I don’t have to tell you that parenting is hard—you already know that.
Hundreds of thousands of books have been written on the subject, and I’ve read probably dozens of these. I don’t know about you, but all that information can be more overwhelming than helpful.
I don’t claim to be an expert; but as a parent to a 9-year-old, 7-year-old, and 4-year-old, I’ve figured out a few basics…
Food. Clothing. Roof over head.
Totally just kidding. Of course, they need those. But I’m talking about non-tangibles today—essentials to every child’s well-being.
I’m a lover of simplicity, so over time I’ve boiled my strategy down to these five things every child needs to flourish.
Children need to know that they belong in their family. This seems obvious, but hear me on this. If they feel unaccepted or disapproved of, they will search for belonging somewhere else. God created us to belong—first, to Him. But also in community. Studies have proven that belonging is essential to happiness (not loads of toys).
So how do we make sure our kids know that they belong?
You’re probably already doing it.
Be their biggest fan.
Embrace every part of them, quirks and all.
Celebrate who they were created to be.
Tell them how your family wouldn’t be the same without the unique personality and strengths they bring to the table.
Be a person with whom they can share any thought or feeling without fearing judgement.
When we are a safe place for our child, they won’t be tempted to lower their standards or pretend to be someone other than who they were created to be just to fit in… because they already will.
2. Apologies. Lots of them.
Brace yourself; this one hurts. The last thing I want to do after I—ahem--justifiably lose my temper is to apologize. The same goes for when I make a false assumption or fall short of a promise or… the list goes on.
You and I, we mess up all the time. And our children are watching to see how we handle those mistakes. They need to see us live out the Jesus way of handling them: humility.
When I apologize to my daughter for yelling at her, I’m communicating more than just “I’m sorry”. She sees that mommy messes up sometimes, but that it’s not okay to belittle others.
When I apologize to my son for jumping to wrong conclusions, I’m telling him that our relationship matters more to me than being right. By lowering myself, I’m raising the standard in our household by showing my children what’s okay and what’s not.
The times when I’ve apologized—even when I didn’t feel like it, have been some of the most impactful parenting moments of all. When we give ourselves permission to be human, we give our children permission to be human, too, while leading them in God’s better way of living.
Read my lips; your children need to be bored. Bored, bored, bored.
Not 24/7 of course. But as much as they will try to convince you otherwise, this is not a bad thing and you do not need to feel guilty about it.
What are your best childhood memories? Probably not when your mom and dad dragged you around to every festival, sports game, and theme park known to man.
My parents failed in the entertaining department, and I became better for it. My brothers and I spent hours creating games, stories, and toys in the basement. We built forts in the woods in the backyard. I collected paper, cloth, pipe cleaners, and other “goods” and would sit creating for hours on end.
So maybe my parents didn’t fail after all.
What I’m trying to say is this: Boredom breeds creativity.
It’s okay, mom and dad. Let them be bored.
This one’s harder than apologizing, because it allows the pain to fall on my kids, instead of me. And oh how badly I want to come between the two.
Just last week one of my children, who shall remain anonymous, got into a little situation at school involving his mouth. Oh, how the Apostle James was right when he said, “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” #preach
Anyway, part of me wanted to sweep the situation under the rug, writing it off as a “just a kid” incident. But inside I knew my child was old enough to understand the power of his words and their impact on others. We talked. He cried. For two hours, to be exact. He felt the full weight of his consequences that week, but he came out better for it.
Situations aren’t always that serious, though, and sometimes it’s easier to write off our kids’ sin and disobedience or pay the price ourselves.
Johnny didn’t clean his room, but you let him have dessert anyway.
Brittney broke her phone, so you just buy her another.
Billy failed an Algebra test, so you e-mail his teacher and ask for a do over.
Are you coming between your children and the consequences needed to grow them into healthy and productive human beings?
I’m not discounting grace. Have grace. But, also have consequences. Pain can be a powerful teacher.
5. A Healthy You
Healthy children come from healthy families, and healthy families are made up of healthy individuals. You simply cannot sacrifice your well-being “for the sake of the kids”. It doesn’t work that way.
Are you stressed and overrun?
Are you financially strapped?
Do you feel far from God?
Are you severely overweight or suffering from a medical condition?
Is your marriage falling apart?
It’s time to put first things first. Stop running your children to every activity under the sun. Make time to have coffee with a trusted friend, see a counselor, or take a class that will get you to a healthier place.
Your children may not understand now, but they will thank you for it down the road when they have a physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy parent or guardian.
Being a parent doesn’t have to be complicated. For more simple guidance, I like to read the Proverbs. Conveniently, there are 31 chapters which makes for an easy habit of reading one per day. Who knows, after a year of reading through 12 times, they might start to sink in. Maybe.
Lastly, I know many of you are reading this from a place of discouragement. You feel like you’re not a good enough parent.
Know this, mom or dad: If you have the desire to get better, you’re already a good parent.
Give yourself some grace. This is a hard job.
Pray and ask God how you can fill one of your child’s five needs today.
News flash: We’re 16 days deep into the New Year.
But perhaps you already knew that.
Maybe, like me, you’ve been checking off the days and staring down the 349 left to go.
I don’t know what resolutions you made or goals you set, but I do know that this is about the time that discouragement starts to creep its way into our sparkly dreams.
The fun of new beginnings becomes replaced by frustration, exhaustion, or even apathy, and taint our hope that, perhaps, change is possible.
So what do we do when our Bible plan is at 5%, the scale has stopped moving, and our children are still crazy?
We all have that friend who lost 40 pounds and changed their life, and the other who finally started their own business last year. What’s the difference? What’s the magical formula to making and keeping these promises to ourselves?
