Best You Can

Stomach or back?  Which is the best sleeping position for the baby?  The answer will depend on the year the question is asked.  Putting baby to sleep on his back was recommended when my first child was born in 1978. However, seven years later, when my daughter was born, putting her to sleep on her stomach was the new advice.  Yet again, when my fifth child was born in 1995, doctors were recommending back sleeping again.


Our youngest in 1995. Crib bumpers are taboo now.

It is a wonder my children survived their childhood.  They did not see a dentist or receive fluoride until they were three years old.  Now these things are recommended to be done as soon as the first tooth has erupted the gum line.

As a parent, you may be bombarded with many questions.  Should my child sit in a bumbo seat, or not?   Should I bottle or breast feed.  Cloth or disposable diapers?   The August 2016 issue of Parents magazine carries an article titled, “health “facts” you may have wrong”.    It covers topics such as the BRAT diet, using walkers, drinking juice, cereal, teething, and car seats.   It also covers conventional wisdom changes.  With newer research, come new thoughts and recommendations.


Our firstborn in 1979.

So what is a parent to do?  Do the best you can.  That is a phrase I often heard my parents say.  They did the best they could.  What does that mean?  It means at the time of the decision, whatever it was, using the best information they had, they made a decision.  No one can make a decision today based on information not yet available.  There is no benefit in beating ourselves up today for what we did not know yesterday or last month.

Whatever your parenting style may be, there is probably a book written about it.  We are inclined to discount or ignore the advice with which we think we disagree.  We gravitate towards what we already like and are doing.  However, if your style is not producing the results (behavior and/or character traits) with which you are pleased, then it may be time to consider other approaches or methods of parenting.

Parents do make mistakes.  We are learning as we go.  Every age and stage is a new uncharted territory to explore together.  It is very confusing and difficult when the rules or guidelines or recommendations are frequently changing.   Need proof?  Just ask your parents about the kinds of car seats they used for you.

When you child reaches the teenage years, they may inform you of everything you did not know or do “right” as you parented them.   Be patient.  Their opinion is likely to change when they are parents themselves.  Incredibly, perspective changes our views.

Whatever parenting challenges you may be facing, please be encouraged. Parenting is an amazing adventure.  Yes, much of it is quite difficult.  You can ask the Lord to help you and He will.  Many times He has given me insight and ideas for particular issues and problems.   When my children were 8, 5, 3, and 1 years old the three year old struggled everyday with emotional meltdowns.  I prayed about this and the idea I had, which I believe came from the Lord, was to hold him every day for at least an hour.  Did I have an extra hour?  No.  But, I tried to do this every day.  This extra physical affection made a huge difference to him and became a benefit to our household.  What family wouldn’t benefit from fewer meltdowns?

What part of parenting do you find most challenging?  What do you wish you knew sooner than you did?water lilies

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” NKJV


True Value

My #1 daughter-in-law, Melissa, is my guest writer today.  She recently shared the following with me in a casual conversation.  Her story is powerful.  I think others  will benefit from her insight and transparency.

I struggle with insecurities.  I don’t like it when people point out my weaknesses.  In fact I ponder their critique longer than I would like to admit.  I have struggled with insecurities as long as I can remember, wanting people to like me, approve of me.  Unfortunately, when I became a mom these insecurities didn’t vanish, instead my kids have forced me to face them.  Where does my worth come from?  Where do my children get their worth?  I fell into the trap of competing. Oh, I didn’t say it like that; I just needed one key area that I was really good at…that I shined brighter in than others.  That was my worth!  I got accolades in that area, but deep down it was never enough.IMG_0633

I want my kids to have a good self- esteem.  I want them to know they can do whatever God calls them to.  So the first time one of my kids came to me and said something like, “Susie said I am ugly.”  I thought, “Oh no! She is going to think that she is ugly and get insecure.”  I didn’t know how to handle it so I leaned on my own coping strategies.

Strategy #1: Think of all your strengths.  Compare yourself to her and see how you’re still better.  Look at all the areas you are great at.

Strategy #2: (This one can get pretty ugly, but you got to do what you got to do to keep yourself on top!) Point out their weaknesses and flaws.  “Susie said you’re ugly???  Have you heard her lisp?  Wait, did she say ugly or ugWEE?” (No, I am not proud of it.)

