Growing Content Kids {Part 1} - Growing a Content Heart
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Growing Content Kids {Part 1}

Last week, I wrote about 4 Ways to Create Selfish Kids. Not that we are doing these things on purpose.  We don’t set out to create selfish kids.  They are born that way.  But everything we do either encourages them in their selfishness, or shows them a better way.  How do we create content kids?

Growing Content Kids {Part 1} - Growing a Content Heart

 

Growing Content Kids {Part 1}

As promised, we will dive into my current solutions to this problem—ways we are working on creating content kids in our home.  I’ve split this up into two parts because I had so much to say—this post is Part 1.  I’m going to address my first two points from last week:

1. Entertain—don’t engage.

2. Always give them a choice.

These are surefire ways to create selfish kids.  If you want to know where I’m coming from on these points, read my previous post.

           

So…let’s re-word…

1. Engage your kids, don’t entertain them.

Do you mean we can never watch TV or movies or play on tablets if we care about the souls of our children?

I hear the panic in your voice, and no, that’s not what I’m saying.  Remember, I’m talking to me.  These are things my heart is working through and learning, and I’m spilling it right back out to you, friend.  We’re in this journey together!

So let’s talk entertainment for a moment, before we discuss engaging.  Do my kids watch TV?  Yes.  But here are some questions I’m starting to ask before I put them in front of a screen:

Am I entertaining them because it’s easier than dealing with their behavior?

The kids are running crazy all over the house, causing trouble…”Who wants to watch a movie?!!”  Bam.  Instant quiet, sitting children.  At least in my house.

There are a couple problems with this strategy.  We haven’t dealt with any behavior problems that might have been happening. And why were they running around the house in the first place?  They’ve got energy!  Here’s where I go for chores, playing outside, or dance party (keep reading…).  Or take the time to have a good discussion about the behavior problems.  Incorporate Scripture.  Give examples from when you were a kid with behavior problems. Problem-solve with them.

Engage them.  Engage their bodies in physical activity and their hearts and minds in character training…it’s why they have us for parents.

Is this work?  Yes.

Is it worth it? Yes!

         

Am I entertaining them because it’s easier to get work done without them?

I’m talking about chores, especially.  Housework.  I know moms who need the housework done right, so they do it themselves.  Isn’t it easier to say, “Go watch your show,” or “Go play,” while you dive in and get the dishes, the sweeping, the toilets, and the laundry folding done before they need you again?

Does this sometimes still happen in my house?  Yes.

Can I share my heart, though?

It is more important that my children learn to be helpful, to be obedient, and how to do specific household tasks, than it is for them to be happy.  Period.  I have made this priority decision.

So, let’s talk about engaging kids.  Here’s 6 things I engage with in my home:

Help with chores.

The first barrier most mommies need to get over here is being content with how kids do chores.  I would venture to say we need to get over this barrier, if we care about the hearts of our children.  Two things can be communicated when children are not involved in chores:

  • My parents don’t think I can do it.
  • My parents always do it, and I don’t have to.

Don’t we want our kids to know we believe in them? Don’t we want to boost their confidence and willingness to help? And on a more practical level, don’t we want our kids to grow up knowing how to do everyday household tasks, and that as a part of the family, it is expected they will help?

Now, with my 9 year old, I am starting to require more accurate and complete work for some jobs, because she is capable, and because she has established her willingness to help by this time.  My middle kids—“the middles” we call them, ages 4 and 6—still have a magical talent for losing their ability to walk or even stand up as soon as I request their help.  So I praise and reward willingness every time they show it.

That willingness and confidence is of more value to me than whether every crumb was swept or every shirt is folded flat.  I challenge you to examine where your priorities are on housework and kids.  I have decided it is a priority for my kids to be content to help.  And I am learning to be content with their help.

These are an essential component of my kids chore time:


Read aloud together.

Library books. We love library books. It’s a fresh batch of fodder for our imaginations every 2 or 3 weeks.  It costs us nothing.  (We won’t talk about those occasional late fees…)  Library books have also helped me become more content in an area of weakness for me…books.  I could spend hundreds of dollars in Barnes & Noble and Half Price Books.  But I have neither money nor space. Growing a content heart

Books engage a child’s imagination like TV and movies never can.  We used to have the TV on all evening.  However, in the last couple months, my husband has blessed us with reading chapters of the Narnia books in the evenings after supper. I have fond memories of my dad reading these books aloud to me, and I’m so thankful for this family time.

There are a couple times during the day that I read aloud to them for school as well.  Anything from Scripture, a textbook, a great picture book from the library, a book about gross science from the library, and even poetry.

I will also add that we don’t just have read-aloud time, but quiet reading time.  We usually have a designated “read and rest” time.  They will grab 5 or 20 favorite books off our library shelf and snuggle into the couch for at least 30 minutes, usually more for the girls.  And because I know they love them, there are times when instead of “Who wants to watch a movie?”—I just call out “Everybody grab a library book and read for a little bit!”  I usually get no argument.  My kids are content to read.

Here are some of our favorite read-alouds:

               

Do a craft.

Now, we homeschool, so we always have crafts supplies on hand.  You can even just get them coloring—it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Encourage their creativity!  Do it with them—engage!  Talk about what they are creating.  I’m not going to stress this one too much…visit Pinterest for a few hundred thousand ideas, or just spread some construction paper and crayons out on the table, and see what happens!

There are times when I need to get some real work done, that they cannot be involved in.  (This blog is not my only writing gig at the moment.)  Coloring and creating art is a great option that makes my kids feel like they are “working” with me.  Instead of putting them in front of the TV while I write or do other computer work, they “work” alongside me.  We keep each other company and chat about things.  Be a family.  Be content to create your own entertainment.

