Boundaries with Kids :: A Brief Book Review

Boundaries with Kids

Very few rules with very great follow-through.

That was my parenting motto before reading Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I felt like a pretty good parent with the exception of the occasional hormonal outburst when I felt like my brain and my mouth weren’t connecting very well.

I wasn’t sure how much I was really going to learn about parenting from this book, but I was given a copy and encouraged to read it. So, I did even though I usually avoid all parenting books.

Why?

Well, it definitely isn’t because I came naturally to motherhood or boundaries.  And I’m sure pride does play a major part in my previous avoidance of all books in the “parenting” category, but the bottom line for my aversion was fear. Fear of knowing more than I could do.

For me, consistency is huge. Follow-through is one of the foundational building blocks for trust, and I want my children to trust me almost more than I want them to love me (or maybe real trust is real love).

Selfishly then, I try to do my best on my own with what I already know so that I’m not over burdened by all the wonderful opinions and advice contained in all the popular parenting manuals. Because if I know better but can’t perform better then I’ll be too discouraged to even try.

Not to mention the confusion of conflicting messages contained within the top 5 books. Each book forms an “exclusive club” – spankers, praisers, behavior modifiers, etc. I didn’t want to feel conflicted by the pressure to be a purist in any single method.

But Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend was a lot more than just a parenting method book. This resource contains a wealth of information on how to define healthy boundaries, how to unpack the principles of healthy boundaries, and how to execute the principles.

Often when we are speaking on the topic of kids and boundaries, a mom will ask for help with a problem: “I set the boundaries for behavior for my child. But she keeps crossing them. What do I do?” The answer is, “That’s what is supposed to happen. You are the parent. You have a job. You job is to set the limits and enforce the consequences in love. She is the child. She also has a job. Her job is to test the limits many times with her active aggression and thereby learn about reality, relationship, and responsibility. It’s the divinely ordered training system.”

This quote contains the main concept of the book. The authors did a thorough job of answering my top questions: Why do we need boundaries? How are boundaries different than “rules?” What does it look like to set and maintain boundaries? And will there be growth and fruit in the parent-child relationship because of boundaries?

I discovered that I over empathize with my children’s emotions. The scenario of a crying three-year old when mommy leaves the house really hit home with me, and I had to take a hard look at some of the ways I project my feelings (adult size) onto my child. Doing this isn’t fair to the child and it isn’t helpful for building reliable (and loving) limits.

Speaking of “loving limits” – this reminds me so much of the children’s program in BSF. If you want to find a Bible study that has child care, check out Bible Study Fellowship. Their children’s leaders follow such beautiful guidelines for working with and training children that I often felt like this book and their manual could be complimentary. (BSF children’s leaders are some of my very favorite people!)

The other major wake up call for me was in identifying that my children are often passive boundary crossers. Oh my, isn’t it so sneaky how our bent towards self and sin can be masked by being compliant? This section is contained later in the book and up until this point I was reading along with a (slight) chip on my shoulder, thinking we were doing pretty good. I don’t have the kid that throws a WWIII level tantrum in the grocery store – so I’m good!  

Ugh. Nope.

I now think that how my children behave (and how I’ve trained them to behave) is harder to correct than a child who needs to be redirected in their active boundary crossing.

{Groan.}

While this has created more work for me and has opened my eyes to see the change that needs to happen, it has birthed enough hope and desire for healthy relationships that I feel motivated to work on establishing healthy boundaries. Besides, this is the year of GROW, right? It all fits.

There were a few things that I didn’t love about the book though, and it took a lot of concerted effort to finish this book. (I was often tempted to put it down in favor of lighter, more entertaining reading.) But I want to FINISH what I start this year. I want to follow through on even the little things that I start. This is part of how I measure growth in my own life.

Here are the ways I feel like the book fell short of being the “perfect” parenting book:

  • There aren’t enough stories. The stories that are included mainly focus on working out boundaries and consequences with teenage kids. Some of the most powerful applications of consequences were dependent on the child having to stay home alone while the rest of the family enjoyed an outing.
  • The conversations included from their own younger children didn’t feel organic. I felt like I was reading “staged” material.
  • When scripture was included, it was used to support their principle without much context or explanation of the verses. I felt like they could have developed the connection using scripture as their starting point.
  • I was hoping for more practical ideas for consequences. I’m not creative enough to figure out a consequence that will really teach. A “time out” sometimes is exactly what my 9 year old introvert wants! Win win for her, she disobeyed and got alone time too! I was looking for ideas on how to correct without being too complacent or too strict.

