A New Definition for Leadership

When we think of a leader, we might picture an elected official or the head of a company. Often we imagine someone in an influential role. And that’s not wrong because leadership is influence.

But there is perhaps an even better definition for  leadership — one that can help us see that every single person has the potential to be a leader. The definition came from Dr. Tim Elmore, leadership expert and president of GrowingLeaders.com. Dr. Elmore was a guest on our radio show last Saturday, and he has said that leadership is “solving problems and serving people.”

We have heard parents say that their child is not destined to be a leader, and it’s true that not every kid is going to be a CEO or a politician or even a team captain. But every child can solve problems, and every child can serve people.

As parents, we can do things to intentionally groom this in our kids.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Creative Is the New Intelligent

Creativity and imagination are the keys to the future. They will solve our energy crisis. They will continue to make our lives and work more powerful. If you had told me when I was a kid that I could stand on a street corner and talk on a phone to someone on the opposite side of the planet, I would have thought you were crazy.

Ever watch the Jetsons cartoon? I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect to see their technology in my lifetime. I still doubt that I will ever replace my car with a flying mobile, but the Jetsonian flatscreen TVs are a part of our every day life. Video chat is also here. And although we don’t have personal robot maids who are part of the family, Honda’s Asimo robot can walk, talk and have basic human interactions. It will probably be a another lifetime before we can shrink our vehicles to a brief size as George Jetson could, but nanotechnology is a fast growing field that will surely make new and amazing things possible in years to come.

It is all the product of imagination and creativity, but he question for parents is this: “How do we help foster this in our kids?”

We would say that it starts with boredom. Author Nancy H. Blakely, said it much better than we could:

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we have. If a thing cannot be imagined first — a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS — it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision.

I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom. It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty.

If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

– Nancy H. Blakey, author of a number of books, including Mudpies: Recipes for Invention;101 Alternatives to Television; Lotions, Potions and Slime; and Boredom Busters, all from Tricycle Press

Parents can certainly turn off the TV or limit time on social media and video games. We can create open space (physically and mentally) for our kids to wander through, but once we establish an atmosphere of boredom, we also have to provide the resources and the encouragement for kids to explore and create.

Here are a handful of posts to give you some ideas. Click through, and try a few new things to cultivate imagination in your home.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Growing Leaders From Monday to Friday

When it comes to raising our kids, we want practical tools — stuff that we can actually put on our to do list. But we don’t just want busy work. We want realistic strategies that get results.

Grooming our kids to be leaders is high on our list (Jody and I, that is), but we were surprised to find out that it wasn’t for a lot of other parents. When we first started our radio show, our tagline was “Raising Leaders from Cradle to College and Parenting With the End Result in Mind.” But after about a year, we changed it because we found out that so many parents don’t think of their kids as leaders or even as potential leaders. We heard things like, “Oh my son isn’t really cut out for leadership. He’s not going into politics or anything. He won’t be a CEO.”

Running for office and running a company are definitely leadership roles, but so is being a foreman on a construction crew or the board member of a homeowner’s association or even a dad (he’s the leader of a household). Okay, so maybe kids can’t relate to those kind of leadership roles yet, but what about running a successful YouTube channel or being a popular Viner? Most middle and high schoolers can totally connect with that, but they may not see them as leadership roles. Young people like NigaHiga, Tobuscus, Alx James and Nash Grier are shaping the culture from the camera lens of their iPhones. They are leaders because they influencers.

But when we hear people talk about leadership development, especially when it’s geared toward kids, most of what we find is rhetoric — theory. We hear words like “Explore. Create. Connect. Inspire.” What does that look like in real life?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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6 Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying

This week we’re talking about helping kids overcome lying, and today is the day our readers have been waiting for. It is the nuts and bolts of HOW to help your child overcome the habit of lying.

If you are jumping in today, take a moment to go back and read Confessions of Reformed Liar and 7 Myths About Lying. They lay an important mindset foundation that we have to grasp before we can successfully tackle today’s Six Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying.

Are you ready? Here we go!

Step #1 — Be VERY careful not to shame the child.

We can’t emphasize this one enough! Children who struggle with telling the truth will avoid shame at all costs, and if you shame a liar, you will eventually create a better liar. They’ll perfect their “skills” so that they they don’t get caught and have to face shame.

When you are confronting someone who may have been untruthful, be gentle. Remind the child that there are some things that come naturally for her (tell her what those are) and some things she has to work at (like telling the truth). Tell her that a lot of people have to work at telling the truth — she is not alone. Emphasis how much you love her and how much you think she is awesome.

