly saying "Send her." In those moments of tear-filled fear and paralyzing doubt, the rubber met the road on that long-ago decision not to parent out of fear. This moment was where I had to decide if I really believed that fear was not a good enough reason to stop my daughter from going on this long-awaited trip.

So, last Thursday, I chose not to let fear rule my parenting, not to let fear get in the way of God's plan. I put my daughter on a plane to Ecuador. And I am so glad I did. That picture at the top of this post is her playing soccer with some kids in Ecuador (she's in the red shirt). She has made new friends. She has worked hard and connected with some kids in Ecuador. She's had the opportunity to show the love of Jesus to people she would never have met if I had let fear make me say no to this trip. And even from the short text messages I've been getting, I can tell that she's going to come home a changed person.

Parenting out of fear never ends well for us or our kids. When we parent out of fear, we often rob our kids of the opportunity to try new things, meet new people and grow spiritually. Fear should never be the only reason we tell our children they can't have a new experience. Don't get me wrong, there are valid reasons for telling our kids no. Our 12-year-old didn't go on this trip because we don't feel she's old enough or mature enough to travel across the world on her own. The reasons for her not going, though, aren't rooted in fear; they're rooted in what's appropriate for her age.

However, if you're making decisions about what your kids can and can't do and you find fear is the only reason you're parenting the way you're parenting, it might be time to reevaluate. It might be time to take a close look at whether you're making decisions based on  prayerful consideration of what's best for your child or based on your own worries and fears.

Because when we let fear rule our parenting, we let Satan rob us and our kids of some of the great adventures God wants us both to have.

Parenting Takes Faith

This whole parenting thing is just one big leap of faith. From the moment we leave our kids with their first babysitter or send them off to school for the first time, we’re placing our faith in God that He’s got a plan for them and He’s going to take care of them.
 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

My older daughter leaves tomorrow morning to spend a week in Ecuador on a mission trip. I'm excited for her to go, but this trip that we've been planning for nine months has suddenly become a huge leap of faith.

You see, our summer has not gone the way we planned. My super healthy 14-year-old has battled two serious bacterial infections. A week ago, I would have told you she wasn't going on this trip. Her doctors weren't convinced that leaving the country -- without a parent -- was a good idea. I was definitely convinced it was a bad idea.

What was once a trip that caused me just minor concern has become a huge leap of faith for me. I'd be lying if I told you there wasn't a rock in the pit of my stomach as I think about putting her on the plane tomorrow morning. My biggest worry is that she'll get sick again, and she'll be in a foreign country where there's not much I can do about it. I trust the people she's going with. I know that there's medical evacuation insurance in place. I know that they have access to decent medical care. But it's still going to take a whole lot of faith to hand my daughter her boarding pass, give her a hug and tell her to have a great time.

As I pondered that moment this morning, though, I realized that this whole parenting thing is just one big leap of faith. From the moment we leave our kids with their first babysitter or send them off to school for the first time, we're placing our faith in God that He's got a plan for them and He's going to take care of them.

As my kids get older and they're out of my sphere of influence more and more often, I find that my faith in God's faithfulness has to grow. For them to become the people that God wants them to be, I have to trust that He loves them more than I do. I have to trust that His plan for them is the best one there is. And I have to trust that my kids will find Him and follow His path.

These aren't easy lessons for me to learn. These aren't easy days to be their mom. But I know that just as God will be using this trip to stretch and grow my 14-year-old, He'll be using it to stretch and grow me as well. Because this parenting thing? It takes faith.

These Moments are Precious

These moments with our kids won’t come around again. They’re here and then they’re gone. And each one of them is precious. Each one of them is important.

For the second time in six weeks, I sat in a doctor's office with my older daughter and had a doctor look at me and say something like "If we don't treat this correctly, it could kill her." When you hear that statement once, it's an eye-opener. When you hear it six weeks later for the second time, it's like a sledgehammer smacking you in the side of the head.

My older daughter started the summer with a four-day hospital stay and a bout with meningitis. This week, what I thought was a simple virus causing her throat to hurt turned out to be a nasty bacterial infection that caused an abscess in the back of her throat, which is apparently a very scary, dangerous thing that can cause all sorts of horrible complications if it's not treated correctly.

We're calling this the Summer of the Needles in our house. My poor daughter has had a spinal tap done for the meningitis and had to have the abscess in her throat drained the other day. It has not been fun. But it has been a world changer.

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

Proverbs 27:1 says "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." That's a lesson I've learned all too well this summer.