I found myself asking this question yesterday as I huffed and puffed my way through a HIIT and strength routine.
Two years ago I was sick and tired of the way I looked and felt. I had made every excuse for why I couldn’t workout. So almost two years ago, to the date, I stopped.
I stopped making excuses, and I showed up.
I showed up when I felt like it, and when I didn’t.
I showed up when I felt strong, and when I was so sore I didn’t think I could lift the remote.
I showed up when I could see and feel progress, and when I couldn’t.
And do you know what? The results came. After a year, I had lost over 15 pounds and felt better than I’ve ever felt in my entire life.
I didn’t do anything that would seem spectacular or even praise-worthy. I didn’t pin 46 tricks to lose weight. I didn’t spend $200 on a webinar that would tell me the secret to success.
I simply showed up.
Now, I’m not saying these things are bad. Certainly there are a lot of fantastic tools and some helpful information out there--but none of it will work if you don’t.
You want to know the sad news?
I re-gained nearly all of those 15 pounds last year.
Shocking, I know.
You want to know what I did?
I stopped showing up.
Mentally and physically.
I allowed the excuses back in, and found fifteen friends who agreed with them…
And I simply stopped.
So here I am, back at square one this New Year.
But I’m not dismayed, because the good news is it’s not over.
I’ve started showing up again.
And I’m applying what I’ve learned to other areas, too.
What are your resolutions or goals this year?
I want to re-lose the weight, write more, and work on my relationships.
No matter your “race”, you get to the finish line one step at a time.
So show up.
Stay in your lane.
And keep taking steps.
Some days will be sprints. Others will feel like a crawl. But you’ll be moving forward.
I love the encouragement Paul gives in Galatians 6, verse 9 when he says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Those resolutions, those dreams, those plans—they are God-given.
Do you know He wants you to succeed?
The best news is He can take our steps of faith and multiply them beyond what we ever thought imaginable.
But we have to show up.
Show up at your small group. Show up at the dinner table. Show up at the gym. Show up to the phone call. Show up to that book you started. Show up to the paperwork.
Don’t give up.
If you had asked me if I’d ever write a children’s book one day, the answer probably would have been a confident “No”. But God sure does have a sense of humor, doesn’t He?
In early October I arrived home from an out-of-town creative conference I was blessed with the opportunity to attend. With my husband on a work trip of his own, I headed to my in-laws’, to pick up my three children.
The moment I swung open their screen door and saw my oldest little’s face, I knew something was wrong. Avery was nearly green. I sighed and asked what he had eaten that day, and he rattled off a list of greasy, sugary foods. “My stomach hurts,” he moaned.
“Let’s go home and get to bed,” I said, hoping a Tums and a good night’s sleep would do the trick. But the next morning when he got up, so did the pizza, the pastries, and the candies he’d devoured the day before. Gross.
As I finished preparing school lunches for the non-pukers, I overheard my middle child questioning his brother loudly. “Why do you always throw up after we go to Nana’s? I eat junk food there, too, and I don’t throw up,” he added with a tinge of belittlement.
By then I’d reached the bedroom door and found myself blurting out, “Because Avery is more sensitive than you. His stomach is more sensitive than yours. His eyes are more sensitive than yours; his ears, his taste, his feelings… they’re all more sensitive.” I carried on with my explanation in a sort of out-of-body parenting experience, where I wondered where the words were coming from.
When my son was five, he was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (you can read more about that experience here). Since then it’s been a journey of learning to understand and appreciate his differences, and help others do the same.
I haven’t always got it right.
The road has been marked with melt-downs and hugs, screaming fights and apologies, tears and talks, victory and disappointment and yes—even sometimes puke.
During a phone call with my grandmother last year, I was bemoaning my frustrations with Avery and some school stuff going on. My sweet, wise grandmother is also a bit of a fireball. She stopped me dead in my complaints and informed me she was going to pray. Like right then.
I’ll never forget the words she told me that day, “Katie, I believe what the Holy Spirit is telling me is that what others see as Avery’s weakness, is actually his strength.”
Holy Spirit turned the table that day. Instead of focusing on his “problems”, I began to pray that God would show me his unique gifts and help me to encourage him to use his difference to make a difference.
And do you know what?
My son, who gets his feelings hurt easily, is the first to introduce himself to a new friend and invite them to play.
My son, who has been called a “busybody” because he hears everything, senses when I am having a stressful day and simply need a hug.
My son, who is the first to point out detail, creates the most endearing artwork for the fridge.
All because of his sensitivity.
On that rainy morning in October, in the doorway of my boys’ room, “Different by Design” was birthed. The story of a puppy, Tommy, and his family that is inspired by our own personal journey.
Our prayer is that it will inspire other children—especially those who are different by design—to know that they were created with a purpose that is just as unique as they are.
For those of you who have been following this journey, it is my pleasure to announced that “Different by Design” is finally available for pre-sale! All of the playful, detailed illustrations were drawn by Avery. The finished product is a premium paperback with glossy pages that will hold up to years of wear and tear.
You can grab a copy for the special child in your life by clicking “Different by Design” on the menu above. All pre-orders made before February 1st will be shipped / available for pick-up by mid-February.
Thank you for your support--you are different by design!
A special thank you to Heather, Anne, Jess and Tanya who have
helped shaped not only this book, but me as a writer.
A little about me...
Hi, I'm Katie!
Wife to Craig, mom of three, author, writer, Jesus-follower, Bible teacher, and coffee enthusiast.
Follow me as I follow Christ and share my heart throughout the journey.
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