Separate the child from her choices. She is a great person who simply made a mistake, and your job is to help her learn how to become a truth teller.

Be VERY aware of your facial expression and your body language.

Search your child’s face to see how she is reacting to you. If she senses shame, she will react, and if you train yourself to look for it, you will be able to shift gears and let her know that you love her and that you are committed to her success.

But that doesn’t mean ignore it. Which leads me to…

Step #2 — Address every instance of untruth

This week I have been talking about how lying can be habit forming. We have to be diligent and willing to gently address every exaggeration, tall tale, omission of the truth and possible lie.

What if you aren’t sure whether or not your child is lying? Kids who have formed a habit of lying learn to get pretty good at it. But often, you will sense that something isn’t quite right. It’s as if you can smell the lie, even though you’re not sure what it is. If you suspect something is off, address it.

Also, don’t overlook storytelling, especially with a kid who struggles with lying. In yesterday’s post, I explained the kind of storytelling I mean. If you catch your child trying to pass imagination off as truth, tell them him he has a great imagination, and then give him the words to try again. “That’s a great story Johnny. You are so creative. Next time you could say, ‘Mom, I thought of a really cool story. Can I share it with you?’ That way you aren’t pretending that it really happened.”

This is work on our part, but we have to be willing to faithfully (and with great love and gentleness) call them out when we suspect something is up.

The word “lie” carries an element of shame with it. So when you’re confronting this, try not to use it. Instead of saying, “Johnny, I think you’re lying.” Say something like, “Johnny, I think it might have happened differently. Try again, and I’ll help you tell the story the way it really happened.”

Step #3 — Separate the child from the behavior, and communicate love and acceptance for the child.

The goal is for your child to fully understand and believe that you are on her team; you are 100% committed to her success, and you do not think any less of her for struggling with this, just as you wouldn’t think any less of a child who struggles with learning how to read or how to ride a bike.

Let’s say something is broken and you suspect your daughter broke it. You ask her, and she denies it. You can say, “I know it’s hard to explain what really happened. It can be scary to think that mom or dad will be angry with you. But I’m going to help you, and together, we will piece together the real, actual truth and then figure out what to do next. You don’t have to be afraid because I love you all the time, and I think you are awesome when you do great things AND when you make mistakes. I love you because of who you are, not because what you do or don’t do.”

Step #4 — Help the child understand her motives.

Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D., author of Smart Love: The Compassionate Alternative  to Discipline that Will Make You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person, said, “Children distort reality in an effort to ward off an unwanted turn of events or as a way of feeling in control of themselves and the world…Helping them to understand their motivation makes them realize that they can come to parents and share their struggles.”

Helping our kids understand their own motives can also lead them to develop self-compassion. It’s not about letting them off the hook. It’s about helping them to understand what happened so they become more self aware. Once they understand the need they were trying to meet when they chose to lie, we can help them find a better way of meeting that need.

Step #5 — Praise positive effort along the way

Kids sometimes need help going back and piecing together the truth. You can start by asking, “What happened first?”

As she starts to explain the story, praise every effort of honesty. If you sense that she’s veering away from truth, gently point it out and help direct her back. You can say, “You were running through the living to room to get your brother. But then something happened that made the vase fall and break. Can you remember what it was?”

As she starts to tell what really happened, avoid the temptation to feel offended that she lied to you. Let’s face it, it’s very frustrating when someone lies. You feel like you can never trust them. But remember that for a kid who struggles with truth telling, this is super hard. So when she begins to piece together the real story, let her know that you are aware of the courage she’s showing and that you are proud of her. It will give her the courage to keep going.

Step #6 — Speak a new truth

Once the story comes out, praise your child for her hard work, and then say, “ I am so proud of you because every day you are becoming more and more of a girl who always tells the truth.”

Jody and I believe that this step is critical to the long term success of building a truth teller.

No matter how many times a day you have to confront this issue with the same child, end every single session with those words. It will take time, but eventually, she will build a new identity as a girl who always tells the truth.

Earlier this week, I shared a little about the nine month journey that I took with one of my children to help him tell the truth. During that time, I must have said those words hundreds, if not a thousand times (“Every day you are becoming more and more of a boy who always tells the truth.”). It took nine months to see real victory, but the battle was won because he began to see himself as a truth teller.

In that season of our life, there was a big temptation for our little ones to go into our bedroom, climb up on our headboard and jump on our bed. And this was a huge no, no!

