Kids Follow Our Lead- Everyone Grab a Middle Seat!

It was early at the Oakland Airport, but the kids were excited. I was excited too, because we were about to leave for Florida on vacation. We’re a Disney-loving family, so our first trip to the (other) happiest place was the perfect way to start the summer.

It was time to board our plane and I knew we could run into a little fun, because I had sort of goofed up. You know that procedure on Southwest Air where you need to check-in exactly 24 hours before your flight, or you board last? Well… I had forgotten to check in early and we were boarding last. Also, you probably know that there aren’t assigned seats on Southwest. This is also a key component to the story.

We got on the plane and realized that there were hardly any seats left. There were a few open “middles” with the person in the aisle pretending not to see anyone else, hoping that would cause them to keep walking. This is the point where my wife and I said to each other, “Do we raise unafraid, independent kids or not?”

We told the kids that they needed to find a middle seat somewhere/anywhere and that we’d do the same. Also, we told them to have a nice fight and that we’d see them in 6 hours on the east coast. As it turns out, our daughter was in row 33 between two strangers, our son was in row 23 between two strangers, and my wife and I were up near row 5. We also were getting to know new friends.

In this situation and so many others, I believe that our kids take cues from us and respond in kind. I quietly thought to myself as we boarded, “What if something happens? What if they have nothing to do? What if someone takes them?” Although truthfully, where is someone going to take them anyway? But Renee and I both calmly said to them with our demeanor, “You’re strong. You’re independent. You don’t need me to entertain you.”

Their reaction then followed suit. They got into their seats, settled in, and had a pretty boring flight. This could have all been different if we had begun freaking out, asking the workers to get a bunch of seats switched, and infusing anxiety into the kids. They would pick up on our behavior right away, because they watch and listen, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

I ended up learning a lesson after accidentally getting into boarding group Z (there is no such thing, but it felt like it). My job as the parent to my kids is to stay calm and pass that along to my kids. They should eventually learn from me how to calmly handle issues and that they are more capable than they realize. All went well that day and we made it to Florida just fine… at least until my son got his foot stuck in the escalator at baggage claim, but that’s a story for a different day.

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The Power of Parents’ Words: You’re Beautiful

When my daughter was in preschool, we had a song.  We’d sing it to each other almost every day and it went like this:  “I see your face in every sunrise, the colors of the morning are inside your eyes.  The world awakens in the light of the day, I look into your eyes and say… you’re beautiful.”  Actually, she changed the last phrase into “you’re handsome” and I LOVED IT.  Many times, as Reese and I would get into the car her first words were, “Dada, will you play our song?!”  Why yes, I believe I will:)

My daughter was only three and I wanted her to know something that I still want her to know today- she is beautiful.  I want her to know that from a man in her life who loves her and cares about her just for who she is as a young lady.  I also want her to know every day of her life that she is beautiful for far more than what she wears, what her hair looks like, or what style of shoes she puts on her feet.  Many times, my affirmations to her are followed by this statement: “It’s the most important for you to be beautiful on the…” and she answers, “inside.”

Our culture has placed immeasurable importance on outer beauty and is doing its best to convince our children that they must look the best, feel the best and have more than every one else.  Additionally, many of us adults are being convinced of the very same thing as we constantly compare ourselves to everyone around us.  The Bible says that God sees things quite differently than us.  1 Sam. 16:7 says, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  We can easily look gorgeous on the outside, but have emptiness on the inside.

When I’d look into Reese’s adorable face every day and sing, “You’re beautiful” to her I wanted her to know two things.  First, she is made by God uniquely and specially JUST the way He wanted her.  Every hair, birthmark, wrinkle and freckle was placed exactly where it is meant to be by Him.  There is no accident.  Psalm 119:73- “You’re hands have made and fashioned me.”  For that reason, she is a beautiful girl made by a beautiful God… on purpose.

Secondly, I want her to know that her inner beauty is more important than anything on the outside.  That is why we will teach her to dress modestly.  That is why we will raise her to love God and experience the love He has for her.  That is why we will encourage her to be confident enough to speak up when she feels uncomfortable. That is why we will help her learn the Bible, so that she has a strong foundation to make good choices as she grows older.

If you have a daughter, tell her she’s beautiful.  If you have a son, tell him he’s handsome.  Those words will stick and build confidence that will last. You don’t have to sing to them, but trust me- it’s much better that way.

Trusting God With Our Kids: Advice From a Mom Who’s Been There

“Life does not always align with our well thought-out plans.  As a mom, this drove me crazy and left me feeling out of control.”  Read on as Barb Berglund, mother to four grown kids and grandma to one adorable little one, shares her perspective on finding strength as we parent.

The best advice I ever received on parenting (and really on anything) came from my oldest sister.  She told me to get a good pair of jeans!  I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing.  What!?!?

