Growing Content Kids {Part 2} - Growing a Content Heart
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Growing Content Kids {Part 2}

For a third time, I dive into the details of things we are doing in our home to grow content kids.  As I worked on this post, I found myself getting lost in the details—making sure it would all be perfectly complete for you guys.

But what’s the big picture?  Why have strategies for all this?  What is the focus that drives such a campaign as raising content kids?

Growing Content Kids {Part 2} - Growing a Content Heart

 

Growing Content Kids {Part 2}

Soft, frail 4-year-old arms lightly wrap themselves into my arms.  Giant, sleepy blue eyes soak up my mommy-eyes, in the waking moments of the morning.  Messy strawberry blonde hair tickles my chin, as we snuggle in.  *deep breath*  I love morning snuggles.  Don’t you?

In stumps the wide-awake toddler brother, big cheesy grin, and takes her pink bear right out from under her arms. He hurries away, knowing exactly what he’s started.

Transformation.

Snuggly princess turns wicked witch. “He…stole…my…bear!!  Now, I’m gonna take his car!!”  *snatch*

Let the games begin.  Crying, snatching, screaming—and their selfish natures shine right through the cuteness.

I haven’t had enough coffee for this to be happening…

So what drives me to get my sleepy self out of my comfy rocking recliner, and help them with this? What’s the big picture?

         

God has given these kids to my husband and I, with the responsibility and expectation to teach them His ways, including how to love one another.

They need to know:

  • that people are more important than things.
  • that God offers forgiveness and so should they.
  • how to show love, be kind, and forgive.

In 4 Ways to Create Selfish Kids, I took a deep breath and confessed to the things I have done as a mom to encourage my kids’ selfish natures.  In case you missed it, here they are:

1. Entertain them—don’t engage them.

2. Always give them a choice.

3. Play their games.

4. Give them everything they want.


Last week, in Growing Content Kids {Part 1}, I revealed some ways we are working to change 1. and 2. Here we are, ready to dive into 3. and 4.  I gotta be honest—I might step on some toes with this one.  (My own primarily!)

But first, take a look at one of my favorite videos to show my kids when we are seriously losing our focus for loving each other (your kids might peer over your shoulder):

Feeling happy about all this? Me too. (You’re welcome for sharing one of my secret weapons to use on the kids.)

Now, back to strategies. Let’s re-word the last two issues…

3. Don’t play their games. At all. Ever.

Remember the games?  They have names like:

Who Had It First

Who Took Two Turns

Who Hit Who First 

I’ve said before that how and whether you play the game lets them know how important it is who had it first, or who hit first.  My question is: Is this a fight worth having? Is this the hill you want to die on?

Or are there more important things at stake here?

It is so easy to get wrapped up in playing the games, because it feels in the moment that knowing who hit first will help us solve the problem.  It feels like giving the toy to the kid who had it first makes it all fair.

But are we going for fairness and happy kids…or is our goal holiness: children who behave more like Christ? Do we want them to grow up to be adults who want everything fair for them? Or adults who love others like Christ?

Let’s just let that sink in for a minute…

Is your goal the happiness of your children, or the holiness of your children?

         

Now that I’ve let my heart go down this path, whenever I double back and take an old path, one where my kids manipulate me into playing games where their happiness is at stake—the Holy Spirit pricks my heart.  He reminds me of His heart on the matter:

  • Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. (Romans 12:10)
  • Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
  • And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Do these Scriptures apply to my children too?  Yes. And it’s never too early (or too late) to start pointing them in the direction of God’s word.

In light of all these thoughts, I have 2 responses when my kids try to get me involved in their selfish fighting games:

(1) The activity that started the fight is DONE.

Who had the toy first?

It doesn’t matter. It has caused you to treat each other with meanness, not kindness, and give yourself preference over your sister or brother.

The toy is gone for now.  Try again with another toy to be kind to each other.

Somebody cut in line and stole my turn!

You can either choose to be patient with people who treat you badly (as Jesus said we should), and everybody try again to be kind and take turns…

Or the game will be done.  Mommy will pick something else for you to do.

