Helping your children through a move

There is no doubt that being a child means constantly adjusting to change.  The younger they are, the more frequent the changes are.

One of the things we do as parents is to help shield them from chaos by creating some order in their changing little lives.  Having some constants give them anchors with which to digest the change they are enduring on a daily basis.  These anchors can be very simple (toys in the same spot) to the complex (a detailed repeated schedule – the pros and cons of which are beyond the scope of this post).

The problem is that when you are moving, everything is changing. Even constants like having access to Dad and Mom may be significantly reduced because your schedules are filled with more demands.  Here are some tips to help your little ones through the transition.

  1. Don’t give into the temptation of shortcutting key daily routines.  If bedtime, dinnertime, or breakfast time is a regular ritual around your home, stick to it.  Keep that daily anchor as much as you can.
  2. Use playtime to act out the move so they know what to expect.  May sure you use two different locations when you play this through.
  3. If they are old enough to understand the move (somewhere between 3-5) then you can involve them in the packing.  Let them put their toys and books in the box so they can open them up later.
  4. If they are not old enough, then pack their things up when they are not around.  For a little one, there are few things more distressing then seeing your treasures stuck in a box.  They don’t understand that the items will be coming back out again.
  5. If possible, limit the time they will live in the house that you are leaving while the packing is going on.  They will adjust to the new house being in “moving chaos” very easily because they are not attached to it yet.  The residence you are leaving though, is likely all they know.  It is very stressful to see it packed and put away.
  6. Gather an extra dose of patience.  You are going to be under more stress and likely you are going to be more tired.  So are they.  Give them a little extra grace during this time and be ready to keep your emotions on a shorter leash than usual.
  7. Lastly and most importantly for you Type A folks.  Be flexible.  Make sure you allow for the unexpected in your meticulous moving plans.  You children need you more than the move does.

Baby Signing and Language Developement

We have a noisy house in all the good ways.  Conversation and laughter is not a spectator sport in our house.  If you are not participating, you are not breathing (or you are seriously ill in some other way).

That being the case, I have always been skeptical of things that would impede the language development of our children.  Signing was something that I thought would slow verbal development so I wasn’t excited about it.  The reverse is actually the case and when you think about, it makes a lot of sense.

Children can sign before they can speak.  If you are waiting for verbal development to allow your children to be expressive and converse, you are delaying their attempts to do so.  With signing, they are learning a valuable language, but more importantly they are learning to communicate rather than act out.

Giving your children a voice (the ability to express themselves), even if it is through sign, is one of the most important things you can do for your children in their development.  God spoke creation into existence and we are created in His image.  We were not intended to mere passengers on the bus.  We were intended to give voice to His glory.  Teaching them to sign, starts the positive communication at a much earlier stage and studies show that children that sign will have a larger vocal vocabulary than those that do not sign.

Beautiful found a great resource and after looking it over together we decided to give it a try.  I must say, it has been wonderful.  All of the children enjoy it and Bright Eyes absolutely adores it.  At least once a day she will go up to one of the big people in our home and ask for “Baby Signing Time.”

It warms the heart to hear it.

We just returned from vacation and a trip to a theme park.  As you might expect, there are all kinds of things to see and do to excite little minds.  I always enjoy watching my children have fun on outings like this.

This trip was particularly enjoyable because we were able to visit with one of my brothers, his family, and my mother.  There is nothing like a large gathering of relatives that are all a little touched in the head to ensure a great time anywhere we go.

When we were done, I asked the children what they each liked best.  P.C.  gave some random answer the way that only P.C. can.  It was so obscure, but so like him that I honestly cannot even remember what it was.  The one that stuck though, was Curly Girly’s answer.  When I asked her what her favorite part of the park was, she answered with a broad grin and a sparkle in her eye as she was picturing the day in her mind’s eye, “Holding Grandma’s and Ivory’s (her older cousin) hand.”

Yes indeed.  That is a moment that a parent will cherish forever.  You will not see that in any commercial (especially not for this theme park), but it is a priceless moment nonetheless.

Teaching children not to tattle

Tattling is one of the those really interesting parenting conundrums.  As parents we need information and when little Suzy is more than willing to give it, we can begin to subsidize something very terrible (See Parenting is economics of sorts).

If you encourage Suzy in any way, you will get more tattling.  That may be cute when she is 2 or 3, but it will be a raging fire of destruction when she is spreading tales at 20 or 30.  I see, on a regular basis, the damage left by well-intentioned people “sharing” information they should not have.  That starts in your home when they are little.  That is the time and the place to deal with it.  Grownups that struggle with gossip were well rewarded for it in their homes when they were children.  You don’t want your children to turn into adults like that.  Consider:

Proverbs 26:20 (NKJV) Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;

And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.

There are many ways in which we subtly encourage tattling.  When Johnny takes Suzy’s toy, do you reward Suzy after she has complained by retrieving the toy or making Johnny give it back? 