I do recommend this book, especially for anyone struggling with discerning where their identity stops and where their child’s starts. It’s all too easy to get emotionally tangled up in doing our very best for our kids. But like it was pointed out in the book, my parenting is temporary. The goal is to raise an adult with healthy boundaries.

Check out Boundaries with Kids. And check out what I’m reading this year!

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Day 21: Building a (better) home school library #B2S #31Days

B2S Day 21 Building a better home school library 1

In 2010, my personal interest-led learning journey began. As a family, we were living in Florida. My kids were 1- and 3-years old at the time. I was the only stay-at-home mom that I knew, and most of my days were spent just managing chaos.

I was alone and lonely, distracted and defeated, and feeding my fear of failure by not even hoping for anything better.

Until the day I became desperate enough to change.

The only downside of this change was an unhealthy attachment to books. In all my youth and intensity for loving to read, I equated happiness with buying a new book.

And bookstores are made for people like me, placing – conveniently by the door as you walk in – their discounted titles for easing your mind that buying 4 books today at $3 really isn’t all that hard on your wallet.

Now I laugh at some of the silly books I bought. The titles reveal what I felt I lacked knowledge of – history, politics, self-help, parenting, etc.

Books, books, books.

And it got worse before it got better.

Because to be a successful homeschooler, I reasoned that I would need to have a lot more books.

But what use is any tool if it sits on the shelf?

Or what good is it if I can’t find it when I need it?

So what I’ve come to understand through 11 moves in 10 years and by the inspiration from others, is that it is simply impossible to live holistically with my life’s purpose and be surrounded by piles and piles of stuff. Even good stuff like books.

My life lately has been one big call to action: Simplify, Set Boundaries, and Organize. And today’s #Back2School in #31Days Challenge is:

Set up a simple home school library.

Since my kids are still young it’s hard for me to expect to have perfectly organized bookshelves. Especially kids’ bookshelves – when the reason I bought the books is for them to read. I can’t expect them to be great readers and great organizers at the same time – I have to pick one or the other.

So, in order to help them in their reading and learning journey, I’ve identified the need for a home library system of organization that works for everyone.

First of all, I had (and still have) to go through all of our books and get rid of the twaddle.

Second, I had to decide how I wanted things organized. One blogger that I follow, alphabetized her children’s books using a simple poster with a large black alphabet stickers.

I bought the supplies to do the same (see the project details below), but then I realized I didn’t want to alphabetize my books just yet.

My kids are still young enough that they don’t know all the titles or the authors, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to be able to replace the book where they found it. I think reality hit me, and I saw my future self endlessly re-alphabetizing.

Instead, I decided to categorize my books by subject matter, unit, or curricula.

B2S Day 21 Building a better home school library 3

Here’s my key:

  • FIAR – Five in a Row
  • EAH – Early American History
  • SCI – Science
  • LIT – Literature
  • SS – Social Studies
  • NF – Non-fiction
  • REF – Reference

Third, for now all pleasure reading books like chapter books or easy readers they still enjoy, go in the book nook. I’m not very picky about how these books get organized only that they’re well taken care of.

Finally, I hope to model not only a love of learning through reading great books myself, but to also model discernment with how many books I own and how I take care of them.

Useful tips for getting rid of books:

  • My experience with Paperbackswap.com
  • Donate to:
    • The library: You can always borrow it if you need to read it again.
    • The local mission: Imagine the person who may be waiting for just the right book to help them break through whatever barrier that’s holding them back.
    • Thrift stores: Think of thrift stores for books like a library that charges late fees up front. Be sure to bring with you the same number of books to donate as you intend to take home.

B2S Day 21 Building a better home school library 2

Project Details: I bought a simple, white poster board and alphabet stickers. I cut the board into strips (which left ragged edges, so I covered them with Washi Tape) and applied the stickers to the strips. Then I simply separated books by subject and placed the poster strip between them.

This is Day 21 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

Break life’s tasks into manageable chunks: download One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider today!
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Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Day 17: A Kid’s Bullet Journal for Records #Back2School in #31Days

B2S Day 17 kids bullet journal 1

Have you ever tried to plan the day for your kids full of wonderful activities and outside-the-box fun that ended up driving everyone crazy?