We always have these basics around:

Pull out toys or games…maybe something they haven’t seen in a while.

I just have to be ready to make the choice as a parent…play time, not screen time.  They learn to engage with their imagination. This goes with something from my next main point, about not always giving them choices.  Since I read why this mom took her kids toy away, I have been a fan of keeping most toys put away, and only taking out the exact ones we’re playing with.  They play more contentedly, and my home is a more tidy space.  (I say that tongue-in-cheek because my home is not often tidy lately, and I am not currently in a good routine with keeping toys put away where they go.  It’s a fluctuating journey!)

All that aside, I care about having kids who are content to play, not just be entertained.


Take a walk or just play outside.

Have I mentioned we live in a small apartment?  I’m talking 6 people in a 2 bedroom.  My 4 kids share a room, and we have no fenced in yard.  (Just living in this space has been part of my journey and how I’ve failed at being content.  Don’t worry…I’m going to write about that too.)

Have I also mentioned my dream?  I have a dream.  Some day, I will live in a home with room for an indoor gym—climbing wall, toddler slide, ball pit, therapy swing—anything I can fit in there to get our energy out and build those gross motor skills indoors.  Let me tell you, this apartment on freezing cold, burning hot, and pouring rain days when we can’t go outside—those days have fed that dream. Some days I cry and wonder why we are still in our current circumstances.  (But that’s—again—another post for another day.)

Kids need to get their energy out and let their imaginations unwind, and it’s healthy for mom’s body and mind too. So we get out in the green space around our apartment complex, or hit a playground.  I won’t belabor this point.  You all get it—play time over screen time.

         

Dance party!

We are big Pandora fans! Even if it’s just for 15 minutes for a break from homeschooling.  It’s a good choice for exercise, and a great choice for super hot or cold days when we can’t go outside. The kids love to see mommy unwind, and it’s a bonding experience for us when I join in. (Yes, I dance too—sometimes!)

Just a question: have you ever danced with your kids?  It may refresh your relationship with them and recharge your whole day, in fact.  I challenge you to dance!

Growing Content Kids {Part 1}

On to the second area where we are working on growing content kids

2. Don’t always give them a choice.

There is no great way to re-word this one.  I can’t say never give them a choice.  What we should be doing is teaching them two basics of life here:

  • To be content when they are not given a choice
  • To make good/wise choices when they are given a choice

Where does this one sabotage your day? Is it meal times? “Pick a Netflix show” time? Those are two that happen in our home…where giving a choice brings out the most selfish side of my kids.

Here are 3 reforms we are implementing (most of the time) in our home:

Fixing everybody the same food and drinks at meals and snack time, no questions asked.

Here is an instance where they can practice both the basics of life above: being content and making good choices.  I decide what’s on the table.  Sometimes I either decide what’s on everybody’s plate, and they eat it or not.  Sometimes I serve family style, and they choose at least three things to put on their plate—an opportunity to choose good food.  When I fill their plates for them, they have the choice of whether or not to be polite (content) about what they don’t like on their plate, and not making faces or whining. (The consequence of an unwise choice here is to sit in a corner until the timer goes off; then you can try again to sit with your family and have a nice meal.)

We are getting pretty serious about this one, especially when Daddy’s home and it’s family dinner at the table.  But even when it’s just me and the kids, and we are eating kid food, their choices are still limited or nonexistent.

And let me say…consistency over time is paying off in our home.  We are seeing more content, peaceful kids at meals. Wherever you are on this particular journey, don’t give up!  Your loving dedication to this one will pay off!


When we watch a TV show…mommy picks.

Does each kid sometimes get to pick what show we watch? Yes. But I will also say that the times I let them decide what to watch, it feeds something in them—that selfish nature. They craved a certain entertainment for their brain (you can’t tell me TV shows aren’t addictive), and I gave them what they wanted.  I fed the craving.

And when I let them make the choices, what kind of choices are they making?  I am not going to unravel this one too much, because I will write in the future on how we are applying the Philippians 4:8 test to all forms of entertainment and media in our home. I leave you with this Scripture to think about:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—think on these things.”

Do your entertainment choices contain these things?  (More later on how our family is learning to be content with the results of applying this test…)


Rotating which toys are “out.”

This does relate to giving them a choice, because when all the toys are available all the time, they always get to choose what to play with.  What if we purposefully only gave them a few options at any given time?

If you didn’t click the link under my section about toys above, I’m giving you another opportunity.  You should seriously read Ruth Soukup’s post.  It will change your life…or at least make you think about changing your life!  Even when I am not in a good, consistent routine of keeping the majority of toys put away, it is still my default from several years ago, when I completely overhauled our toy organization.  My mind can easily pop back into that mode when I do a big clean-up, because I’ve already thought through it.

I just challenge you to think through your toy system and re-evaluate.  Kids are often not content to play with the toys they have because they see them all the time.  What if they haven’t seen the box of Barbies or Hot Wheels in a month or two?  It’s like Toy Story 3: “New toys!”  Try it—even with just a few things.  You might like the results.

Growing Content Kids {Part 1}

To sum it all up, my goal is to encourage my kids to engage with life—being helpful, being imaginative, being active—and to understand that they are not in charge.  They get guidance in learning to make choices, but they are not the decision-makers.

Next week: Growing Content Kids {Part 2}.  We will dig into my other points from 4 Ways to Create Selfish Kids:

  • Playing their games
  • Giving them everything they want

I certainly welcome comments from other parents: what you have tried relating to these points, a question about something I am doing, your experience in these areas…Leave a comment!  Let’s build each other up.  

We’re in this together!

Susan

 

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