Exposing Our Kids to Great People: The Gift From Mrs. Keys

I didn’t think that a gift from Reese’s teacher would touch MY heart so much. Although, it wasn’t the gift itself, but the message that came with it. To start this sixth grade year, Mrs. Keys held a special ceremony in which she told her class the significance of her favorite book, the Bible. She shared about different Bibles she had owned in her life and the special people who had given them to her. She revealed times when passages in her Bible had guided her through dark, difficult, and painful places. She talked about when verses in God’s Word built her up and gave her inspiration to succeed.

Then she presented each of her students with their own leather bound Bible, complete with their name imprinted neatly on the front. Each student came to the front and she presented it to them, encouraging them to use it as a roadmap for life.

The kids all left school that day THRILLED about the gift and Reese came home with hers. She showed it to me and it was beautiful. I looked at it, opened the front cover and saw life. Life being given from Mrs. Keys to my daughter. She wrote to my daughter, “Reese, You are loved, redeemed and made for a great purpose. I cannot wait to see all the amazing things God will do in your life. Love, Mrs. Keys” STAWP. IT. NOW!

There is something so very special when someone you respect breathes inspiration and words of affirmation into your kids. It feels as if you’re pulling on this rope called parenting, which is heavy and hard to pull. Then another supportive hand grabs on with you, tells you to keep going, and starts to pull as well. Every single parent knows the way this goes… we speak to our kids and tell them all about how things should go, meanwhile wondering if they even hear us. But, sometimes it takes another respected voice to say the same exact thing in order to penetrate their heart and reach them deeply.

For this reason, we believe in our home that we MUST expose our kids to “high impact people and high impact events.” Looking back on my childhood, my parents provided a steady and loving home. They were wise in the things they told me and taught me. But, being the goof I was, I didn’t usually take much note. I mean, they were just my parents. So they put me in the path of Bret, Barb & Doug, and others who guided me in the same direction. Those were high impact people who simply supported what my family was doing at home. Without this, I would be a different person today.

As a parent, I’m grateful for the Mrs. Keys’, Mrs. Friesen’s, Apollo’s, Karlo’s, Kevin’s, and others who are in essential places in my children’s lives. I can’t give my kids everything they need as they grow, and even if I could, they wouldn’t listen to it all from me. The truth is that kids will talk to someone in their life at some point, and the last thing they need is to get consequential advice from a peer. With this in mind, we can give them places to go (besides us) when they need to confide, celebrate, or think.

Let’s release control and find some high impact people to help speak life into our kids. We can’t do it alone!

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Teaching Compassion: This Student Inspired Me!

I can tell my kids lots of things, but what I do matters more.

Kylie inspired me this week. This creative and kind fourth grader at our school came up to me with a huge smile and handed me a custom key chain. “Here is one for you, Mr. Jackson. I made these!” Well first of all, the key chain itself is rad. It’s has “Bulldogs” stitched onto a long shiny slip of leather material… a great way to show off our mascot.

Even sweeter than the actual gift was the reason she made it. In a little pouch that Kylie held in her hands were a whole bunch more of these key chains. They were different colors and had a variety of stitching shades. I asked her, “What are all those for?” Her response was perfect, “I made these to sell to people. The money goes to our class Compassion student.”

Each classroom at school sponsors an international student through Compassion International. The children send letters and encouragement back and forth, and our students are responsible to bring money in for their sponsorship. This then helps that child and their family by providing medical assistance, school uniforms, and resources for parents. We presently support children in El Salvador, Kenya, the Philippines, and several more.

The thought behind this situation at our school is not solely to raise money, or to have a pen-pal overseas. The main thing we are trying to do is plant seeds of compassion and empathy in our students that will stay with them forever. One day, we hope to see adults who see needs and take action.

Kylie gets it! Somewhere along the way, she has seen, heard, and been inspired to HELP. I’m sure that some of this came from school, but I’m convinced that the biggest factor for her is that she has parents who care, act with others in mind, and share kindly. It’s no accident that her mother guided her in creating these inventive pieces. Mom is not only saying what is right, but doing it.

Us parents talk a whole lot. We repeatedly tell our kids how they should and shouldn’t act, how we’d like them to treat people, and also that they should stop bickering with each other in the backseat of the car. No one, actually everyone, probably feels so often that those bundles of joy are just not listening! But… they are always watching. I can say all kinds of stuff, but what I do matters more. If I tell them to be honest, then lie about their age to get a discount at a movie… they notice. If I encourage them to be flexible, then yell around the house when things aren’t just right… they notice. Even when I ask them to be polite, then treat the server at a restaurant like trash… they most certainly notice.

Kylie and her family taught me three lessons this week. One, compassion and empathy are qualities that make kids better people. Two, the best way to develop any trait in my kids is to show it to them. Finally, Kylie is fantastic at making bulldog key chains. I believe I can be an improved parent with the first two lessons. The third lesson… I’ll leave the key chain creating to Kylie.