The reason for this strategy is to stop the cycle of mean behavior, and redirect to a more productive and positive activity.  If the activity is producing selfishness, it can be best for my children to move on to something else that doesn’t tempt them to be unkind.

Then there are the times when we stop and solve the problem…

(2) We implement what we call the “2 Steps.”

Cut back to the early morning scene, where the toddler has stolen the 4 year old’s bear. Once I’ve chugged another couple sips of coffee my favorite healthy shake , and taken a deep breath, we pursue the “2 Steps.”

Step 1Ask nicely.

This seems like a no-brainer, but consistently making my kids treat each other with respect when trying to solve problems has produced some beautiful results.  They are beginning to appreciate (1) that it usually works to ask nicely, and (2) that they like each other more when treat each other well.

So I get the toddler’s attention for big sister, and prompt her to ask him, “May I have my bear back, please?”

Believe it or not, he’s gettin’ the idea. There are times he will actually give it back. If he refuses, proceed directly to Step 2.

Step 2: Ask mom or dad for help to solve the problem.

Mommy can help the toddler give back the bear, and hug the sister, and say I’m sorry (which for him consists of a gentle “oh,” a kiss on the mouth, and a pat on the cheek—we’ll take it). Okay, I do hear the snickers of those who are in the midst of the “terrible twos” saying, that’s not always going to work.  True.  It doesn’t. But we consistently try.

Never give up demonstrating for your children how to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” (Ephesians 4:32)


When a problem between siblings gets out of hand, I often ask, especially of the older kids, “Did you follow the 2 Steps?”  Heads hang in shame, as they realize that this would have prevented the explosion between them.

We are consistently pushing the idea that you treat your brothers and sisters the way you want to be treated. And we are beginning to see hints of long-term fruit…the love and honor in their relationships that will carry them into adulthood.

(I’ve even overheard them prompting each other to use the “2 Steps”!! Can you see my hallelujah hands?)

We want them to grow up to be…

…content to forgive.

…content to give preference to others.

…content to be kind, no matter how others treat you.

…content to treat others the way you want to be treated.

And depending on what side of the problem you are on…

…content to admit that you were wrong and ask forgiveness.

Say it with me: People are more important than things.  Always.  Every time.

Growing Content Kids {Part 2}

On to the last issue I brought up, turned on its head:

4. Don’t give them everything they want. Give them what they need.

There is a parenting culture that says we should say “yes” to our children as often as possible.  It boosts their self-esteem, let’s them know they are loved, empowers them, and blah, blah, blah.

Can I just be grossly honest here?  Saying “yes” to my children as often as possible, makes them think that they can get whatever they want, whenever they want it. (Again, is that the kind of adults we want them to grow up to be?) That leads to greed, selfishness, not thinking of others in the family, and my favorite: WHINING. (I’m sure you love that one too.)  Especially when I would happen to say “no”…oh, man.

I did actually think that this saying “yes” habit made me a good mom…a nice mom…with kids who felt loved.  Until, as I’ve said, God got a hold of my heart and opened my eyes to see what I was producing in my children.

So…what?  Do we say “no” as often as possible instead?  I think we need to get more used to it.  There is no black and white answer here.  A unbelievably important factor is that the kids do not set your family priorities—the parents do.  The kids are not the decision-makers for the family—the parents are.  Your priorities and principles will affect whether you say “yes” or “no” to different questions and requests.  You know what they truly need.  Be the boss.

Another important thought is that it is okay for kids to be bored or to feel disappointment.  And we, as parents, need to be content to let them feel those things.  Builds character.  Begs imaginative solutions.

Here are three ideas I mentioned in my first article about kids—ways to help build a character of contentment in the area of personal desires:

(1) Teach them good, character-building Scripture.

As a part of our homeschool routine, I read Scripture to the kids (currently working through the Psalms), and we memorize verses.  Our current verse is Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Yeah, we went old school with the King James on this one.  I just couldn’t help it!)

Before that, it was Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” Completely relevant to our current behavior struggles with the kids.

