(Post inspired by my friend Rachel Martin)
1. Introducing them to God and weaving Him into their daily lives. Because of the way we raised them, they look to God for their daily portions. They strive to please Him and live according to His call on their lives. They pray and bow in awe as He answers them. They see blessings in the answers; all faith builders ... whether large or small. Our children are God's greatest gifts to us ... and God is the greatest gift we could give to them.
2. Being "over-protective". I have stepped in when a bully approached my 6 year old child. I have stepped in when names are being called by one 12 year old child at another the same age. I have stepped in when a 15 year old was threatening my 15 year old. I have stopped adults from speaking inappropriately around them. More often than not, I have been told by other parents that I am doing a disservice to my children when I do so. "They need to toughen up and learn how to take care of themselves." While I agree that all children do need to learn how to take care of themselves, I don't agree that they should do so in these situations, nor do I think it should be done by them having to keep another child (or adult) from causing physical, emotional or spiritual damage to them. I believe it is my God-given job to protect my children, regardless of situation or circumstance, until they are adults. They learn by observation not by having to figure out how their actions or words feel after the fact.
3. Helping them reach for their dreams. Whether they want to be a rockstar, a chef with his own TV show, a writer, a doctor, photographer, tattoo artist or anything in between or beyond; we make sure our children have every tool, instruction and the freedom to build their dreams the way they feel is best. If and when their dreams change, we'll be right there to give them the tools they need to reach their new dreams.
4. Homeschooling. God has entrusted me & my husband with raising some of the most amazing children on the face of this earth. We take that job very seriously, yet we also have fun with it. In the 17 years we've been home schooling, we've tried various curriculm and styles. Our learning styles may not work for others, and some may not even like them but we do what we feel works for our entire family. We allow our children to pace themselves and foster an environment that creates a love of learning. They have become sponges, looking to soak up all they can about anything they can.
5. Passing on stuff. They don't have all the latest game systems. They don't have a lot of name brand clothing. You can't take any of it with you. They do have things ... but rarely used. They have a love of the outdoors, a natural curiousity that leads them on great adventures and a love of people that drives them to search for hearts to treasure.
6. Telling them the truth in love. They don't always like the answers, but no matter what's going on, my children trust that I will give them the truth, not to hurt them but to help them grow. This has carried our relationships to a depth that only a minority reach.
7. Giving them the ability and the freedom to be who they were created to be. I don't want my kids to be who I want them to be, or even who I wanted to be. I want them to be who God called them to be. I won't tell them that they have to go to college, or work at a specific place or even that they can't get married until after college. Who am I to stand in God's way? What if they are supposed to be tattoo artists? Well then, I pray they are the best tattoo artist they can be.
8. Being a living example of what it's like to be different. With a mom that has purple hair, tattoos & piercings, and a dad that has hair to the middle of his back, a Duck Dynasty beard and looking like an angry rocker .. we don't exactly fit in to the mold of typical Christians. However, we try to live for God in everything we do. The kids have learned to love everyone, whether they have blue hair & piercings or auburn hair and wears prairie skirts. They have also learned that not everyone will be thrilled with their appearance if they chose a "not-so-natural" look. They're secure enough in themselves and in their relationships with God, that they are ok with that.
9. Teaching them responsibility. We have a motto in our family; "if they are old enough to take a toy out of the toy box, they are old enough to put it back." Mom doing all the work does nothelp my kids learn how to take care of their own home when they grow up. By teaching them how to cook, clean, balance check books, grocery shop on a budget etc, I'm helping make their adulthood easier. I also love to see their faces when they've accomplished new (and old) tasks.
10. Helping them build a good work ethic. Our children know the value of a dollar and that if they want things, they need to work for them. We are blessed in that they don't expect to be given everything. They are very thankful for the things they are given and show great appreciation to gift givers. They refuse to fall in to the current entitlement trap that seems to swallow today's youth.
11. Encouraging creativity and imagination. One of my favorite memories is when my kids wanted to play restaurant. One seated me at my table, one waited on me. A few of the remaining prepared my food and my waitress brought it to my table. I requested my check and before paying my bill, I revealed that I was a food critic. They all giggled as they read my review I'd written on one side of my check. That was a few years ago. We've graduated to playing "Taco Bell Drive Through" and even my older ones join in the fun.
12. Snuggling and singing. Some of my most cherished memories are from rocking them to sleep and singing to them as they drift off. I think it's also among some of their most cherished times. There is no lack of love and affection in our family. Our children know they are (and have always been) wanted and loved.
13. Showing them how to stand up for the under-dog. Bullying, name calling, picking on someone because you disagree with/don't like their lifestyle is wrong. Period. I would want my children to have someone come to their rescue, so I've taught them how and encouraged them to do that for others. Standing up goes further though. It's not always about someone being picked on or beat up. Sometimes it's about getting recognition for those who are less fortunate, in order to get them help .. being the voice to someone who needs help. I am blessed to know that each of my children are quick to stand up.
14. Saying and showing that I'm sorry. I want my children to know that I am sorry when I've made a mistake, hurt someone or done something wrong. Being sorry is not just words. It's actions. Sorry makes changes in effort to not repeat an offense.
15. Encourage gender based actions. Our boys have learned to give up their chairs to women and girls, regardless of age. They have watched their dad open doors (car, home & business establishment) for me and many other people. Holding a door open does not say that one believes a woman is incapable of doing so, herself. It says that a man values a woman and wants to do things fo rher. Our daughters are taught how to conduct themselves as young ladies; how to sit properly while wearing a dress/skirt, how to be/dress/act modestly etc. We value the Biblical roles of each gender and don't see them as negative or harmful when taught properly.
16. One on one time with each of them. Yes, we work as a family but we also want our children to know that they are important as individuals too. I enjoy spending quality time, one on one with my children. I learn so much about them, even if we are just coloring. I feel they see that they aren't just part of the crowd when we share these special times.
17. Family meetings and game nights. Family meetings are where we decide on chores, menus, shopping lists and discuss anything that one may feel needs addressing. It's a safe zone for voicing complaints and is always done with compassion and hopes for finding solutions that work for the whole family. Game nights are planned by one person each week and usually consist of a movie, snack food and/or a board game. Lots of laughs and good bonding in both of these evenings.
18. Believing in them. The song "Wind Beneath My Wings" comes to mind. Positivity, encouragement and affirmations are like the wind, carrying a boat in the right direction. It helps them believe in themselves and in what they're doing. It certainly helps in the self-esteem area as well.
19. Fostering silliness. Blowing air through a straw, to sound like a bird at Pizza Hut, dancing your heart out until you drop, smearing frosting on their noses ... those are the moments I want them to remember most. Life doesn't always have to be serious. As a matter of fact, I think it's easier to deal with the serious stuff when these moments happen from time to time.
20. Mr. and Mrs. Manners. Saying please, thank you and asking to be excused from the table are good things. There is a time and place for everything ... and while burping at the table at home might not always be an issue, knowing that it is inappropriate to do that in public is a must.