ME TIME

ME TIME

Children, like you, need downtime to recharge and regroup. Schedule daily time for each person to have time alone by themselves. Establish the rules ahead of time for what is and isn’t acceptable and the consequences for not honoring the time (perhaps double time the following day). I strongly encourage you to explain this during a family meeting, so everyone knows what to expect. Start with just 15 minutes and keep adding minutes each day until you have reached an hour. I suggest starting out with everyone on their beds. It helps establish a clear boundary. Once they have honored the time and can manage themselves, perhaps, you will allow them to play in their room. Make sure they all go to the bathroom ahead of time and have a water bottle, so there is no need to come out. They can use this time to take a nap, read a book, or play with Barbies or Legos quietly on their beds. Have them gather a bin or basket of items they can choose from. The key is not to make this feel like they are in a time-out or being disciplined. It is a time of relaxation and refreshment for everyone.

Trust me, some kids will be so grateful to have siblings to play with when the hour is over!

**If your child simply cannot comply with this activity, and there are no other obvious reasons, it could be that they sincerely need help growing in self-control. This is something that is taught and a life skill that transfers to all other areas. The worst thing you can do is give up and conclude, “My child just can’t spend 15 minutes alone in their room.” It is okay if you need to go after this and really work with them.

FAMILY MEETINGS

I grew up having ‘family meetings,’ which meant we had to gather and listen to a very long lecture about something. I walked away feeling like I wanted to run away. They were not empowering or life-giving. When I began to have my own family, I, too, wanted to have family meetings but to create a time everyone had a voice, was able to share without fear, and could contribute to the process. I wanted my children to walk away feeling closer, connected, and empowered. We have done just that over the years. When I call out “family meeting,” they stop what they are doing and join me in the family room. They come expectant to be included and heard. We have intentionally gone on family meeting dates where we talk through a particular topic or issue.

Family means all people. Everyone gets a voice, each carrying something vital. Children have a perspective that is needed.

BELONGING

Ellie was invited to spend the day at the coast with friends. They were having so much fun that it turned into an impromptu sleepover. She came home the following morning 2 minutes after we walked in the door from church. We were rushing around getting things done as we had friends coming over for brunch. I greeted her, hugged her, and continued to get ready. The entire time our friends were here, she was in a funk. She was snapping at her siblings and just being unpleasant. After they left, I heard her respond unkind and asked her to come to me. I inquired if anything happened on her adventure with her friend that needed to be processed. Nope. I asked if she was tired from the late night and needed a quick nap. Nope. I asked if she was hungry as our lunch was off due to late brunch. Nope. I finally said, “Then what is agitating your heart so bad?” and she burst into tears. She began to tell me how much joy and fun she had with her friends and that when she walked in the door, it was like no one cared that she was back. BINGO! I vividly remember Emma having the exact same scenario play out years ago. She cried big tears, saying that when she came back home, no one asked her about her time or stopped doing what they were doing to welcome her. I did not fully understand the scope of it until Ellie experienced the exact same thing. Friends give us a deep sense of belonging, so when a child has a great sleepover, playdate, or outing with their friends, their love tank in the area of belonging is overflowing. When they re-enter the family, they need a few minutes to be welcomed back home with intention, or it can send the message, “You don’t belong here.”

DO NOT PLAY THE GAME

As a parent, how does this story make you feel? Johnny walks up to his younger sister, minding her own business, punches her, and then tells her she doesn’t belong in the family. OUCH! What if mom walked in and got all the other siblings against Johnny, making him feel like the outsider, as if his bad attitude meant he no longer belonged? This is the recipe for some serious family dysfunction and pain. Johnny’s behavior clearly needs to be addressed because it is not in alignment with God’s heart, but he is operating out of being an orphan and needs the love of a Father, not rejection. This would not be okay in our family and should not be okay in God’s family. Can’t you see? It is not a gay/straight, John/Beth, He said/She said, Kanye/Church, Pastor/Flock issue. This is a dividing issue from the enemy bent on destroying God’s family. DO NOT PLAY THE GAME. Do not pick sides. Do not pick a winner because if there is a winner, there must be a loser, and we do not treat family that way. 

There are only two camps of people – those who are Sons/Daughters and those who are still operating as orphans (even Christians can be orphans). If Johnny does not have eyes to see his sister’s worth, then he needs a revelation from God. The Bible says people cannot see because they have scales on their eyes. Isaiah 44:18 reads, “They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.” Your prayers that the scales from a brother’s eyes be removed will be more effective than your social media posts against him. If you are taking sides and have not prayed for the scales to be removed from his eyes, then you could very well be just as guilty of participating in dividing God’s family. We are ONE family. ONE Body. If a brother and sister argue, they need love, not sides. I ache over the words spoken against family members, but I want to be an agent of restoration (through prayer), not further division. Which side are you on? Neither! We are on the same side, serving the same God as ONE Body.