You may have noticed that this space has been quiet for several weeks. Part of that is because we were on vacation, but much of it is because I've been trying very hard to be present in my home this summer. Knocking up against serious illnesses twice this summer has reminded me just how precious each day with our kids is. It's made me realize that all those things I think I'll do with my kids tomorrow or next week or next year may not be in the cards. And I need to take advantage of the moments I do have.

So instead of writing blog posts, I've been doing a Bible study with my daughters and their friends. We've watched movies. We've checked out the new escape game in town. I've been taking my kids with me on errands that are easier to do by myself. I've sat on my bed and watched countless hours of "Mystery Diners" with my daughters.

Because these moments won't come around again. They're here and then they're gone. And each one of them is precious. Each one of them is important. And if capturing some of those moments means I write a few less blog posts or my house is a little less clean, then so be it. Because regardless of illness or health, the moments I have with my kids are fleeting, and I want to capture as many as I can.

A Change in Perspective

fragile We've had a rough start to summer around here. My older daughter spent the first week of June in the hospital with meningitis. It was a long, scary week that fortunately for us ended with a healthy kid.

But I discovered during the past two weeks that there's nothing like a sudden crisis to put everything in perspective. Before my daughter went into the hospital, her biggest concern was the fact that her coach was moving her down a team in soccer. That news rocked her world. She was sad, frustrated, and angry. Many, many tears were shed.

I'm not denying that it was a big deal to my 14-year-old. Soccer is her world. But two days later, after a trip to the doctor for antibiotics to treat a persistent sinus infection turned into an ER visit where we sat and waited for the results of a lumbar puncture to see if she had meningitis, she and I both got our perspectives shifted. We went from worried about a game to worried about her long-term health.

In the past two weeks, my daughter has learned that while God definitely gifted her with some soccer skills, He doesn't want that to be the most important thing in her life. Four days in the hospital moved her focus a bit to be able to see the things that really matter -- God, friends, family, health.

We were all reminded that life is fragile. Things can change in a moment. And while our passions and talents are important, they can't be all-consuming to the point that we lose our perspective on what's important.

Don't get me wrong, my daughter is still driven to play soccer. She still wants to improve and regain her spot on the higher team. But she also knows that not making the team is not the worst thing that can happen. She knows that God has plans for her even when she goes through the tough stuff. She's aware that there are more important things in life than the game she plays.

I wish it hadn't taken four days in the hospital to shift our perspective, but I am thankful for the opportunity to refocus our household's attention on the things that matter most.

The Teen Years Don't Look Like I Thought They Would

Teenager The other day, a boy told my older daughter that she's beautiful. I don't disagree with the sentiment, and I like the boy. But when I heard that, I looked at my daughter, and I wondered where the days went.

I wonder when this young lady standing in front of me grew up. I wonder when she went from a toddler with a pixie cut to this tall girl with waist-length hair standing in front of me. I wonder when those blue eyes went from being mischievous to being windows to her soul.

To be truthful, this stage doesn't look anything like I thought it would when she was that toddler. I assumed that when she was a teenager, we there would be solid rules around her about things like dating and curfews. I figured there would be more drama and less conversation.

I'm discovering, though, that while there are boundaries, parenting this teen is a lot more fluid than I ever dreamed it would be.

I'm learning that a lot of the ideas I had about how to parent a teen simply don't hold water. Because she's not that little toddler any more. She's a young woman with hopes, dreams and ideas of her own. She often makes valid arguments and forces me to see a situation differently.

And I'm deciding that that's OK. Because I'm also learning that to parent effectively in this stage, I have to lean even more heavily on God's wisdom than on my own. Because she is her own person, and she needs to be able to make decisions on her own.

I'm learning that every situation she encounters doesn't fall into the nice little box of rules that I'd like to make and that we have to make decisions based on where she is in that moment. I'm discovering there's less "Do this because I said so" and more open conversation about making good choices and learning life lessons.

All this means I'm learning how to rest on the Holy Spirit's wisdom. I'm learning to let go of my hard and fast ideas of what the teenage years should look like and deal with what they really do look like. That means I spend a lot of time praying over my teen and her friends. It means I spend a lot of time seeking out wisdom from people who have already walked this route.

God is teaching me that we need to set larger boundaries but that we need to seek Him in the individual stuff. We need to drop it in His lap and let Him lead the way instead of me leading the way.

We're learning that if we deal with the situations she faces individually within some clearly defined boundaries, it gives us a lot more flexibility to parent her well. It gives us a chance to teach her to make good decisions on her own instead of forcing her to make those decisions within a rigid set of rules that we set for her.