Don’t get me wrong.  I like a new pair of jeans as much as the next person- dark wash, light wash, whatever.  But what does that have to do with anything?

Let me back up a bit.  I’m a planner.  I LOVE a good schedule and organization.  As I raised my four kids through each stage of childhood, it made me feel calm and in control.  In parenting (and life) this can be both good and bad.  Organization gave order to my busy life and helped me be productive.  It brought a sense of calm to the fast pace of our days.  I organized play dates, athletic events, school functions, meals, homework, family time, etc.  However, I quickly came to realize that kids don’t always follow the schedules we set out for them.  Life does not always align with our well thought-out plans.  As a mom, this drove me crazy and left me feeling out of control.

During one of these many moments, my sister, who knew me better than she even realized, gave me her advice about the jeans.  As any annoying baby sister would do, I asked “Why?”  Her answer?  “Because with your kids, the best thing you can do is be on your knees praying for them.”  Humbled?  Yup.  I was never in control.  God was and is in control, I just sometimes wouldn’t take the time to notice it.  He loves our children even more than we do and He has our back.  We can go to Him always about everything, knowing His plan is greater than ours!

What a relief, God has a plan.  By no means have I finished this parenting journey- I’m on to the grandkids, the fun part!  But at this point in my path, my suggestion for all parents is to go to Him with everything.  Thank Him for your kids health, their accomplishments, their joy.  Ask Him to provide for your needs and dreams.  If you’re like me, sometimes “Help!” is all you can speak .  If words fail me, I often speak the Lord’s Prayer or read Scripture aloud.  He meets me there and gives me the strength to put one foot in front of the other.  He loves us and our family and wants to hear from us.

So, I give you permission… go buy yourself a good pair of jeans!

Barb Berglund

Mother of 4

Gone through more jeans than I can count.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with ALL kinds of prayers and requests.”  ~Ephesians 6:18a

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Giving Our Kids the Gift of Confidence: Daddyeous Protectosaur

The above photo is of my mother, circa 1987. And 1988. And 1989. You get the point. What was I doing while she was getting all this beauty rest? This:

Oh, and this:

All. Day. Long. When I was a kid, summertime meant that my friends and I would hop on our bikes and head over to a baseball field in our neighborhood. Sometimes along the way, we’d grab Baskin Robbins ice cream, then spend literally hours at the field. The end of the day would come and we’d come home dirty, exhausted, and ready to do the same thing the next day.

My mom would ask about the day, tell me to get cleaned up for family dinner, and remind me that I still had jobs to do around the house. During the day, she hadn’t texted me, called me, or found-my-iPhone.

What’s out of place at this “kids” playground? The adult!

Fast forward to today. Check out this photo captured by yours truly, budding amateur photographer. You’ll notice a gorgeous modern play structure designed for the enjoyment of little ones. You’ll see the detailed colors and thought that has been put into the creation of a fine zone for children. You’ll also come aware of a seating area for adults in the bottom right corner of the photo. This area is empty, because you can also observe the main feature of my work of photgraphic art: daddyeous protectosaur in his natural habitat. He is posted within easy sightlines of his prized creation, poised to pounce if she happens to slip or if any child dares be mean to her. He is sipping his nummy latte, but deftly only has the cup over the bottom of his eyes for maximum peeking efficiency. In this pose, daddyeous protectosaur is ready for anything. Unfortunately, his child may not be.

Is there a balance we can reach? Can parents today raise independent kids without turning them completely loose in a dangerous world? I believe the answer is YES! Accepting that our kids will sometimes fail is key, although difficult. Not checking their every move and step, but allowing the consequences of both is critical. Many of us have that backward: we check up on every single thing they do, then save them from any negative results that come from their actions. We pester, nag, and chase them about chores and homework, then blame anyone but them when they are held accountable.

What are a few ways that us parents can let our kids grow up and begin to walk on their own two feet? Try these to start with and you’ll be thrilled with the future adults you begin to see bloom:

  1. Let them play. I catch myself often wanting to micromanage my kids’ play, but I come to realize that they’re doing fine without me! Some of the best play happens when we’re not hovering so much.
  2. Don’t answer for them. When an adult asks our kids “How are you?” or “What’s your name?”, we can train them to answer that person politely for themselves.
  3. Allow them to do some tasks on their own. It’s amazing what kids can do- basic cooking, cleaning, yardwork. The only thing that often holds them back is that we won’t let them.
  4. Have them order food for themselves. Kids of nearly any age can learn to look a server/cashier in the eye and speak up to order their meal. This is a great area to train them in speaking to adults and an awesome confidence builder.
  5. Let them try to solve their own small problems. It is every parent’s instinct to swoop in and rescue their child. The reality is that we won’t always be there to do that. A child that never has an opportunity to problem solve will seek out help as a teenager, a young adult, and beyond. This will leave them vulnerable to accepting help from the wrong sources if they cannot find the confidence within themselves.