Using Affirmations to Build a Strong Inner Voice

At the start of each week, you can go into the first grade classroom at my school and find the inspiration and optimism you need to tackle whatever is ahead of you. In the corner of the white board are two phrases that are new every Monday. They’re meant for the children to memorize, but they are true for all of us. The teacher calls them “affirmations.”

One of the posted affirmations said, “I believe in myself and my abilities.” Another read “I give and accept compliments.” This week, one of the affirmations is “God has a great plan for my life.”

During the week, the students practice these affirmations, commit them to memory, and discuss how they apply in life. I recently asked the teacher the purpose of this weekly habit. Her response inspired me and caused me to think about how I build confidence in my own kids. She said, “Affirmations can be a truth that we need to remind ourselves of when we are in a difficult situation, or they can serve as a reminder of a goal or something we hope to achieve.”

The time is coming fairly soon when my kids won’t be around me everyday. They won’t always have nonstop daily access to my guidance, advice, and encouragement… or my refrigerator. They won’t live under my roof, be tucked in each night, and asked about the details of their day. For this future that’s ahead of them, I want one thing: I want them to know who they are and what they can do.

The world that awaits them will tell them things like, “You’re NOT good enough,” “You’re too big/small/skinny/fat/loud/quiet/etc.,” and “You are not worth being loved.” At that moment, each of our kids will look to their inner voice and lean on what they believe about themselves, which largely comes from us. They may become shell-shocked, depressed, or incapable of overcoming what’s coming at them. They may not have an inner voice that gives them confidence. But… we can build that inner voice in them now! We can tell them, “You matter,” “You are strong and you were born for a reason,” and “God loves you and sees great things in you.” If we do this, our kids will have a reservoir of strength to draw on when times get tough. They will know who they are and whose they are. They will be able to look at situations they face and remind themselves, “God made me for a reason,” “I am confident, loyal, and strong,” and “My BEST is SUCCESS.”

I want my kids to know who they are and what they can do.

Tonight, when I tuck those two sweet kids of mine into bed, I will be sure to look them in their eyes and fill them with affirmations. I will then go into first grade tomorrow and remind myself that those are true for me as well!

NOTE: For more excellent affirmations for your child, take a look at these from Priscilla Shirer.

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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.

Is it Okay for Our Kids to Be Bored? Building Motivation and Creativity

You can already smell it in the air… pollen? Well, yes. But, I’m talking about summer. Children everywhere rejoice at the free horizons ahead of them! Parents, however, see right through this and know that by June 10, their sweet little ones will be whispering those seven letters that can make the summer screech to a halt- “I’m bored.”

All of us have heard this from our kids. My parents heard this from me during my childhood. They typically responded with, “Go outside.” Ugh, how could they?! Some parents today kick swiftly into gear at the mention of this phrase. IPads appear, Netflix is switched on, iPhones are handed out- anything to avoid the guilt associated with torturing a child with boredom.

As summer quickly approaches, it’s important to understand that “boredom” is not a curse word, especially relating to our kids. Actually, it can be of great benefit to them if we will just back away and let it happen sometimes.

  1. Boredom helps them practice for life. Our kids will grow up and stand in line, sit in doctors offices, drive in traffic, and endure tedious work meetings. Hopefully, they are used to managing this by then.
  2. Boredom builds creativity. Parenting author Nancy Blakey says, “I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up, but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom.” Yes!
  3. Boredom builds motivation. When I’m not setting up everything for my kids, they are forced to self-motivate and think. This too will be another skill that’s useful down the road. As child psychologist, Lyn Fry said, “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.
  4. Boredom builds contentment. This applies to adults too… we GO too much! Some of us can hardly sit in quiet without wanting to hop up and do something. Contentment is strengthened when we bring calm and peace to our homes, teaching our kids that life is not just a series of activities that we jump one to the next.
  5. Boredom creates contributors, not consumers. If we allow it, our children will naturally slip into constantly “taking.” That’s how we’re all born! Allowing them to experience a little boredom gives them a chance to build and contribute, rather than simply wait for someone to do that for them.

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations.” ~ Nancy Blakey

I can hear you asking, does this mean I just sit in a chaise lounge with my lemonade all summer?! Well, part of the time, but we are in this to train future adults, not toss them into the yard and hope for the best. With that in mind, here are a few ways to guide our kids through the boredom:

  1. FIRST, love on them. Cuddle them, eat breakfast with them, share regular and meaningful conversation with them. Parenting is a balance between making these deposits and building independence in them.
  2. Get them outside. The outdoors is somehow fertile for a child’s imagination. Things come to life out there that don’t in the house. Let them sweat, get dirty, and create out there… without your help.
  3. Create a no-screen zone. Give yourself permission to say YES to screens during the summer, but also to say NO sometimes. Screens will provide relief from the immediate boredom issue, but they will not shape creativity or encourage motivation. What they may do (as most parents know) is start an argument of some kind;)

This summer, be reminded and encouraged that you are doing a great job. Even during the “boring” days, there are chances to help our kids grow in character and life-skills. We can guide them to be creative, learn contentment, and gain motivation. This may not be glamorous, but it IS what counts!

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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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