Because teaching our teens to make good decisions is what it's all about. We're not always going to be there to set the rules for them. They need to be able to choose the right path on their own.

So, while this teenage thing looks different than what I thought, it is teaching both her and me how to seek God's wisdom first. It's teaching us how to communicate with each other effectively. Some days, it's hard. Other days, it's a whole lot of fun.

But I still wonder where the time has gone.

 

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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What Defines Your Child?

Value If you've read this blog for very long at all, you know we're a sports family. Both girls are heavily involved in sports, and they take up a big chunk of our time and budget.

I love that my girls play sports. I truly believe that being on a team and competing has huge benefits -- especially for girls. But sometimes those sports can cause a whole lot of agony.

My older daughter has had a rough soccer season for a lot of reasons. She's been really frustrated, and there have been a whole bunch of tears. It's become all-consuming for her. How do I get better? How do I communicate effectively with my coach? What if I lose my spot on the team? These are conversations we're having almost daily around here.

And it's not healthy. Soccer had gotten to a point where it had really overrun everything else in my daughter's life. Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to be passionate about what they do. I want them to go hard after what they want. I want them to give anything they do their best effort.

But when something surrounding that thing they're so passionate about goes wrong, I don't want it to consume their lives. I don't want them to be so miserable that it's hard to find a smile at all. I don't want it to be the only thing they think about.

So, the other night my daughter and I were at dinner by ourselves. We had a long talk about where soccer belonged in her life. We talked about how it's important to want to solve the problems she's having, but it's not OK to let it affect every aspect of her life. And then I said to her: "Soccer is something you do. It is not who you are."

Because we had let soccer become something that defined my daughter. Her identity, her self-worth, her entire world was wrapped up in this sport. And that's not OK. Because while she loves to play it and she has some talent for it, it isn't the only thing in her life. We needed to put soccer back in it's appropriate slot in her life -- as something she loves to do. Because nothing she does or doesn't do on the field makes her any less of a person. It doesn't change her priorities or who she is.

When we let the activities our kids do define who they are, their self-worth gets tied to a score or a performance instead of being tied to their intrinsic value as a child of God.

In this world where we're told our kids need to find the thing they love and they need to follow that thing wherever it leads, it's up to us as parents to remind our kids that their worth as a person isn't found in anything that they do. They are loved and cherished simply because they are God's creation. God does not care if they are a soccer star, a straight-A student or a prima ballerina.  He loves them because He made them.

Our kids should absolutely pursue their passions. They should chase their dreams. They should work hard and give it everything they have. But they shouldn't let what they do define them. They shouldn't let the things they are involved in be the measure of their self-worth.

That means sometimes we have to help our kids examine the pressure they are putting on themselves. We have to ask them the hard questions about where they are drawing their identity from. We have to help them keep the things they do in their lives from defining who they are.

Last night, my daughter played her best game of the season. She walked on the field with an entirely different attitude. She looked like she was having fun. She looked confident. But that confidence didn't come from anything she knew she could do on the field. It came from knowing that no criticism could take away her value. It came from understanding that failure on the field wouldn't make her any less important to us or to God.

Sometimes we need to step back and assess the value our kids are placing on their accomplishments and failures. Sometimes they need to be reminded that their identity is not found in what they do but in who God says they are. Because when they know and understand that, everything else will fall into place.

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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Raising an Introvert in an Extrovert World

introvert My older daughter is an introvert in the truest sense of the word. She draws her energy from being alone. Interacting with other people is an incredible drain on her energy. And the thought of having to address a problem situation or be a part of conflict is horrifying on a scale that is almost paralyzing.

My daughter is almost 14, and it has taken me nearly that long to figure out how to parent an introvert and how to help her navigate a world that tends to reward extrovert behaviors. I couldn't be more different from her. I love people. I've never met a stranger. The more people there are around me, the happier I am.

But my daughter doesn't operate like that, and while I don't truly understand her dislike of crowds and small talk, I do know that God made her that way for a reason. She is just as "fearfully and wonderfully made" as all the extroverts in this world.

Recently, we've encountered a couple of situations that remind me just how hard this world is to navigate for the truly introverted. Raising an introvert takes an extra measure of wisdom and patience. It takes encouraging and prompting and a lot of understanding of how the introvert brain works.

So, here's five things I've learned in nearly 14 years of parenting an introvert:

1. Introverts don't need lots of people. It used to frustrate me to see my daughter always on the fringes of events. She'd be the one on the outside of the team huddle or the one standing on the corner of the room at a party. She might be talking to one or two other people, but she was never seeking out people to talk to. The truth about introverts is that they simply don't need a lot of people in their lives. They need a handful of people who they know they can count on, and that's enough. They aren't necessarily interested in making a whole bunch of new friends, and their extrovert parents need to be OK with that. Success is not defined by how many friends you have. It's the quality of those relationships that matter.

