Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to Raise Socially Healthy Children That Find it Irresistible to Be at Home

Article first published as How to Raise Socially Healthy Children That Find it Irresistible to Be at Home on Technorati.     By Randy Koch

During our twenty-seven years of raising children my wife and I have discovered three very powerful lessons in raising socially healthy children who love to be at home. They are timeless lessons that have produced positive results in families around the globe and are a foundational base for healthy relationships of every kind.

The tips I am about to share will point your families compass in the right direction and help secure your dream of family gatherings surrounded by love, joy, and heartfelt relationships. These are not philosophical musings from high on a mountaintop, rather, they are principals grounded in the stuff of life. They are for you. Right where you live. Right where life is most difficult. And best of all, they are possible for you today.

First though, let me mention that family development is very rarely a one-event make or break experience. Life is a process and though from time to time we fail, it is important to continue progressing even in the face of an occasional setback. In fact, as my wife and I have learned, failure can quite often lead too much larger gains within our children s hearts. With that said let's be bold and ask ourselves a few questions.

Do your children like being at home? Do they enjoy inviting friends over for dinner or for the holidays? If asked, would your children rate their home life as positive?

If you’re like most parents, the answer to those questions will depend on a few important details. Age will have a lot to do with how your children view their happiness and it is very common for children to distance themselves from parents during their teenage years. Don’t judge yourself too harshly during these awkward times, however, (I cannot stress this enough) keep doing the things I am about to share. Most parents find it hard to practice these life-giving tips during the difficult seasons, so take heart, but remember the sacrifice you make now, when it’s hard, will be more rewarding in the end.OK, let’s get started- are you ready to win your child’s heart? Are you ready to pave the way for well-adjusted children and grandchildren that just happen to enjoy your company? If you’ve let your coffee get cold now may be the time to heat it up.

§ Intentionally and consistently find ways to encourage your children by recognizing the uniqueness of their gifting. Don’t fall into the trap of projecting your dreams and desires onto your children. Instead, take time to study what makes them unique. Find ways to encourage and promote noble efforts they undertake toward any positive goal. Especially those that God has given you special privilege to discern. Are they artistic? Encourage them by listing how moved you are by certain details of their painting or artwork.

When you take the time to communicate approval in this manner you instill in them the confidence that your love is unconditional. Simply stated, you allow them to escape the trap of condemnation brought on by constantly seeking the approval of others. Isn’t it funny that parents quite often teach their children independence, as a way to keep them from harm or peer pressure, while subconsciously enabling this behavior by granting or withholding affection based on personal expectation?

The key: Keep your radar active and look for opportunities to speak a word of encouragement to your children. As they mature into the teenage years find something they excel at and tell them so. If you can’t find anything, it most likely means you need to change the shade of your glasses.

§ Life is hard for adults. It’s also hard for kids. Find ways to make life fun. This is extremely important in my book but don’t misread what I am saying. The most important aspect of this point is to find something your children enjoy that can be done together. This is not about buying them a new video game or buying them anything for that matter. It is about finding ways to enjoy each other’s company doing something fun. Remember, each child will most likely define “fun” differently. As a parent, that means it’s extremely important to find out what “fun” is for each child. This can also be one of the more difficult things to do.

Sometimes accomplishing this second point requires a little creativity. My oldest son enjoyed playing chess as a teenager. Chess was not one of my favorite games or one that I was very good at. However, I have a friend who is an avid chess player and it always excited me when opportunities arose for them to play chess together. In a sense, sharing their excitement allowed me to be a part of that activity. We cannot be everything to our children; however, more often than not we can find someone in our community willing to fill in the gaps. Find ways to make this happen and don’t be surprised if your community is enriched by the experience.

The Key: Find ways to make life fun. Most importantly, find activities that can be done together.

§ Be there for them. As grown ups we value friendships that have stood the test of time- friends that have been there when we’ve needed them. Give it your best shot to pause before giving a lecture. When we are in need do we seek out friends who tend to lecture us or friends that lend an ear? Our children will need us to fill two different roles at times. Understand when it’s your time to be a friend who listens.

The Key: Be there for them.

 Lastly: Try keeping the kitchen open. There’s nothing like a little food to make great fellowship!


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