My Books

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Weeding Out Toys

At our house, by summertime, we always had too many toys. Between birthdays, Christmas and maybe a few random purchases, the toy box would be overflowing. What to do? Here's the method we chose.
  1. To start out with, designate a special area to put all the toys. You can use a playpen, a blanket on the floor, or the bed. Pull out every toy from the toy box, hanging net, under the bed, wherever toys are kept and put them in this designated area.
  2. Look at the pile of toys with your child and thank God for giving your family so much.
  3. Have your child pull out his top ten favorite toys and put them where they belong (back in the toy box, on a shelf, in a hanging net, etc.).
  4. Have your child pick out his next top ten toys and put them where they belong. Continue this process until the various toy storage areas are full. Once an area is full, your child may not put any more toys there. 
  5. When all the storage areas are full, there will probably still be toys in the designated area. Provide your child with a list of charities to donate them to and respect your child's choice. 
  6. Talk about the children who will receive the toys. How do you think they'll feel? What will their faces look like when they see them? What will they do when they get them? Pray for these children and the joy they will have playing with their "new" toys.
  7. Marvel at the number of toys your child still has and give thanks for them.
  8. Put the toys you're donating into boxes or large trash bags to take to the donation site. Bring your child with you when you drop them off. Do this as soon as possible after weeding out the toys.
The good thing about weeding out toys this way is that your child still gets to keep all his favorites and the decisions on what to get rid of and what to keep are all his. I'd add one other suggestion. If there is an extra special toy or two that your child loves, they should be exempt from the weeding out. This would be the ones that your child sleeps with every night or takes everywhere, or maybe one that has special sentimental value to him or to you. 

From the weeding out day forward, we had a rule that if our child got a new toy, then she had to find one of her old toys of equal size or value to get rid of. That way she knew there was always a price to pay for every toy we bought, even before she could understand the value of a dollar. It also minimized an overabundance of toys. 

There are lots of ways to weed out toys. A friend used to take half the toys and put them away until July, when she'd bring them out again. I've heard of others who "rotate" the toys," while others have yard sales and let the kids keep the proceeds or use it for a mission project.

What about you? How do you avoid being overrun with toys? I'd love to hear from you!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

5 Ways to Deepen Your Child's Self Worth

Another year of American Idol is done. I think back to the audition phase of this competition and wonder why some of the contestants are absolutely crushed when they aren't put through to the next round. I understand that they're disappointed. But there are always a few who cry and say  the audition was their whole life. They have nothing to go home to. They lived to sing on American Idol.

Really? American Idol is as deep as their life experience goes? As deep as they ever hoped it would go? Now that's sad. It begs the question, how can I make sure my kids have a deeper, more fully grounded sense of their worth? Though there's no magic bullet answer, here's a few tips.

  1. Teach children to live for others. Children who have a sense of purpose outside themselves aren't so disappointed when things don't go their way. They recognize that there are always others worse off than they are and that they can reach out to help. They discover life isn't all about them and their accomplishments. It's about easing others' burdens.
  2. Affirm children for their positive character traits, not their performance. Johnny got a good report card? Praise him for his perseverance in studying hard. Susie organized a car wash benefit that raised thousands of dollars? Praise her for her leadership skills and compassion. One child helps another with her homework? Thank them for being so kind.
  3. Give kids opportunities to serve. This is a way to get their eyes off themselves and onto others and their needs. Encourage them to help a neighbor just for the satisfaction of making someone else happy. When you see someone doing an act of kindness, even if it's just holding open a door, or speaking a kind word, point it out to your child. A simple "That was nice of them," is all it takes. It opens your child's eyes to ways he can help, too. Give your child chores to show them that serving and living with purpose starts at home.
  4. Teach your child faith. Every child has a need to believe in someone greater than themselves. When they're very young, a parent may be enough. But way too soon, they begin to understand that parents are flawed people just like them. They need to know they're loved and never alone even if their parent lets them down or can't be there for them. For me, that someone is God. He grounds me in ways a mere human cannot. He's an anchor that keeps me from getting blown around in life like a leaf in a storm. Faith isn't a weakness. It's a quiet strength that sustains you through life's disappointments.
  5. Accept your child for who he is. Your child may be very different from you. You may not understand him. That's OK. Love his quirky self anyway. Try to get to know him for who he is, not who you wish he was. Enter his world. Do things he enjoys. Find out what makes him tick. He was created for a purpose just as you were. Allow him the freedom to be who he was created to be without judgment or criticism. It's one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.
If the five points above sound idealistic, you're right. You probably can't do all of them all the time. But if you can hit on some of them some of the time, at least your child will have experienced that in his life. She'll have heard those words or seen those actions coming from  you and will be all the stronger for it. No parent is perfect. No one gets it right all the time. But even when we do a few things right, kids know they're valued. And they have a more grounded sense of self worth.

What other suggestions can you give to build up your child's self worth? Can you remember something someone did for you that impacted your life in a positive way?


Monday, May 14, 2012

The Green Truck

When my daughter was a preschooler, she had a knack for spotting the lime green water delivery truck driving down the road while we were out running errands. "Mommy! There's the green truck!"

We'd wonder where it was going and who would drink the water he brought. Imagine the excitement from the back seat when we passed the water company's building with bunches of green trucks parked in its lot! It became a game to try to find the green truck whenever we were driving anywhere. I remember another particularly exciting moment at home when she spotted from our front window the green truck driving down our street!We laughed and danced around the living room.

Over a decade later, I still think of my little girl, now a yong lady, when I see the green truck. Every family has its little games that evolve from everyday life. Or maybe it's a dance or signal you give in certain situations. Maybe you have a saying that no one outside your family gets. These things connect us in ways we never dream they will. They give us that warm, fuzzy feeling years later. Don't underestimate the bond these games and silly traditions make in your family. Keep playing!

What do you play with your kids that you'll remember long after they're grown? Is there a saying or a way of pronouncing words that is unique to your family? I'd love to hear about it!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Sunday Insanity

Insane Sunday mornings with young children. I remember the stress well. Aren't Sundays supposed to be a blessed day? Why did they always seem to begin with crankiness on my part, the kids, or both? Where was the peace of Christ when I really needed it?

I determined to make our Sunday mornings different. They would be calm, peaceful, and God-focused. But how? Here are a few things that helped turn insanity to inspiration.

1. Play inspirational music. I chose CDs that featured kids singing Bible lyrics. That way the kids tuned in better.
2. Pray with your kids the night before. Ask God to help you have a good start to your day of worship.
3. Lay out clothes the night before. Let the kids help choose what they wear. Then you don't have to make those decisions or fight those battles first thing in the morning. Also, make bottles, pack the diaper bag, find everyone's shoes, locate Bibles,and anything else you need to do to prepare for the next morning.
4. Get everyone to bed at a reasonable hour the night before. It's hard to be glad in your worship if you're exhausted. If everyone's well rested, you'll have a less stressful morning.
5. Get up early enough to spend some time alone with God before the kids get up. This will set the tone for the rest of your day. I know it's hard to get up early, but trust me. You'll never regret spending time with God before the rest of the troops arise. As a matter of fact, this may become your favorite time of the day.

Give these tips a try and enjoy your new Sunday morning routine!

Let me know if you try these tips and how they worked for you.What other tips can you give for a more peaceful Sunday morning?