I have had to change in significant ways in order to plan wisely and differently for my children’s schedules.

Creating a working schedule is important because so much depends on me, as a homeschool mom.

For the longest time, I would swing from one side of the spectrum to the other – treating my children as wonderful, lovable tiny-bosses to mommy-tyrant treating them as soldiers needing to fall in line.

The day-to-day with this swing wasn’t fun. You’re in charge, no I’m in charge, now you’re in charge…

It was not productive. It was emotionally confusing. For all of us.

Until I went to hear John Rosemond speak at a convention. (Again with the GHC, I’m not even going to spell it out. I mention it so much I don’t want you to roll your eyes at me. Okay, roll quickly. But I really think you should go to one!) 

I’m glad I did because he corrected this swing behavior in me for good. He showed me that I was creating the madness in my home by not owning the responsibility of being the one in charge. All the time, not just in reaction to days gone bad.

I now live with free and full authority in my home – able to love and provide for my children more because I don’t resent them for walking all over me and my plans.

And that’s what I want to talk about more today: planning their schedules.

I have earned everything I’ve learned about planning my own schedule through failure. I have done too much and too little – from resenting my responsibilities to idolizing them. So if there’s one thing I want to recommend over and over again it’s this:

Don’t try to copy what works for someone else in planning.

Not even me. Learn from the how’s and why’s but take time to process what it will look like for you and your kids.

B2S Day 17 kids bullet journal 2

8 Steps to setting up Bullet Journal’s for my kids:

  1. Get a notebook: I bought the 2 composition notebooks (pictured above) for 75 cents each and they match the color code I’ve started for my children this year (more on how I color code their “stuff” later this week).
  2. Number the pages in advance. Yes this took me 20-30 minutes. I did one after bedtime and the other during nap time.
  3. Section the Index and make that the first entry in the Index.
  4. On the first free page, write out the state requirements and plan for meeting those requirements. Include some information on their interests from each child’s advisory meeting here. (More on advisory meeting later this week too! It’s going to be a good week on The Home Learner.) B2S Day 17 kids bullet journal 4
  5. Make a KEY. I don’t want to have to explain myself every single day with notes for “you must wait to do this assignment with me” or “please show me this lesson when you are finished” or “this task needs to be done at a specific time.” I just want them to see the 2-letter key or the symbol and know what is required.
  6. Don’t do this all at once. But do, do it for each school age child.
  7. Start with a month-at-a-glance and a week-at-a-glance for their reference. Maybe you have a child that likes to keep track of calendar events and asks constantly, “When is the birthday party for so-and-so?” Now, the answer is “Go check your month page.” B2S Day 17 kids bullet journal 3
  8. Count 10 pages from the back cover and section this off as their Book List. Put a Post-It tab on the first page of this section of the journal for recording what they’ve read. I’ll have my kids write: Date, Title, Author.

After these steps, I’m all set to plan their days.

I’m learning from this example how much to schedule daily. (I like how she notes the items on their list that need her review with a second box to check.) She also explains why it is so important to plan the night before – which echoes Day 2 of the Make Over Your Mornings course. (Going on sale soon! Don’t miss it.)

One thing I know planning their day will challenge and correct is my failure to follow through on working along side them.

Last year, we had a good routine for when they would work on their independent lessons, but working together wasn’t consistent. I would say, “we’ll read history after breakfast.” Well, then one child wouldn’t finish breakfast until nearly 10am, and I would feel pulled to start my chores for the day so I would adjust and say, “we’ll read it after lunch.” And on and on, I would push these important things back.

In addition to planning their day I’m correcting this by:

  • Working on setting meal and snack times – I have grazers, which I love – but for the love, I cannot be making food for someone every hour of the day
  • Practicing planning the details for myself – the night before – following Day 2 in setting up a good before bed routine.

This method of planning and recording their days will also help us value our communication. Having their tasks written down will help both of my school aged children.

I have one child who wants me to say the fewest words possible to her and one who wants to rehearse and retell every single instruction to the fullest – ten times.

Writing their days in list form has helped us in the past. The first child likes to know what’s required without having to talk about it, and the second is corrected from wasting time by talking too much about the schedule.

By making and using plans, we are setting up good habits for personal discipline.

I’m looking forward to using this simple tool to plan their days because I know it will provide the accountability I need, the communication I want (since I won’t be repeating the plan verbally a dozen times throughout the morning), and the progress of which we are capable.