These kids are gifts from God and sometimes all of us can lovingly treat them like China dishes, making sure that they don’t break or crack. What may help them more than that is realizing that God has given them to us to prepare them for a life that is ahead. That life is full of victories and hardships alike. We can gently expose them to some of these things now to strengthen their roots as a capable child of God. Then when mighty winds come later, they can stand strong and not topple. Not only that, we may get some extra beauty rest like my mom did and be extra beautiful when we get into our sixties.

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Focus on character: You’re a Human Being, Not a Human Doing

What am I praising my kids for- Is it for what they DO, or for who they ARE?

That is a question I constantly ask myself while trying to build confidence in Bauer and Reese. For kids at ages 10 and 12, I want them to know I absolutely love being their dad and I always accept them, even when they fail.

The easiest thing to do is default to praising their accomplishments. I mean, it comes naturally right? When Bauer does well at basketball, it’s the normal thing to say “great shot.” When Reese gets a good test score, I’m used to telling her, “I’m so proud of that good grade.” But focusing on the accomplishment itself doesn’t tell them we’re proud of THEM, it tells them we’re proud of what they DID.

Reese has always been a good speller. A highlight of her school year is the annual spelling bee. She studies for the weeks leading up to it and works super hard to get the words right. I remember doing the same thing when I was 10. The only difference between her and I? She gets the words right. She has typically finished well in the bee and a good friend hilariously joked to me recently, “Ya know, Reese is like the Tom Brady of the spelling bee. She’s already won enough and she should just be done now.”

Going into this year’s bee, she practiced and prepared as usual. The bee came and it was really fun. All the kids were so brave and confident. They were spelling words that you wouldn’t imagine, all in front of a pretty big audience! Finally, after a tense spelling battle, Reese misspelled a word. She was out. An awesome girl from her class won the bee. That sweet girl had also worked very hard, studied the words, and been excited and ready for the competition.

When the competition was over, I knew that Reese would be disappointed. I went up to her, gave her a hug and told her this: “Reesey, I’m proud of your courage in front of all those people. I’m proud of how hard you worked. I’m proud of how brave you were to take that on.” I focused on her character, not on what she had done.

The year before this, she had won the spelling bee. Afterward, I saw her and said something like this: “Reesey, I’m proud of your courage in front of all those people. I’m proud of how hard you worked. I’m proud of how brave you were to take that on.” I was not proud that she had won, I was proud of what what she had done to get there- effort, hard work, determination.

The best part about focusing on character rather than accomplishments is that it’s something our kids can control and repeat in the future. They can’t control if they always win, get an A+, or finish in first place. However, they can always be strong, brave, honest, loyal, courageous, trustworthy, and kind. These traits will get them somewhere in life and will also result in great rewards. Those traits are what I praise.

The truth is that there will be times when our kids finish last or don’t win. So what do we praise then? Instead of giving them a “Great job honey!” that they know is obligatory, we can build up the person that they are and are still becoming. They aren’t appreciated because they win something or finish in a certain position. They are loved and accepted because they are a human BEING, not a human DOING. When they know this from us as their parents, they can focus on building strong character, rather than doing things to win. Then great results will naturally follow.

Each one of us is a human BEING, not a human DOING!

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Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

I couldn’t BELIEVE the things my parents would NOT let me watch when I was a kid.  In my mind, EVERYONE got to see all the best movies and they basically had run of the television in their homes.  I remember how badly I wanted to watch some of the coolest action movies when I was a wee lad.  Well, that was a no, and now I know why.

As Renee and I continue to try raising independent kids who can confidently think for themselves, I am careful to remember that there is a balance in doing this.  We want our children to grow to be strong, wise, and ready to face what life has for them.  We also do not want them exposed to dangers that may permanently or irreparably harm them. Continue reading Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

Being Available to Our Kids: Dad, Can You Help Me?

“Hey Dad, can you help me with something?”  I didn’t realize when my 10-year old asked me this question last Saturday morning that the answer would take up the rest of the day and hurt both of us in different ways.  I was folding laundry when she called me from the other room, because well… laundry.  Anyhow, she came out and told me that she had a problem with her earring.  Before looking at it, I thought, “Why would she ask me?  Does she know that I formerly had not only an earring, but also dashingly stylish blonde highlights in my hair?”  What else does this girl know about me?  She said that something went wrong with the back of the earring when she was taking it out, so I turned her ear around to find that the earring back was literally INSIDE her ear lobe!  My tummy turned, because I basically get light-headed at the sight of blood… or an earring stuck inside a lobe.  I calmly told her that we would take care of this and that she would be fine.  I internally said, “OH MY GAWSHHH!” Continue reading Being Available to Our Kids: Dad, Can You Help Me?