One day, my son came to me with tears in his eyes and a deeply repentant look on his face.  He said, “Mommy, I have to tell you what happened because I am a boy who always tells the truth.” No one had seen him do it. He could have easily gotten away with it, but after nine months of hearing the words “you are becoming a boy who always tells the truth” spoken over him, he accepted his new identity as a truth teller. And so he confessed to climbing on my headboard and jumping on my bed.

Whenever I tell that story, I usually get this question: “Did you discipline him for jumping on the bed?” And the answer is yes. Of course I did. I would have done that boy no service by letting it go. He knew it was a major rule in our house, and he knew he broke the rule. Facing the consequence gave him confidence that he could tell the truth, endure the repercussions with bravery and still be okay.

I told him how very proud of him I was for being courageous and being an excellent truth teller. I was tender and full of love, especially as I helped him face the consequence of jumping on the bed, and afterwards, I told him that I forgive him and said that I love him and that I think he’s a brave boy.

As difficult as this process may be for the child, rest assured that they will always feel a tremendous relief when the truth is told, especially when they see that there is no condemnation in your eyes.

It can be very upsetting when someone lies to you. You feel betrayed and manipulated, and it can make you really angry. Your initial reaction might be, “How could you lie to me like that? How can I ever trust you?” But remember, the person who struggles with this needs to feel freedom from condemnation in this process. They need to know that you are on their side and will help them without judgement.

Be Patient

Be patient in this one. Give this process a year. You may be doing it multiple times a day, everyday, for months on end. Don’t lose heart. Go into it know that it is going to take time. Avoid any form of condemnation, and present yourself as a coach and mentor whose only goal is to help empower your child to become a truth teller, and in time, you will succeed!

We know this is a challenging topic for so many parents. Please feel free to contact us with any questions and to leave comments below.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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You CAN Add More Time to Your Day

Everything we do requires a choice. We make choices when we wake up, eat food, get dressed, answer the phone — it’s all a choice. Although our choices are not always contemplated or obvious, they are choices nonetheless. And if we don’t choose our tasks and time deliberately, we can unknowingly allow important things to slip through the cracks.

We often hear people say they wish they had more hours in a day. Well, the experts say that for every one minute you spend planning, you will gain ten in execution. WOW! Over time, those minutes add up. You can do the math. So now the question is – Are we going to take the time to plan, and if so, how do we plan?

Start With the End Result in Mind

Time management is about starting with the end result in mind, and then working backward to achieve our goals. That’s really what this is about — setting goals and then figuring out our priorities. If we don’t do this, life just seems to happen to us, and years slip past us without any real significant achievements to speak of.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Aim Kids For Success With Project Management Skills

The corporate and the academic worlds are moving toward a more project-based environment. So as our kids grow up, they’re going to need strong project management skills, and we can begin teaching them some of the basics by showing them how to look at their to do list to find mini projects: papers for school, putting together a vendor booth for their small business, planning a birthday party.

What Has to Be Done?

  • Teach kids to ask, “What exactly needs to be done?”
  • They should be clear and concise because being vague clouds vision.
  • Then they should define any related goals and be specific.

My fifteen year old has a successful henna tattoo business, and she gets a good amount of business from booths at various fairs and events around town. For these booths, she has to have a table with good signage. She needs pictures of her work, brochures, business cards and pricing information. Her goal is obviously to do tattoos at the event and make money, but it’s also to network for future business. That means she has to provide information on these wedding venues greenville sc, pregnancy belly tattoos and home parties (which tend to bring in good money). Her goal is to leave an event with at least three bookings — one to replace that day’s event and two to grow her business.

When our kids are defining their goals and tasks, they need to think about what they want the end result to look like.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Raising a Proverbs 31 Woman

If you have a daughter, she’s got some big shoes to fill, and you can help.

In our last post, I talked about being mindful of raising boys as future heads of a house. By the time this blog is posted, I’ll be inNew Hampshire, having a blast visiting my chivalrous young man (a.k.a Lego tantrum boy) as he wraps up his first year at law school. [As of this posting, I am in NH for Chase’s GRADUATION!]

Back home in Florida, I have two young ladies — one in high school and one in middle school. And just as I was aware that I was raising their big brother to be the head of a house, I’m aware that my girls also have important roles to play as future women. Thankfully, I’ve got a blue print this time.

Like most moms, my constant prayer is that my kids will seek the Lord with all their hearts.  That’s true for sons and daughters, but my focus for the girls is different than it was for Chase.