BEDTIME STORIES

Remind your children how big God is by telling them stories of His incredible power in other challenging stories in the Bible. He always comes through and always knows what He is doing (always). Make it a family date to have a bedtime story each day for a week using the stories of the Bible. You can read them out loud or simply share them in your own words.

NOT SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE

A mom shared: “My husband was verbally praising one of our daughters. Just moments later, she was in an angry outburst toward one of her siblings. When we asked her what was going on inside her after we had just spent the time telling her how wonderful she was, she responded, ‘Words of affirmation is my lowest love language. You guys saying all that great stuff about me didn’t do anything for me.’ Yikes! But she was right and honest. It was a big wake-up call.” 

Lisa’s response: May I add to that? Intentionally filling her up with a different language triggered her because it reminded her that *her* language was not being spoken. It is like you are craving chocolate, and someone gives you a fish. Fish is good for you, but it triggers your longing for chocolate. While words of affirmation is always a good thing, because her tank was low, it actually had a negative effect. I think that is what was behind her anger at that moment. Love that she was able to articulate it so well and that you could hear her heart. Go for her language to get a bulls-eye into her heart.

TECHNOLOGY

I realize we are all first-generation parents stewarding the world of technology with our children. We will hit some home runs, and we will make some mistakes along the way. One day my son asked if he could take his phone with him on our family outing. I usually have them leave them at home because it is our time to connect, but I allowed it. He was playing a Spanish app and engrossed in it and barely said a word. I had to run to Walmart, and he asked if he could keep playing on it while I was shopping. I agreed to make an exception. The trip was chaotic. He was always a few feet behind us and not paying attention as he bumped into others due to looking down on his phone. I was in a bit of a hurry and was trying to find something for Ellie. I asked him to stay by the cart while I ran down the other aisle, and he absent-mindedly walked away, leaving my cart and purse unattended. I asked him to go back to the cart. A few moments later, Ellie came to me upset because Hudson was snapping at her. He was attempting to push the cart but ran into something because his eyes were on his phone. A few minutes later, I asked him to help me with something, and he had an attitude with me for ‘interrupting’ him. It was so chaotic and stressful. I went to him and held out my hand, asking for his phone. We finished and when we got into the car, I reminded him that I had raised him to be a helper, to see others, to be kind, to jump in where needed, to be a gentleman, to serve, be aware of his surroundings and to be a blessing. I did not raise a son whose eyes were locked looking down on a screen, walking around aimlessly without seeing a single person or contributing to the task. Every parent needs to make their own choice about technology, but for me, when they were younger, going to the store was our training ground for character, and I was not going to let a phone undo all that work. I care more about his development than his entertainment. I care more about the man he is becoming than his comfort. I care more about him seeing others than what he is watching for himself. The phone is not your friend if it is breaking connection with those around you.

HURTFUL WORDS

Do you have an issue with hurtful words (and tones) in your family? Try this teaching exercise.

Teach Proverbs 15:1. Get a really fancy plate at the thrift store. Speak in a soft, gentle tone and explain to the children the dish is like a person’s heart and how careful we need to be with it. When they least expect it say something hurtful in a sharp tone and smash the plate to the ground (this works great in the garage on a tarp). They will be shocked that you just did that. Begin to put the pieces back together again but show them that you can’t. Share with them that once our words are spoken, we can’t take them back, and sometimes we say things in a way that hurts their heart. Another great way to do it is with a tube of toothpaste. Have the kids squeeze it out on wax paper. After a few moments of fun, ask them in a serious tone to put the toothpaste back in the tube. No matter how hard they try, they won’t be able to. Explain that the tube is like their mouth, and we have to be careful what comes out because we can’t put it back in. 

**Obviously, there is always forgiveness, and God is faithful to clean up our mistakes and messes when we ask for help, but this teaching focuses on teaching children to be wise with their words.  In the days ahead, when you hear them speaking to one another in a harsh tone, ask them if they want to deal with the mess their tone will create if they continue. Chances are, if they aren’t able to change, it could be that their tone is revealing a deeper hurt between siblings that need to be addressed.

This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

ASK THEM

Ask your children this question and privately share their replies with him. “Hey, kids, what is the one thing you want most from your dad?” Then have him ask the kids about you.

LEGALISM DOESN’T WORK

It is impossible for a child to feel like they have significance when they are raised in a legalistic household because they never measure up.

HELP THEM

We treat children like they are in blatant sin and punish them when what they really need is HELP. My passion is to empower parents HOW to see beyond the behavior and into what is going on in their hearts. There is hope in parenting our children in peace and authority that reaps a generation of kids who are whole, confident, and secure.