One question I’ve already received is: what are you planning do use for your “Home School Records?”

Answer:

In my mind, home school plans and home school records are 2 different things. So I will keep my plans in my Bullet Journal and the plans I write in the children’s Bullet Journals will serve as our official records.

I’m open to answering more questions about this! So leave them in the comments or contact me personally.

Also, I realize that I sound like I’m blazing a new trail by creating my own course in homeschool planning, but I’m not. I’m following the example written in this planner, and guarding my record keeping by checking out this record book for reference. I’ve already been tempted to separate my Bullet Journal from these and add in a blog planner too! (Heaven help me!) But for now, I’m still all in one place, and I’ll be sure to let you know if and how that changes.

Good reads on how to process your own way of planning:

Back2School Logo

This is Day 17 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

My favorite eCourse is going on sale again soon! Check it out now for more information: Click here for details.

Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

Teaching Money Management to Kids

I’m pleased to be caught in the middle of the great money debate – spenders vs. savers. My two oldest could not be more polar opposites when it comes to money and stuff.

My 6-year old son took me on a date recently and I shared the picture of us together on Instagram.IMG_0464

thehomelearner This boy is a saver. He never asks to spend his money on toys or anything. But today he’s splurging. He’s taking his mom on a date. #Keeper #LoveHim #MiniMan

After that, I received a lot of comments and questions regarding how to teach kids good money handling.

I felt kind of shy to admit: we really don’t officially follow any expert methods. My best intentions were to have already read this book and this one too because I fear I’ll wake up in my 50’s and find my kids have made the same mistakes with money that I have.

My daughter is 7-years old, and she spends every penny in her hot little hand. My son, however, has money in his wallet (not his savings or piggie bank) from his 3rd birthday.

Polar opposites in money handling – one is a spender and the other is a saver. Here are 7 ways we naturally teach good money management to our kids:

#1 Always make a plan.

For the spender, I just instituted a rule that she isn’t allowed to go to the store with money to spend without a plan. She must make a list and budget and then she may spend. Otherwise, if she doesn’t see what she originally wanted she just picks any old thing off the shelf just for that “getting something new” feeling. We just had to put stop to that. Not only was our space getting too crowded (still is, more on simplifying soon), but she also lost interest in her new something the very next day after purchase. Now she’s better able to plan and save up first. Even if she just wants to save up $3 to buy a grab-bag toy, we ask her to make a plan.

#2 Always compare prices.

While shopping with my kids, I have them compare prices for me. They beg to be given the name of a product we want to buy and asked to find the best deal. Then we talk about the differences in prices – even between stores, there are things (Benadryl, for example) I only buy at the Dollar Tree because it’s a dollar!

For the spender, I’m teaching her about saving in a way that has immediate benefit. I don’t try to impress the value of long-term savings and expect her to jump on the chance to put half of her earnings “away for a rainy day.” My single goal for her right now with money is to engage her mind in the process of making money decisions.

For the saver, it’s a thrill to be able to keep even more money in the pocket when searching for a product we’ve decided to buy.

#3 Always talk in positive future terms.

It hasn’t been helpful to my spender when I have talked disparagingly about her choices. Even though, I sincerely dislike the purchasing of knickknacks. When my words are negative – she responds either slumped under shame or kicked back in rebellion. I’m not saying that I don’t discourage her from buying silly things, but after she has made her choice – I do not bully her about it. I’ve learned that if I wait long enough, the conversation about the item she bought will naturally come up and I’ll be given the opportunity for a teachable moment.

#4 Teachable moments can’t be forced.

I’ve learned that when I talk to her about money, I need to talk about how what we choose to buy has the power to bring life or bring bondage. More stuff means more to take care of. Even though I don’t mind if she wants to buy a new toy – she needs to understand that she’s making a commitment at the checkout. Not only is she choosing to bring that item home with her, but also to take care of it for better or for worse.

Many good money management lessons have been taught over tidying up her bedroom. It’s impossible to be a spender, buyer-of-knickknacks, and avoider-of-tidying. I put the 2 things side-by-side for her to realize: buying stuff means tidying stuff. The more you buy, the more you tidy.

#5 Money exposes what is already in our heart.