Tucked inconspicuously at the end of Proverbs is the picture of an amazing woman. As I studied her carefully, I knew that I wanted my girls to be like her – I wanted to raise Proverbs 31 women.

Once I knew the goal, I began to study her life and visualize all that she was doing in the passage. I imagined the tools she would have needed for each accomplishment, and began pouring the same ideals into my girls.

If you notice nothing else about Mrs. Proverbs 31, you can’t miss that she’s a hard worker. She had to bust some serious tail to complete all she did in a day.  Whew!  Stamina is a vital tool that our girls need to develop as young people.

Mrs. Proverbs 31 was also the queen of multi-tasking, and it was obvious that she demanded a lot of herself and had the endurance and perseverance to complete what she started.

Often, I’ll see my girls doing dishes or a task around the house and reciting their memory verse at the same time.  “Just killing two birds with one stone — we’re multi-tasking,” they’ll say, and it blesses me because as future women, they will need to be master multi-taskers.

When we head out the door, one of my girls will say to the other, “Grab your knitting and your book.”

My husband laughs, “Why?  You’re going to church. You can’t knit or read at church.”

“Dad, we’ll do it on our way to church.”

Travel time is often put to good use in our family. Our girls have begun to look for opportunities (big and small) to complete something on their task list, especially times that may appear non-constructive (like riding in the car).

Teaching our girls not to eat the bread of idleness and to stay focused (with stamina) will keep them from being tempted in many areas.  Idleness is where gossip, boredom, and trouble breed.

I’m sure Mrs. Proverbs 31’s hobbies consisted of things such as spinning and weaving. For down time, perhaps she and her family strolled through their gardens or the vineyards. I sincerely doubt she would have even considered TV or video games, had they been available to her.

No, the Bible says she was willing to work with her hands.  She got up before sunrise, and I’m willing to bet, she was pooped when her head hit the pillow at night.

In addition to hardworking, God clearly wants His daughters to be educated.

I’ve heard some moms say, “Well, college doesn’t matter. My daughter just wants to be a wife and mom.”

Awesome!  All the more reason to educate her.  The Proverbs 31 woman sold real estate with assistance from Douglas Ebenstein, planted vineyards, ran a textile business, ran a household, managed a staff of servants, and gardened.  She was a supplier, a thriving merchant, and could identify good merchandise — there were no shysters pulling one over on her.  She had to be trained to do these things.

She also had to have great communication skills.  How else could she have been successful in the market place?

These are business skills.  She was educated.

Can’t you just picture Mrs. P-31 going to the market with her carefully prepared list?  She didn’t run out of fuel for her lamp, and she provided all the food her family needed, she even brought some from afar.

She was full of wisdom. So, how do our girls gain wisdom? For one, they need to have a relationship with God because we know that the fear of Him is the beginning of wisdom. She needs an active prayer life because we know God gives wisdom, and she also needs to apply her heart to understanding (Proverbs 2:2), which means she needs an education.

Several times I have stood by close friends who have lost a husband unexpectedly.  It is important that our daughters know how to support themselves and their children.  They need to be ready in season and out of season.

And for those girls who want to have a career and a family, the Proverbs 31 woman shows it’s possible. She was the breadwinner in her house. Her husband held an honored position at the gates. His role at that point in life was a noble one, but the men (elders) serving in these positions were not paid for their government roles (imagine what our country would be like if we had volunteer politicians – just saying!). His wife seemed to have no trouble supporting their family, and our girls need to know that they can help provide for their families and still be keepers at home (Titus 2).

Let’s not forget Mrs. P-31 does have servants, and if we can teach our girls at a young age how to be good delegators, they will be able to help provide an income for their family while loving their husbands and children and being keepers at home. We’ll have some future articles on the power of project management activities. Stay tuned because this is a great way to teach our girls (and boys) how to delegate.

Prioritizing was also high on Mrs. P-31’s list of virtues.  She had to decide what was most important and stick to it until it was complete.  Our Proverbs 31 “women in the making”, need to know how to identify what’s most important: Should I research for my paper that’s due next week or study for the test that’s in two days? And she needs to be able to focus. It’s been said that focus stands for: Follow One Course Until Successful.

We can give our girls strenuous tasks to build their stamina, ask them to prioritize the list, and then stick with one thing until it’s done thoroughly before moving on to the next. And all the while, we’ll be showing that we have confidence in them, cheering them on from the sidelines and coaching them to excellence.