2. Change is hard for everyone, but it's even harder for an introvert. Changing teachers, coaches, teams or houses is harder for introverts than it is for extroverts. Change means your introvert is going to have to expend a whole lot of emotional energy to make new friends or impress a new teacher or coach. They aren't naturally inclined to reach out to someone else, so if they encounter a coach, teacher or a group of kids who aren't willing to invest some time in getting your introvert to open up, then introverts may have a really rough time until they can muster up enough courage and energy to reach out to someone themselves.

3. Don't correct behavior in front of other people. Unless it relates to the safety of your child or other people, save your criticism and correction for a private moment. Introverts hate to be the center of attention for any reason but especially if they have done something wrong. If you want your correction to be effective, do it in private. If you correct them in public, the likelihood is that your child will be so mortified at being corrected in public and so distraught about being the center of attention that they may not even hear what you're saying.

4. Praise is important. Introverts tend to internalize everything. They often don't speak up for themselves even when they believe the other person is wrong. It takes a huge amount of emotional energy for an introvert to tell you you're wrong or that they disagree with you. It goes back to the drawing attention to yourself thing. Many introverts take everything that's said to them to heart, which means they need plenty of praise when they are doing something right.

5. Keep the yelling to a minimum. As I said, introverts really don't like to be the center of attention. Nothing draws attention to them like yelling. My daughter tells me that when she is being yelled at, she can't even focus on what's being said. Not because she doesn't want to or she's not trying. She's simply too upset about being yelled at to focus.

Being introverted doesn't mean that your child can't succeed in this world that tends to reward extroverts. It just means that you'll need to do a lot more parenting and coaching along the way. Here are five strategies I've learned for helping your introverted child navigate a world that requires so much energy from them.

1. Protect your child's alone time. Introverts truly need to be left alone to recharge. If your child disappears into her room for hours at a time after a ridiculously busy week, leave her alone. Check to make sure nothing is wrong, then respect her need to be alone. She'll rejoin the family when her tank has been refilled.

2. Coach your child through difficult situations. When your child encounters a situation that requires him to resolve a conflict or have a hard conversation, be his coach. Role play the situation. Throw every possible reaction you can think of at him. Encourage him to write up some notes to take into the conversation. Simply drawing attention to himself by starting the conversation will be nerve-wracking for your introvert, so having notes to rely on will help him remember all the points he wanted to make.

3. Keep groups small. If your child is having a party or getting together with some friends, keep the group small. Your child is going to interact better with a couple of people she really likes than with a group of 10 or 15. Don't insist on 20 people at her birthday party if what she really wants is her two closest friends. There's nothing worse than watching your child wander the fringes of her own birthday party (believe me, I know).

4. Ask your introvert what their thoughts are. Introverts often won't volunteer their thoughts. I'm pretty sure my daughter's sixth-grade language arts teacher had no idea who she was. My daughter never raised her hand in class, so the teacher never heard from her. My daughter is smart and funny. She has incredibly deep thoughts, but a lot of people miss out on the chance to hear those thoughts because they are waiting for her to share them on her own. The best question you can ask an introvert is "What do you think?" You might be surprised at the response you get.

5. Be patient. It may take your introvert longer to settle in to a new situation than other kids around her. It took my daughter an entire year to get her feet under her in middle school. She's struggled through other situations like changing coaches and having to make new friends, as well. And it always seems to take her just a bit longer than other, more extroverted kids. Be there to offer encouragement, mop up tears and offer up different strategies.

Parenting an introvert can be an exercise in patience and frustration, especially if you're not an introvert yourself. It can be hard not to just step in and deal with a difficult situation for them, especially because you understand how much of an emotional toll those situations can take on your introvert. But the best thing we can do for our introverts is to treasure their personalities and offer strategies and encouragement for dealing with those tough situations. We can help set them up for success without changing who they are.

Because the last thing we want to do is devalue our child's inherent personality. Those introverted kids are often some of the kindest, most compassionate people you'll meet -- probably because they are busy watching others while us extroverts are busy talking.

Introverts can succeed in this world. They just need a little coaching, a lot of love and the knowledge that their less-exuberant personalities are as valuable as those of their extroverted friends and family.

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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What You Should Expect from Your Kids

the best Expectations. They're the root cause of so many frustrations in life. We expect one thing, and we get another. And we're disappointed.

