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Helping our Children - Issue 362
October 31, 2014
Hi there! ....

This week is our last week with my family. Daniel has introduced his younger cousin to Minecraft, we’ve had a pizza and movie night with the cousins, I’ve had a girls morning out with my sister-in-law; it is amazing, we’ve had close to 4 weeks together and all of a sudden, as it comes to an end there are all these things we could do! It has been a great time together – the most my brother and I have spent together since I was about 21. They head off for the rest of their adventure around Australia, and we will get back into our regular routines. We also picked mangoes this week – Pete and the kids (including cousins) picked and packed and sent off a ½ a pallet to be sold (not a lot, but enough for the kids to get an understanding of the process of growing, packing and selling fruit). We’ve also had Little Miss here several times (respite fostering) which brings a lot of noise and joy into our home.

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This week, on my blog, I rebloged an older post - Everyone has a Bad Day - You can make it work for you

Helping our Children

We often get fixated on the idea that our job is to train our children. I believe that it is the role of a parent to teach and train, and for those who have read my newsletter for a while, know that I talk about training a lot. But sometimes it is useful to look at something from a different perspective. This week I’ve been struck with the idea that another way to describe parenting is that we are to help our children.

  • Could we exchange the word train with the word help?
  • Could they be the same thing, just the other side of the coin?

Thought his may take some thinking about to get over some preconceived ideas, I do think it is worth considering. If we started to help our children instead of always training our children we may be gentler, more understanding and offer more grace.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we are not to train – but if we can expand our understanding of what that means we may meet our children’s needs differently, and sometimes that is necessary. We may also change our own heart which will change our actions towards our children, and sometimes that is necessary too!

Let’s look at some definitions:

    To train: it means to learn or teach skills and we use synonyms such as teach, coach, educate, instruct, and guide.* All of these words help us understand what it means to ‘train’.

    To help: it means to assist somebody, or advise somebody, to be useful, to make things better, to provide for somebody’s needs, to advance something, to serve somebody, to keep somebody from doing something, to prevent something. *

When I look at that definition, I certainly want that word help to be a part of my parenting, don’t you?

Unfortunately when we consider our children we tend to focus on the word train – and that often means we switch to military mode – we have this code of conduct, we are strict, we give the instructions and we expect immediate response. At the same time, when we consider helping our children we tend to think in terms of enabling them to continue as they are. Culturally we now see the word ‘enabler’ (an offshoot of being a helper) as being someone who helps people continue to do a bad habit; being an enabler is a negative thing and it promotes negative responses in a relationship. Of course we don’t want that in our parenting.

In a sense here, I’m just playing with words. I want to change my thinking, as well as yours. I want to break the paradigms that we get caught up in that we have to always train with a heavy hand, that we are removed from our children in this process – there is a them and us, that we go through a sequence of happenings and our kids will get it. That is how we subconsciously deal with the word train.

To help someone though is to assist them – to make it easier or possible for someone to do something that they cannot do alone.

Let’s say:

  • My toddler has no self control at the grocery store. We can be strict and demanding or we can be helpful and assist our toddler to do something that they, at this stage, can’t do by themselves.
  • My child has no sense or orderliness and always loses his shoes. We can be strict and demanding or we can be helpful and assist our child to do something that they, at this stage, can’t do by themselves.
  • My teen is struggling with making wise choices. We can be strict and demanding or we can be helpful and assist our teen to do something that they, at this stage, can’t do by themselves.

This doesn’t mean we do everything for our children. We don’t stop taking them to the grocery store because they touch everything, we don’t put our kids’ shoes away for them, and we don’t limit our teens freedom to make choices. We won’t be assisting them for the rest of their lives (that is the idea of being an enabler) but by assisting them, supporting them, to do the right thing they will learn. Our helping can be a part of the training.

I think a key here is to see help as assist rather than do it for them.

If help is to be a part of our training it must come from knowing what our children need, and as they grow older it will be about helping them meet their own goals for their own life.

Our toddlers need self-control – We don’t want them to touch everything, move price tags around, and drop fruit at the grocery store. We can help them learn self-control by putting them in a trolley, by going shopping when they are functioning not over-tired, by talking to them and engaging them as we do the shop. By limiting their availability to touch stuff, we are helping them have self control.

Our children need to be orderly – we can get frustrated that they lose their shoes, or we can develop a system to develop the habit of walking in the door and putting their shoes in the right place. We can initially remind them or prompt them – this is helping them. As they do the right thing over and over a habit of putting their shoes away is established. We have helped them do something they didn’t have the ability to do before (either morally or physically!)

And the same goes with our teens – as they make unwise choices, we can get along side of them, and help them, not by taking over, but by being there for them, by talking about principles to think about when they have to make a choice, by encouraging them to make a choice, by being forgiving when they stuff up. Remember to be a help we are assisting them – they may be able to do most of it, but not all of it on their own.

There is a lot to think about when we start helping our children do the right thing.

  • What can they already do
  • What are they struggling with
  • What can I do to help them

Remember, to help someone is to assist them to do something they cannot do on their own. What is it your children need help with today?

*Encarta Dictionary

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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Live life with your Kids newsletter is about being a deliberate parent, about enjoying family life and using the opportunities that happen to teach and train your children in righteousness (right living with God). I hope that you will find regular encouragement as you live life with your kids!

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