Except for That One Kid

Your child comes home from the first day of a new school year. He sits down at the table, and you refrain from plying him with questions about every single detail. Instead, you focus on what’s most important to him: which friends are in his class.

He lists some familiar names.

You: “So you like everyone in your class?

Him: “Well, I don’t know a few of them, but I like the rest…except for Whit.”

He sighs. You sigh. You look at each other. “Whit” is a familiar name (that I picked entirely at random for the purpose of this example), but not for good reasons. Whit disrupts the class during reading. He cheats on math tests. He bullies and manipulates on the playground. He refuses to eat the cafeteria food then complains about his stomach growling during social studies. He tries to be friends in all the wrong ways. And he lies.

You sit down across from your child, stalling while you silently pray your guts out. How can you help him honorably deal with the difficult kid in his class?

I’ve faced this situation with my children in both elementary and middle school. I’ve learned the answers to the following four questions helped us show Jesus’ love to “that kid”—not always perfectly, but consistently.

4 Questions to Help Us Love “That Kid”

  1. What do we know about him?

Help your child remember things Whit has said in the past, situations he has faced, comments he may have overheard.

a. What is his home situation?

  • Maybe he plays video games from the time he gets home from school until 2am. That shows a lack of supervision and no set bedtime.
  • Maybe he faces older siblings who are bullies themselves.
  • Maybe there’s one parent/guardian in his home, and that person works all the time.
  • Maybe he’s in a fostering situation.
  • Maybe his home address keeps changing or he’s staying with grandparents “just for now.”
  • Maybe his family has constant financial concerns. I heard somewhere that one in five children now live below the poverty line in the United States.

b. Does he face learning challenges?

  • Maybe he’s dyslexic or ADHD.
  • Maybe he struggles with math or another aspect of education. Kids who “act up” are often trying to distract everyone from the fact that they can’t do the work.
  • Maybe no one has taught him how to sit quietly or how to study on his own.

c. Does he have a spiritual influencer, someone who shows him Jesus?

The answers to these questions will help us understand some of the reasons for Whit’s behavior. You’ll probably need to help your child connect the information with the issues behind it, as in the video game example above.

  1. How would you feel if your life were like that?

Help your child put himself in Whit’s shoes.

You might need to start: “If I were a kid and I knew my family didn’t have enough money to buy food, I would feel worried all the time, even at school. My stomach would probably hurt, and I would eat anything I could find, even if it wasn’t good for me. Or I might be embarrassed about getting free lunch, so I would pretend I wasn’t hungry.” Take whatever circumstances your child has noticed and help him imagine if his life were similar.

  1. How can we pray for Whit?

Let your child lead out on this one. After he thinks about life from Whit’s perspective (no. 2), he’ll probably have some amazing insights into praying.

How can we pray for ourselves as we spend time with Whit?

You’ll think of many Christ-like qualities, but you can start by praying for kindness, patience, and the ability to show friendship even when he acts out.

  1. In what other ways can we show Jesus’ love to Whit?

Brainstorm ways your child—and your whole family—can be generous toward Whit and his family without embarrassing him or drawing attention to his situation. It starts with the way your child interacts with Whit at school, but there may additional possibilities. I’ve spoken to teachers privately and made donations of school supplies or lunch money. I’ve volunteered to help with reading in the classroom. We’ve invited our Whit to birthday parties.

Perhaps most importantly, remember this won’t be a one-time conversation. Continue to encourage your child and follow up regarding how he deals with Whit. Join your child in praying for Whit.

Your child can to do more than endure a school year beside “that kid!” It takes some courage—on our part as much as our child’s—but he (or she) can grow in Christlikeness and represent Jesus to this child who may have no other Jesus influence in his life.

Who knows, they might even become friends.

Your child can do more than endure a school year beside “that kid.” 4 #IntentionalParenting questions to help him/her learn to love even the difficult ones in class, via @Carole_Sparks. #backtoschool (click to tweet)

Do you have some suggestions for helping your school-age child deal with the difficult kid in class? What’s a good Bible verse to supplement these four questions? Add to the conversation below. We would love to hear from you!