How many times have you sat at a sporting event for one of your kids and been disappointed that your kid was checking out the pretty butterfly instead of scoring the winning goal? How many awards assemblies have you sat at watching child after child pick up academic award after academic award while your child is there for perfect attendance?

The world today is full of competition and comparison. I think Instagram and Facebook make it very difficult to appreciate the lives we have, the children we have and the spouses we have. We're bombarded with the daily accomplishments of other people in our lives. No one is posting that they haven't managed to get a shower yet today and their house is covered in a 2-inch-thick layer of dust. No one posts pictures of the days when every kid in the house is crying because you lost your temper. No one is bragging about how their kid tripped over the base and cost their team the winning run.

And it is so, so easy for us and our kids to get caught up in the comparison trap. It is so, so easy to raise the bar on our expectations for our kids to a level that they were never designed to meet.

My kids are both athletes. They are fairly decent at the sports they play. But you know what? My younger daughter can't draw a stick figure, and her handwriting is terrible. My older daughter struggles to spell words correctly and can't cut a straight line with a pair of scissors to save her life.

God created me and my kids different from the way He created you and your kids. He gave us different gifts and talents than He gave the members of your family.

When we place expectations on our kids that aren't realistic for their gifts and talents, we tell them that we aren't satisfied with the way God made them. We tell them that we don't appreciate the gifts and talents they do have. We tell them that they simply aren't good enough.

It would be ridiculous for me to expect my older daughter to win the spelling bee or for my younger daughter to win an art competition. Those are unrealistic expectations. But sometimes we as parents get so caught up in being able to say "My kid is the best" that we forget that not every kid has to be the best. They simple have to be their best.

So, here's a list of the five things we expect from our kids. These are expectations that teach work ethic and respect. They are not targeted at being better than everyone else. They are simply aimed at making our kids the best they can be so they can do the work God intended for them.

1. Give 100% to everything you do. Live out the words of Colossians 3:23. What you do is a reflection of your love for God.

2. Be respectful of everyone. Practice the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12.

3. Ask for help when you need it. We can't all be good at everything. Not asking for help is a sign of being prideful, and pride is destructive (Proverbs 16:18).

4. Offer help when it's needed. God gave you gifts and talents to use for Him. If someone else needs your help, offer it and give it cheerfully.

5. Remember your gifts and talents come from God. Give Him the glory when things go well and seek His guidance when things don't go your way.

Our kids need to know that we appreciate who they are. They need to know that we don't expect them to excel at everything. But they also need to know that we do have expectations of them -- ones that they can meet no matter what their gifts or talents are.

Because being the best isn't the goal. Being their best is.

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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When Your Child Struggles

struggling I hate watching my kids struggle. I hate watching the tears roll down their faces. I hate watching them put everything they have into doing something well, and it's still not enough.

But sometimes that's what I need to do. I need to watch. When my kids struggle, my first instinct is to step in and help. That's what moms do, right? We help our kids. But sometimes, what they need is to struggle. Sometimes what they need is to learn to be an advocate for themselves. Sometimes what they need is to learn that not every effort leads to success. Sometimes what they need is to find that success often only comes through struggle.

But it's so hard to watch. My older daughter is going through a struggle right now. And I can see how to make the situation improve. I can see the words that need to be said and the actions that need to be taken. But she has begged me not to step in. She has asked to handle the situation on her own. She's almost 14, and because it's not something that impacts her safety or her physical well-being, I need to let her.

I can stand by and offer support. I can offer suggestions. I can point her in the direction of people who can help her. But at this point, I can't step in. I can't save her from the struggle. And it is so very hard. As many tears as she has shed, I've shed more. I hate to see my kids hearts hurt.

But going through a struggle makes our kids stronger on the other side. They learn that they can survive. They learn that they can solve a problem themselves. They learn that the things you have to work hard for are the things that are worth having. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

When our kids struggle, they are going through their own refining process. God may be using those struggles to teach them something they'll need to know in the future. He may be using those struggles to strengthen their faith. He may be using those struggles to point them in a different direction.

If we always step in and save our kids from the struggle, our kids will never learn those life lessons. They may never learn new skills or head in a different direction.

When our kids are struggling, they need us to be a soft landing place for them. They need to know that we're there to offer hugs, to wipe up tears, to offer advice and to let them know that they are unconditionally loved. They need to be reminded that their self-worth doesn't come from the thing they are struggling with but from knowing they are a dearly loved child of God. But they may not need us to step in.

Because every kid is going to struggle. If we save them from the struggle, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn how strong they really are. And we may be robbing them of an important lesson God is trying to teach them.

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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