For the spender (in me and my daughter), our heart is bent toward greed. The I want what I want, and I want it now feeling. It isn’t pretty, but through careful practice that feeling can be taught to sit still and wise up. I don’t think I will ever fully grow out of being tempted by greed, but I do think that by keeping my mind active on #’s 1-4 for my own money management – I give myself a fighting chance to recognize it for what it is long before it has a grip on my heart.

My saver-son needs to learn to know his heart about money too. He does not love accumulating toys. He has no need for knickknacks. Teaching to his heart on money is trickier because it has less to do with discerning behavior and more to do with softening his attitude. He doesn’t realize it, but because he knows his spending behavior doesn’t require work to reform – he gets puffed up by the fact that his way of handling money is best. Arrogance in storing up wealth is displayed in his words and attitudes. He positions himself as superior to his sister, and now we have bigger problems.

#6 Money management is tied to relationship management.

All money is connected to people somehow. The most important rule I follow with teaching these two side-by-side is: avoid comparing them to each other. Nothing sparks rebellion or adversity more than putting them nose to nose on any topic. When they start talking to one another about money, I try to separate them and put myself in the middle. Even if they are sounding positive in their conversation, it just isn’t a safe topic for them to try and learn without adult supervision.

Also, as I mentioned in #4, money is a tool that can used to bring life or bondage – this pair has consequences for those around us too. If I spend my whole “grocery budget” on new gadgets – what will my family eat? I’ve bound them to suffer scant meals because I couldn’t say “no” to my own greedy desires. The use of money always has an effect on the people around us.

#7 Recognize what they do well with money.

One of the similarities in their heart for why they spend money is the same: generosity. My son, as the picture above recorded, loves to spend his resources on experiences. He is quick to offer his wallet if that means we get to go somewhere for an event – rides, food, fun – to him it is money well spent on himself and others. My daughter, if she hears of a party – birthdays, showers, weddings, etc. – she immediately creates a plan to buy gifts, assemble goodie bags, and design decorations. They each love others well through the use of money.

I teach the saver the same lesson about generosity as I do to the spender but in completely different words. The message is the same for each, but the delivery is unique. At their current ages – 6 and 7 – they are in the knowledge stage. They just need to know the facts about money: limits, plans, and stewardship – like what it means to be generous with and without using money. As they grow and practice, they will gain understanding through their own experiences in success and failure. And my hope is that by the time they are my age, they will have a good grasp on wisdom in the use of their resources.

So when I received questions about how we taught my son to save, I carefully thought through all the conversations I’ve had with my kids – and found that the main focus for money handling was their character. Sure, it is a challenge to raise a spender and a saver in the same home, but simply comparing and contrasting the two may outline an action plan for each but it doesn’t change their heart.

What is in the heart – before a single cent is in the hand – determines the value of money.

Disclosure: affiliate links are used in this post and set apart by underlining. There is no additional charge for clicks or purchases you would normally make. Thanks for reading!

I highly recommend the Money Saving Mom’s #MakeOverYourMornings course – check it out!

For more encouragement from The Home Learner, click here.

Kid-ucation

Am I learning? Growing? Observing? Am I mothering yesterday’s kids or am I seeing things from a present perspective? Can I give my child the freedom to become something different today? Are my mercies new and my affection free?

Kid-ucation JoeAnna

It’s never too late to start fresh.

To be in awe of the miracle of a life, a whole person wrapped in a little package.

To study them and watch them take in the world. To notice patterns in their responses.

To lovingly prepare for their needs and preferences.

To know them.

I had to relearn my older 2 kids. Or rather start learning them for who they are and not who I wanted them to be. I read once that parents need to confront the child they imagined with the child they have.

Kid-ucation: learning the child in front of me. Setting aside the dreams and frustrations to embrace them for who they are right now. Realizing the sacrifices of motherhood are intended for my good and growth just as much as training them is for theirs.

Kid-ucation Graham and Joe

I was warned before getting married that marriage reveals just how selfish a person is, and then having children reveals whether that person will give up their selfishness or not.

For years, I lived life day-by-day just trying to make it to the pillow each night. I addressed behaviors with a singular mindset. I wanted to train my children to appreciate the world from my point-of-view. Always parenting to that end and hoping to see them flourish suddenly with a mature joy for life.

Kid-ucation Graham

Enter Dr. Kathy Koch and her teaching from “How Am I Smart?

Her talk on seeing the 8 different ways that intelligence presents itself gave me the insight I was missing with how to know, train, and teach my children. Before meeting Dr. Kathy I was waiting for my kids to “get it” and after processing this information I realized that I was the one needing to “get them.”