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Goal-Setting for Children

Even though it’s only mid-December and the biggest event of the year is still ten days away, I find myself already looking toward the new year. I’m not big on making resolutions, but I do like to use the fresh year as a kicking-off-point for new habits or emphases. If you’re the same, you know it takes forethought and prayerful consideration to implement meaningful change—in ourselves and in our children.

In Shepherding a Child’s Heart (which I also mentioned last week), Tedd Tripp offers guidance on how and why we, as parents, should set goals for our children. There’s no need to rehash that. Let’s look instead at what sort of goals we might set for our children.

In my parenting, I often come back to this one verse.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. -Luke 2:52

(I wrote about Luke 2:52 as a guide for prayer in the past.) When we think about the young Jesus, we know he didn’t grow up in a vacuum. Joseph, Mary, and others influenced his maturity. I’m a little jealous; that must have been the easiest parenting job ever! For the rest of us parents—the ones raising non-God-incarnate children—it’s even more important to intentionally influence every facet of our children’s maturation.

This verse provides us with four areas of growth. Applied to goal-setting, the short version looks like this:

1 achievement, 1 skill, 1 spiritual growth, 1 relationship

Let’s brainstorm some ideas.

Wisdom: intellectual development

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music lessons (c) Carole Sparks

Set one goal related to their education, learning, or other thinking/mental skills. This could be a skill or an achievement. Some possibilities:

  • Learn to read chapter books.
  • Improve average grade (overall or in one subject) by one letter grade.
  • Attend a special class or camp that emphasizes an area of personal interest such as environmental sciences, computer coding, painting, soccer, etc.
  • Learn to play an instrument or, if they already play, learn a significantly more difficult piece.
  • Learn another language such as sign language or Spanish. Connect this with their social development by finding someone they would like to talk with.

Stature: physical development

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gymnastics assist (c) Carole Sparks

There’s not much we or our children can do about their height or shoe size, but we can help them practice a healthy lifestyle or improve their fitness. Set one goal related to their physical development, also either a skill or an achievement. Something like…

  • Learn to ride a bike.
  • Learn a new sport.
  • Achieve a new level in their existing sport. For example, earn the next belt in karate or make the varsity team in his/her sport.
  • Accomplish a fitness goal such as running a 10-minute mile.
  • Learn to eat three new healthy foods.
  • Learn to cook something specific, learn a certain type of cooking, or learn how to do some household chore. (Don’t just say “learn to cook.” That’s too broad to measure.) Last year, my oldest learned to use the washer and dryer. This year, maybe we’ll focusing on cooking some simple dishes.

Favor with God: spiritual development

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(c) Carole Sparks

How can we help our children grow closer to God through the year? Consider one of these or something else that fits your child’s interests and current maturity level.

  • Become consistent in having a daily quiet time or personal devotion.
  • Memorize a certain number of Bible verses. (Personally, I’m planning to memorize twenty-four passages in 2017!)
  • Work on one aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) such as kindness or self-control. This one will take some extra effort on your part, parent, to find actions and/or practices specifically targeting this one thing.
  • Begin paying attention and/or taking notes in “big church.” Start with once/month or five minutes/sermon.
  • Learn a certain number of Bible stories (great for younger children). Maybe one per month?
  • Improve upon one spiritual discipline such as meditation or generosity (great for older children).
  • Read a certain numbers of books related to spiritual growth. I’m challenging my teen to read one non-fiction book per month, mostly faith-based. John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ is a great one for thinking teens to start with.

Favor with Man: social development

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kid spectators (c) Carole Sparks

Without a little encouragement, our children fall into relationship ruts just like we do. Talk with them about how they want to grow this coming year. Some options might be…

  • Intentionally make a new friend at school or church.
  • Reconcile with someone they don’t like or with whom they had a fight. This starts with praying for that person.
  • Learn how to make “small talk” with adults.
  • Compliment/encourage someone every day.
  • Learn another language so they can talk to someone in that person’s “heart language.” (See intellectual development above.)
  • Learn a technique for diffusing conflict—one they can practice with siblings.

 

As you look toward 2017, pray through what sort of goals God is leading you to set regarding your children. Ask Him to reveal areas where they need purposeful intervention, bringing them into the conversation at an appropriate level. For my older children, they fully participate in the process, but younger children may need more guidance from you.