It takes literally 5 minutes a day for these kids to latch onto a verse.  We usually do the same verse for about 2 weeks to a month, just so it sticks permanently to their souls. (I talk more about this in my post “5 Things That Bring Peace to Our Homeschool Days.”) And I usually use “voices”—you know, like when you read different characters in a book for them—and motions and whatever else I can to make it stick to their hearts and minds.

See a character issue in your kids?  There’s a verse for that.  Find it.  Use it!

Better Together - Morning Time

(2) Have them do things for others less fortunate than us.

This one, I admit, I am not good at—getting organized and having the kids do service projects for other people.  But when I have, I have watched their eyes light up at getting to help, their hearts swell with compassion for people who need help, and their brains buzz with ideas for future projects.

Friends, ask me about this.  Keep me accountable to start doing more of this with my kids.  It will get me out of my shell and get the kids hearts off themselves!  And I’ll take your ideas!  I’m definitely not creative here.  I cap out at baking cookies for the neighbors.  🙂

(3) Give them more responsibility for what we already have.

Here is where my focus has been for the last few months.  For the longest time, I was the worst mom when it came to just “getting it done,” whatever “it” was, while the kids were entertained somehow.  It was just easier.

Until I realized it wasn’t easier.  I was doing all the work.

I also want them to take care of the things we have and the space we live in, instead of always wanting more and better. Because this is what mommy is working on too…growing a content heart right where I am with what I have.

Here is just a short list of the things my kids take responsibility for now:

  • help clean up the kitchen
  • laundry (fill the washer, move to the dryer, fold, and put away—yes, the 5 year old, too)
  • return the library books in the book drop
  • clean bathrooms
  • make beds
  • keep toys and books put away
  • take trash out
  • finding things in the store (that are actually on my list!)
  • carrying groceries from the car


I could go on, because I keep thinking of new ways for them to be responsible, respectful members of our family. And may I add that being responsible for jobs and taking care of our home fills some of that need for them to have some control.  It is that need for control which is why they don’t like being told “no” when they want something.

My stomach gets all fluttery when I hear my 10-year-old gently scold the toddler for pouring the crayon box all over the floor she just swept—and then sing the clean-up song while she helps him tidy up.  She is learning to appreciate the results of fulfilling her responsibilities.  A clean floor is much more valuable when you are the one who cleaned it.

I believe we’ve come full circle—back to engage the children, don’t entertain them.  It’s all interconnected.  It’s all just life.  Teaching our kids that God’s ways are the best ways.  It’s the parents teaching the kids their values, not the other way around.

Have you started to rethink anything you are doing with your kids?  What are you working on in your home right now?  

I challenge you to think of one way to give your kids more responsibility this week, and one Scripture verse you can teach them.  Start where you are.

This was a very overwhelming path to start walking down with my kids.  But I’m starting to see eternal results, and I’m not turning around now!

Seeking Him first,

Susan

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2 Comments

  • Dory

    Dear Susan, thank you for these posts, they are really-really helpful for my family right now!
    May I ask for an advice? In your 2 Steps method, what do you do if the kid who has stolen the toy will not give it back (or what do you do in similar situations)?
    I´m always saying to my older son to ask nicely and be kind with his little brother if the little one takes something from him. But most of the times my youngest wouldn´t give the toy back. It is a nice opportunity to teach the older one through this incident that people are more important than things…but I think it´s not okay for the younger one to just get away with it… But also forcing him to give the toy back would not be the best solution as well…

    • Susan Haines

      Oh, such a good question! Thank you for your kind comment, too. Those are tricky moments because we think we want to be “fair.” In the stolen toy situation, all steps having been followed, I see two options. 1) Offer the stealer a chance with the toy when the other child is done with it. Then they have to give it back and wait their turn. 2) My kids rarely agree to the first one, and attitudes spiral. Then I simply take the toy away. It is in time out, because they were fighting over it. You have given them a blank slate to start over in how they treat each other. It is no longer about the toy, because that toy is no longer an option.

      Yes, the little ones may cry. And that is an okay part of the process. I emphasize (whether they understand my words or not…truth is going in) that bad choices have consequences. Stealing and fighting are bad choices. We will try again to be kind to each other. Then hugs can happen, and we all move on having survived a moment of discipline (even mama!).

      Let me know how it goes!

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