Kid-ucation Graham and Emmett

I spent weeks observing my children after this change in perspective, and I concluded that I had been missing the point for years. I had to do a hard reset on my brain to erase all the previous ways I engaged my children. The ways I wanted them to see the world were not only selfish but harmful to their natural intelligences.

We have all grown so much deeper in our bonds as a result. I never would have been a natural safe place for my daughter if I hadn’t been exposed to this information that changed me.

I finally stopped looking for a How-To or a method of parenting.

How much we’ve grown encourages me to stay focused on our being rather than our doing. Sure, we do a lot of things in life, and I’m sure I’ll continue writing about that too, but the primary focus is whether I’m staying teachable.

Kid-ucation. Enrollment is open. It’s never too late to learn.

Kid-ucation Emmett

Affiliate links in this post: How am I Smart?: A Parent’s Guide to Multiple Intelligences, No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are

 

How to Help a Child Struggling with Loneliness :: Conclusion to the Lonely Kids Series

Lonely Kids Conclusion 3

I was lonely as a child, and that’s why I have compassion for lonely kids. I hid my loneliness mostly because I didn’t know how to articulate it. My bad feelings about myself, my free time, my lack of support, and lack of understanding relationships came out in dramatic behavior.

This was all by age 7. Even younger than that, I remember thinking: If I were gone, no one would notice.

I wasn’t lonely for a lack of people. I went to a brick and mortar school with lots of classmates and adults buzzing around.

The danger of loneliness is that it is subtle. It’s the difference between doing together and being together. As I modeled what I thought was the right way to behave and make friends, I sunk deeper into just doing my life.

Fast forward to my daughter turning 7, and I started to recognize some of the same old symptoms of loneliness in her. Seeing this in her, I was propelled into an all-out campaign to help her and other kids too.

Lonely Kids Conclusion 2

In my effort to help and teach my daughter to see her bad behavior and the bad feelings behind them, I saw her emotional state get worse.

I think we’re all (even the youngest ones) too quick to pick up false guilt.

Since that isn’t what I wanted to happen, I had to get perspective and start over. I committed to support her in the journey of learning who she can become. I’m taking the long view; not ignoring her bad behavior but setting it into context. Character, talents, interests, and influences all impact behavior.

When I was a child, there wasn’t enough time to pursue my interests. I wasn’t given the opportunity to let my talents emerge and grow. Not knowing my own interests led me to feel useless, and that isn’t what I want for my kids. As their mother, and specifically as a homeschooling mother, I am given new opportunities to support my kids in their character, talents, and interests every day. I have the greatest influence on them.

Having an intentional influence on them is a matter of vision. Short term sees bad behavior and just wants to make it change. Long term sees the roots and patiently tends to the heart of the behavior.

Lonely Kids Conclusion 1

Here are 4 focal points for learning how to see the roots and provide kids with support:

  1. Identity: Knowing who I am helps me know how I need to be supported. Who am I? Who am I becoming? Who do I belong to? Who wants me? What do I allow to label me? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? Identity is a standing stone. It is something to cling to when no one else is around to support or provide companionship. If I show my children that I have a strong sense of identity then they are one step closer to feeling the confidence of knowing their own identity.
  2. Advocacy: Finding a companion isn’t a matter of convenience, rather it’s a commitment. How willing am I to work on behalf of my child to bring other people into their life? Not only do children need healthy peer relationships, but they also need mentors and older kids to look up to too. Where are these people? What are my child’s interests and how can I coordinate people with these activities to better strengthen my child’s confidence? When I think of being my child’s advocate, I picture myself as a manager of their emotional needs. Taking inventory of fun, creativity, outdoor and indoor activities, curiosity, healthy excitement, down time, etc. and balancing it all. Not perfectly but intentionally.
  3. Modeling: Prioritizing healthy relationships with others that provide me with the support and companionship that I need. No one out grows the need for friends. When I’m lonely and unsupported, my kids see it and they suffer too. I want my kids to see me committed to others, and willing to sacrifice for the sake of understanding and loving other people. Aren’t kids always just practicing adults? I want to give my kids a good example of what to practice.
  4. Family Bonds: Being together and knowing love is a vital need for all of us. We are designed to thrive in supportive relationships. Creating a healthy home community starts with encouragement. Words, time, attention, concern, physical touch, traditions, etc. these are all the currency we have to spend on our children in ensuring they enjoy a rich family life. A life of being together on purpose.