After you’ve set your goals, don’t just leave them at the level of ideas. Goals need action plans or steps toward fulfillment. Sit down with your kids and discuss the small steps that will lead to big growth in 2017. Look at your own life, too. We have to model before we can teach. This is why I’m signing up to learn twenty-four Bible passages this year. I need accountability for my own spiritual growth, and I want to model the importance of Scripture memory to my children.

And finally, follow up! Through the year, revisit the goals. Are you seeing growth? Do you need to adjust something? Are they experiencing the difference? Encourage them to stay faithful to the task…and you stay faithful, too. Jesus grew up at the same rate that our children do. He didn’t achieve wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man in one day or even one year. This is an eighteen-year process, parents!

Then celebrate at the end of 2017! Recognize your children’s achievements. Talk about how they’ve grown and what changes you’ve seen.

As you anticipate Intentional Parenting in 2017, I pray this brainstorming session helps you set significant, achievable goals for and with your children. If you’ve been encouraged, please share this post using the tweet below.

4 #IntentionalParenting goals to help our children grow in #2017.

What goals are you setting in 2017 for your children or for yourself as a parent? Join this brainstorming session (in the comments below), and you’ll be helping us all!

Thankful, because I don’t have all the answers.

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(c) Carole Sparks

In this month of giving thanks, I’m so grateful to those who have graced my space here with their humble, penetrating words. So today, let’s remember the guest posts we’ve enjoyed over the past year.

Almost exactly a year ago, with violence and school shootings in the news, I republished a parenting post from my friend, Chester Goad. In Talking About Tragic Events with Kids, he offers some advice and resources on helping our children walk through such difficult times.

Another wise friend of mine, Hannah Vanderpool, wrote When Not to Worry for her own blog. It touched me so much that I asked permission to share it with my readers as well. My favorite line: “Refuse to give in to the temptation to fret.”

And with those two posts, I started hosting guests monthly here at Intentional Parenting. Some of them have been tangible friends, some virtual friends, and some simply parenting authors I respect. Check out any of these you missed.

In The Highest Calling of a Parent is the Shaping of Hearts, Kelly Smith uses the story of Pharaoh to remind us that our task as parents is not behavior modification but heart shaping.

Mary Felkins stopped by in March to take us back to the basics in What is Intentional Parenting? She included a reminder not to take our intentionality too far.

There’s a sweet Mother-Child story in Forget Where You Live? by Cherrilynn Bisbano. She enjoyed the fruits of Intentional Parenting when she heard her son encourage her with truth about Heaven.

It’s so important to glean advice from those who’ve already experienced the phase of parenting where you and I are now. I asked Kim Wilbanks to look back on her years ofparenting teens and share some insights in Parenting Advice from the Other Side.

Lisa Brown used a personal story to encourage every mom who ever feels anxious (and that would be all of us!) in Encouraging Words for the Anxious Mom. I think you’ll be blessed by reading her post.

When I became more active on social media, I discovered I wasn’t the only one writing about Intentional Parenting. Phil Conrad hosts a podcast and writes on the same topic, so I invited him to join us here. Read his fantastic perspective on everyday decisions in Four Intentional Decisions in Parenting.

How do you explain intentional destruction, mass murder, and other such evils to your children? Author Leigh Powers faced this dilemma when she visited a museum with her children. Practicing her Intentional Parenting, she used the situation to point her children toward Jesus. Thankfully, she shared all this with us in Raising Whole Kids in a Broken World.

Emily Wickham often writes about moms as mentors for their daughters, so she was a natural fit for a guest blog in September. Read her reflections on Jochebed as a mother in Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned.

Finally, just last month, Jessica Michaels shared her heart regarding foster care and its impact on her biological children in Loving and Letting Go. Jessica is a personal friend from my church, not a writer, so I truly appreciated her willingness to lay it all out here.

In the past year, I hope you found something here at Intentional Parenting to spur you toward more Christ-like parenting, either from my writings or from my guests. None of us have all the answers, and I am supremely blessed to have learned from all these wonderful parents this year! If you feel the same way, drop one of them a message or leave a comment below, and I’ll make sure they get it.

I’m #thankful for a whole year of guest posts about #IntentionalParenting. Find the summaries here. (click to tweet)