This is what I noticed, my kids were becoming like me, going back and forth between pride and low self-esteem depending on the day.  One night my son called me into his room, in tears, to tell me how another child had hurt him deeply.  They had teased him because he didn’t recognize a word, implying he was a bad reader.  I hurt with him and honestly I was debating on which strategy to use when the Holy Spirit prompted me with a better way. I asked him, “Where does your worth come from?”  He said, “What?”  I asked again, “Where does your worth come from?”  “What makes you valuable?”  “Mom, I don’t know.”  “Son, it’s not in whether you are a good reader.  Your worth is based on being God’s child.  Your worth is not whether or not you are good at basketball.  Your worth is not whether or not you are handsome. You aren’t valuable because others say so, it’s because God says so.  He loves you and says you are enough.”  The distress turned into relief.  A tear slid down his cheek and he said, “Thank you mommy.”

Our children need to know where their value comes from.  They don’t have to earn it.  They are already valuable because they are God’s child.  People shouldn’t be able to determine our value because God has already decided we are worth dying for – John 3:16.13015260_10209088514751835_5337198856708526595_n

Did you hear what he said?

He walked past our house twice a day.  He was a businessman who rode the commuter train to Chicago.  He always smiled and said hello as he passed.  One day he stopped.  Pointing to our infant son in the stroller he said to me, “It is very important that you always talk to him.  And never use gibberish or baby talk.  He needs to hear you speaking clearly and correctly.  He will learn to talk from listening to you.  Good day.”  That is the only conversation I recall having with that neighbor.  I don’t know if he was a father or perhaps a grandfather.  I appreciated his wisdom.   He made a lasting impression on me.  That baby in the stroller is now a 38 year old father of

It often seems that expectant or new moms wear a sign.  It says “WANTED: Unsolicited Advice.”  Unsolicited advice is freely given from family, friends, and even complete strangers. Be gracious as you listen and be discerning.  It may be useless information, but some of it may be very helpful.   Anyone may know a better way to do something.

Talking and listening are important skills in parenting. Children must learn to do both and you are their primary teacher.   Talk to your infants all day long.  Tell them what you are doing as you do it.  Tell them about the objects in your/their environment.   Talk about everything and anything.   They are always listening! By the time they reach the age of three they will be doing lots of questioning.  This is all part of the learning process.  Try to be patient as the majority of their questions will begin with the word, why.

Here are a few ideas for teaching your children to be attentive listeners:

  1. Ask your child to look at your while you are talking to them.
  2. Be clear and direct so that there is less opportunity for misunderstanding. Most young children do not understand subtlety.
  3. Ask them if they understand what you have said and maybe to repeat any given instructions.
  4. Young children need to be told one thing at a time. As they age they can manage a list of instructions.
  5. Clearly define the time expectation connected to any order or requested action with words such as; now, soon, today, after, tomorrow….

Learn to attentively listen to your child. Pay attention to their choice of words, tone, body language and facial expression.  Ask clarifying questions.  Do not be critical or condemning.  This can shut down communication.  Two of my children were very sensitive to what they perceived as a loud or angry voice.   Sometimes I had to whisper to prevent them from completely shutting me out.   Each child’s temperament is different.1240127_10153310501223342_8421696981290091493_n

Ask your child not only about their interests, desires and needs but also engage your child in age appropriate conversations about things outside of their typical sphere.  Ask their opinions.  Commend their ideas and strategies.  Question how they feel or what they think about a topic or a specific problem.   Request their suggestions when you are facing a difficulty.  You may be amazed at their thinking and suggestions.  They can learn to problem solve and even compromise.  These types of exercises engage and expand the mind.  They are also developing incredible communication skills, which will make them a better spouse, parent and employee.

As our children grow into teens and young adults our conversations with them become more vital not less.   The topics of conversations may change but conversing needs to happen every day. Parents need to listen to their children and children need to listen to their parents.   Smartphones and technology may be a distraction from truly listening to each other in the way their grandparents did with us.

I encourage you to think about who you have really listened to today. Were you genuine? Did you have a phone in your hand? Did you make eye contact?  Did the person talking to you walk away frustrated? Listening is an important skill we can continue to improve upon, even as adults.