It’s past 9 p.m. as I watch my kids sleeping soundly. It’s been a long day, but the silence and peacefulness in this moment doesn’t tell that story. I realize that my kids are my greatest blessing. Even the crazy days can’t blur that fact for me. I do a quick scroll through the news while I get myself ready for bed. Another shooting, another child abuse case, another drug bust, another political problem. How do I raise whole kids in such a broken world? I wonder to myself. Is it even possible? Raising whole kids in a broken world is possible, it just takes intentional, extra work.
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Raising whole kids in a broken world is possible. Completely possible.
Have you heard the quote by Mother Teresa, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”? This is one of my favorite quotes and it is so, so true.
Changing the world happens within the walls of our homes. When we raise our kids to be good people, and then send them into the world, that’s when things change.
Even though the world, right now, seems dysfunctional and a little (okay, a lot) worrisome, we can do our part to make sure our kids are raised well.
How do we raise whole kids in a broken world?
1 | Lean in.
Those are my two favorite words when it comes to parenting. Leaning in means that, no matter what, you are there for your kids. In their bad times, their good times and their crazy times, you lean in and give it all you’ve got.
Even when your child is on the floor at Wal-Mart, crying because you aren’t buying a toy he wants, you lean in. You meet your child where he is at and love him, even in that moment. You block out everything around you— the ugly stares, what you think other people think and you simply lean in.
Don’t dismiss your kids and their feelings. They are real and they aren’t meant to bother you. Our kids need us to lean in and teach them how to cope and how to be kind, even when it is tough.
2 | Be present.
You’re probably sick of hearing that piece of advice, but I’m throwing it out there anyway. Why? Because it is completely valid.
The other night at dinner, I strolled by several tables of families eating their meals. Just out of curiosity, I looked around to see how many tablets and phones I could see. I wasn’t surprised when I saw about half or more of the tables with screens on and every family member sitting in their own world.
I’m not casting blame, or judging. Trust me, I’ve given my children the phone in the grocery store when I just need one.more.thing and they are about to knock each other out of the cart.
But, when screens replace family time, there becomes a problem. Families are disconnected and relationships become strained.
In order to foster a parent-child bond, both parties have to be present. We have to allow time for conversations. Show our kids what it is like to talk about things that matter. Confide in each other about what happened during the day. It’s all important, no matter how small or big.
That means that we, as parents, have to put down our phones and set the example. Send the message of “YES! I want to be present with you! YES! I want to hear what you have to say! YES! What you are doing is more important than what is on my phone!”
I know that there is sometimes business to take care of and important emails that have to be sent, but when it becomes a battle between being present and being on a screen, it’s time to reassess.
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3 | Parent like you were meant to. No matter what.
I feel like we are reaching a time when “anything goes” is going. And fast. Parents are feeling weary and pressured to allow their kids to do things because “everyone else is letting their kid” do something. Or, because they just don’t have the time to parent the way we were meant to.
It’s like a sad version of “Keeping up with the Jones'” and it hurts our kids.
Parenting is the toughest role I have ever been in. I am weary, and I am only 6.5 years into this journey. I can’t imagine the amount of exhaustion I will have when my kids are teens. But, will I give in or give up? Nope.
My parent game in ten years won’t waiver. My values won’t change and the morals that I have instilled in my kids will continue to hold steady.
Why? Because parenting was creating to be a marathon, not a sprint. We have to see our kids through.
Our kids depend on us for an entire 18 years of parenting and beyond. We owe it to them to finish the race strong, not back off because we are distracted by other things that don’t matter nearly as much.
Teach them right and wrong and stick to it.
4 | Model kindness. Give grace.
If we want our kids to be kind, we have to show them what that looks like. Who better to send into this broken world than a kind-hearted human who is gracious to everyone they meet?
Our kids need to see us lending a helping hand to those who need it, volunteering for charities in the community and being kind to others, even when they don’t deserve it.
They need to see us being gracious to everyone around us, even the person who just cut us off in traffic (not speaking from experience, or anything).
Show your kids what it is like to give someone the benefit of the doubt. When your glass vase falls on the floor, don’t enter the room with your guns a blazing. Go in with aace kind and gracious heart and speak from a place of understanding, without blaming anyone.
These are just a few examples of kindness and grace, but you get the point.
Kids pick up on kindness and will imitate exactly what we are showing them. Even how you talk to your pets will trickle down the line!
We don’t have to force kindness in our kids, though. I don’t believe that forcing manners or kindness really teaches anything. Our actions will speak loudly enough and our kids will follow suit in due time.
5 | Raise your kids to be the doers and the helpers.
I have always been a doer and a helper. Even from a young age, I was rescuing bugs from spider webs and setting them free. I know, I know. The food chain didn’t need my help, but it was the principle that mattered.
Now, as a parent, I see the value of teaching my kids to do the same. I want them to be doers and helpers. When there is trash on the sidewalk that a hundred people have passed by, I want my kids to be the ones to pick it up and throw it away.
The beetle that is stuck in the dog’s water dish? Let him go!
These little acts of doing and helping will make the biggest difference in the hearts of our children. They may seem small, but they make a huge impact on how our kids view the world.
When we model how to be doers and helpers, our kids follow in our footsteps. They will eventually be the doers and helpers who change the world with their virtues and ethics.
Final thoughts on raising whole kids in a broken world:
I hear a lot of people say that our world really hasn’t change that much, but that social media perpetuates the problems at hand. Maybe some of that is true, but I think that, for the most part, we are living in a different time.
Sure, social media plays a part, and that means that we have to be even more vigilant in raising our kids to be whole. Broken and hurting people raise other broken and hurting people and the cycle continues. When these broken and hurting people are trudging through life, trying to make sense of their own problems, who is left to spread kindness into the world?
It’s time that we take a step back and make sure that our kids are raised to be loving, kind and giving.
It’s our job. It’s our charge. It’s what our kids deserve. It’s what our world needs. It’s what we were meant to do.