Now you may be asking yourself what to do in those situations otherwise.  That is where the wisdom comes in.  Children are never too young to learn to do things correctly.  If they are old enough to tell you about it, they are old enough to work it out together.  If Suzy is having difficulty with Johnny, she should first attempt to work it out with him.  If she has worked it out, that should be the end of the matter and it should not be brought up again by Suzy.

If she cannot work it out, then she may come to the parent.  The parent’s response should not be to “fix it,” but to help the children fix it themselves.  Ask the children questions and use the answers to guide the conversation to proper behavior (I will address sharing issues in another post).  The children likely already know what they should have done, but reminders are always useful.

If you want you children to grow into gossip free adults, teach them now, when they are little that nothing good ever comes from talebearing.

#3 – Parenting is economics of sorts

God created the world in such a way that we reap what we sow.  If you are not working at your job, you will likely find you no longer have a job.  If you are working hard at your job, you will likely end up with a promotion or some other positive response.  In summary, you get more of what you reward and less of what you discourage.

When there is an expected positive outcome for some action, it is generally met with more of that action.  Likewise, when you give some negative outcome for some action, you will generally get less of it.

***Political rabbit trail beginning – This is one reason taxation without a great deal of thought is so dangerous.  If not carefully implemented, they will become a penalty on something and end up discouraging the very activity that is desired in the broader economy. Political rabbit trail ending***

When parenting, you must always remember that if you want your children to exhibit a particular behavior, you want to consistently reward it.  If you are attempting to train a particular behavior out of a child, you want to consistently discourage that behavior.

I am amazed at the number of times that I see parents subtly rewarding something they should be discouraging.  And conversely discouraging something they should be rewarding.  Here are a couple of examples to help.

Johnny is having a fit in the store so the parent says, “If you stop, I will give you a treat.”  Sounds reasonable enough.  Indeed,  I would expect that the child will stop the fit (if they are in the mood for that particular treat), but you can be assured, they will have a fit again the next time they are in a store.  Why?  Because the parent rewarded the fit unconsciously.  NOTE:  When a child is distressed, talking with them to determine the nature of their distress is NOT rewarding bad behavior.  It is teaching them that you listen, that you care and that you will meet their needs.

Here is another:  Suzy is asking a million questions and Dad has finally had it.  So, he begins to let his annoyance come through in his answers.  Right now, Suzy’s need to know outweighs the negativity in the answers.  There is little doubt though that when she is older, Dad will be wondering why Suzy doesn’t talk with him anymore.

Children are smart and they figure out the world faster than we give them credit for.  Be sure you are thinking through your rewards and your discouragements.  You will reap what you sow.  You cannot fight it anymore than you can fight gravity.

#2 – You cannot give what you don’t have

Everyone wants the best for their children.  That is the presupposition of Jesus’s statement when He discusses giving gifts to our children and the Heavenly Father’s gifts (Luke 11:9-11).  However, just because we want the best for our children is not the same thing as giving them the best.

This is very obvious in the material sphere.  You cannot give your children a million dollars if you do not have it.  Some parents might set that as a goal and works toward it.  While I applaud that they are setting goals to give to their children, I believe focusing on the material inheritance is robbing your children of greater gifts.

Their character will last into eternity and working with your children to shape that is of paramount importance.  As parents, we are more influential in the shaping of the character of our children than anyone else on this planet (at least we should be).  As such, you will shape their character more than anyone else.

However, you must understand, just like not being able to give money you don’t have, you cannot give your children character you don’t have.  If you want your children to be diligent, you must be diligent.  If you want them to be merry, merciful and full of thanksgiving, you must be merry, merciful and full of thanksgiving.  It is not enough to simply want something for your children.  We have to make sure we have what it is we want to give to them.

Love your children enough to make sure  you are the kind of person, they would naturally want to be.  Like anything in life, you cannot give them what you don’t have.

Parenting – Leaving your fingerprint in eternity

Parenting is one of the most unique experiences of being human.  There are numerous metaphors that we can apply to help us understand it or relate to it at a deeper level.  However, at some point, they all fail.

Almost everyone would connect with the concept that our children bear a physical expression of the love of the parents.  That is because it is easy to see that little Johnny has her eyes and his nose.  It is my opinion that God made it that way to draw our attention to something deeper that we are normally to dense to notice.  Through parenting, we are leaving part of ourselves behind in eternity.  Not this tent of a body that we drag around, but the entire being.

It is true that 2 members of my pack do carry reflections of that 3 mm of skin derived from Beautiful and I, but they are all so much more than that.  To reduce any of them to their genetics is to rob them of the true value of their being.  I believe we are Trinitarian and as such parenting is a continuation of the creation process.  It changes phases throughout the years, but the process does not end until I draw that last breath and go home to glory with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Parenting is that glorious process of working the fertile soil that God has placed before you that a great harvest may be yielded.  That harvest is the children in your life, adopted, fostered or otherwise, honoring the Lord with their lives.

All of creation will be redone and only God’s Word and people will remain.  Through parenting we are affecting eternity. Not only the eternity of our children, but the eternity of the lives that will be touched by them and then by those they touch, and so it goes.  The ripple effect of parenting is profound and sublime.  It truly is leaving a fingerprint in eternity.