As my kids grow older, I’ve realized they also grow less dependent on me to meet their social needs. Rather they need me to be their mentor, providing opportunities for friendships and bonds to flourish on top of their solid foundation of identity and belonging. They need help in order to recognize what being feels like for them.

Loneliness doesn’t have to be a life-long battle. Let’s break the cycle and step in to help.

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My Loneliness Story (Self-Destructing and Frustrated) :: Warning Signs of Loneliness in Kids, Part 6

No one would want to play with me anyway. I don’t have any friends. No one likes me, I’m dumb.

Or:

Why do you always… why can’t I ever… you never let me…

And it may be that both have been said by the same child. I know I said both.

People mean well when they want to help or fix these bad feelings. But it isn’t as easy as choosing not to be grumpy by putting on a smile. When the root of the matter isn’t being addressed the bad feelings grow and it becomes a habit. The struggling child expresses self-pity or disrespect consistently.

It is heartbreaking when adults ignore these signs because they label the child as “pitying themselves” or “rebelling against authority.” While both of those labels may be true and trained through with the child –it is feedback behavior.

Again, heavily focusing on these words and the feelings behind them are not going to produce the desired result. The words or the attitude isn’t the primary issue. The root of the issue isn’t that the child needs better self-esteem or deeper submission. Spending energy trying to train a child to put on a better attitude or to quiet their expressions will not stick. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches.

The pain from loneliness has been internalized and the child believes that they are wrong or broken for having needs that are going unmet. It causes a reaction of distrust and resentment toward parents for not knowing or helping the child.

In young children, this can also create a sense of panic or fear.

Fear and pain have a way of motivating us. I was a little powerhouse of words, attitudes, and emotions growing up. I would speak up to anyone: anytime, anywhere. Collecting labels that only grew more burdensome as I grew older. As my feedback behavior was being disciplined, punished, quieted – the pain grew and my fight with it. I tried every wrong way to force others to notice me and meet my needs for support and companionship, but very few adults could tolerate me.

This was true for me: hurt people, hurt people. And anyone close to me was hurt by me.

If only I could go back to my teen years and take back the awful things I said to my parents. The ongoing frustration I felt toward them was simply caused by misunderstandings and lack of communication. We addressed the surface issues, labeling actions and emotions as character flaws. But on my own, I didn’t have the tools to change my character – who I was becoming felt like a freight train that had lost its brakes.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I became who we all feared I would become. The labels and the troubles crushed me.

It took me years to unravel the pain and fear. After the social stages of schooling, I was on my own and alone, and that’s when I began to understand how loneliness had been at the root of so much of my destructive behavior.

And after more than a decade of healing I am able to share and learn from this painful part of myself.

My Loneliness Story

Learning to work through pain and to help others is the motive behind writing this series. The amount of compassion I have for kids who are hurting is beyond my physical reach. That’s why I’m writing. If you’re reading this, anything you can gain from these observations can be used to heal and help provide support and companionship.

Also, lest I close the series leading anyone to believe I no longer struggle with loneliness allow me to reveal how I recognize red flags as an adult: I act is some counter intuitive ways. I put on personalities that aren’t mine, and they don’t fit. And it looks like one or more of these:

  • Suddenly becoming bubbly and outgoing, with a strong desire to be the life of the party
  • Spending money impulsively and a ravenous desire to have something I’ve been saying “no” to for a long time
  • Gradually becoming isolated: ignoring phone calls from close friends and family because I just don’t feel like being with anyone
  • Feeling panicky when I don’t know where my phone is – checking social media compulsively
  • Mismanaging time and emotions – becoming angry and frustrated with myself for an overall lack of discipline
  • Speaking negatively about myself to others and rejecting encouragement

Why is there an ongoing struggle with loneliness? Because it’s hard to ask for support when I feel unsupported. It looks weak, it feels vulnerable, and it requires reflection and work to resolve. Often, I don’t know where to start, I’m overwhelmed. Guilt lies to me.

Moving forward, I look at my core needs and work up from there: security, identity, and then belonging. And like Dr. Kathy Koch taught me: Belonging is “who wants me” not “who needs me.” Belonging is a need, and healthy relationships are possible.

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in this series, you can check out the titles here.

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