In addition to all the virtues we’ve listed so far, the Proverbs 31 woman was physically strong, well arrayed in fine clothing, and didn’t walk in fear.  Oh, and let’s not forget her community service — she helped the needy. Wow!

How can our girls can be a genuine help to our churches and to the community? Can they clean once a week for an elderly neighbor, vacuum the church sanctuary, and organize a food drive for the local food pantry and a pet food drive for the Humane Society? Programs such as Scouts, 4-H, and Civil Air Patrol, offer great opportunities for our girls to bless the community. Let’s set the bar high and encourage them to do great things.

Okay, it’s tempting to be overwhelmed (and maybe intimidated), but if we meditate regularly on the role model provided in Proverbs 31, our girls can walk in her shoes, regardless of their individual callings in life.

We also need to model this example for our daughters, and we need to be vigilant in monitoring their character development. I can just picture the Proverbs 31 mom going through the secret hiding places in her children’s rooms, keeping tabs on any mischief they may be getting into.  Hey, it says she keeps a close eye on what goes on in her home.  She certainly wouldn’t turn a blind eye to the activities going on under her nose.

Remember, those same children stood up and call her blessed, and her husband praised her. Let’s purpose to have the same testimony and raise girls who will also share in that kind of victory.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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What Builds Confidence in Kids?

Is confidence the same as self-esteem? Often, they’re used interchangeably, but are they the same? We don’t think so.

In our last post, we defined self-esteem as a person’s sense of value and worth. Self-esteem, based on our definition, can be improved (or damaged) over time, but in the short-run, it’s consistent, regardless of any one situation.

Confidence, on the other hand, is a person’s belief in his or her abilities. I may have a healthy self esteem, but there are many things I’m not confident in. If I had to get on stage to sing for a packed auditorium, I would have no confidence in myself.  Put me on the same stage to talk about finding purpose, and I’m like a fish in water.

Just because I’m not confident to sing in public, doesn’t in any way hinder my sense of value or worth; especially since I know that singing is not my life’s work. Now my daughter, on the other hand, is passionate about singing. She’s confident that she can perform on any stage, in front of any crowd. If she suddenly lost confidence in her ability to do that, it might come as a slight blow to her self-esteem because singing is a part of her purpose.

When it comes to our kids, we hope they’ll be confident in their ability to live and thrive independently, to interact well with people, to serve the body of Christ and their community, and to fulfill their calling in life. It’s entirely possible to deliver our kids into adulthood with a healthy self-esteem but with little to no confidence in a few of these critical areas.

The Hovering Helicopter (the latest fad in Western parenting) is lethal to confidence because Helicopters tend to prevent the very thing that builds it – experience. Confidence is born of doing things and (eventually) doing them well.

Here are some ideas for giving our kids opportunities to build confidence. The key is to let them do it (mistakes and all) again and again so they can improve. We need to talk to them after they’ve tried something and evaluate what went well and how they can improve. Honest feedback nurtures mastery.

Have them plan meals, write a shopping list, go with you to the store and select the best deals on the items they need, pay the cashier, check to make sure the change is correct, unpack the groceries, and cook the meal.

Coach them through household tasks so they can eventually do them with excellence:  laundry, changing bed sheets, vacuuming, dusting, scouring the tub, organizing the pantry, changing the oil in the car – anything we do at home, they should be able to do…with excellence.

Role-play with your kids and have them practice talking to adults in a variety of situations: making dinner reservations, planning a vacation, asking the librarian a question, sending back a meal that’s too cold, and so on. As they successfully problem-solve and plan and question, they’ll become confident communicators.

Role-play different ways to handle sticky situations with self-control and without dishonoring the other person: turning down an invitation, being the recipient of an inappropriate joke, being lied to (or about), and so on.

Get your kids involved in a ministry at church: sound board, lights, music, hospitality, nursery, children’s ministry, etc. Partner your child with a veteran in that ministry willing to mentor her, and insist your child stick it out until she masters it. Do the same thing with a volunteer position in the community.

Mentorship and apprenticeship are also great ways to build confidence in a future career. Let them work with a pro and find out whether or not it’s really what they’re called to do.

With practice and persistence, our kids can become confident in almost anything.

Share your ideas for building confident kids…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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What Builds Real Self-Esteem in Kids?

How did we get to the place where self-esteem has become such a well-guarded idol?

It’s epidemic in Western parenting.  A child’s self-esteem is considered the fragile power source of his future success as a human being.  Parents (and some educators) have employed themselves as self-esteem’s trusted custodians, carefully guarding against disappointment and potential failure, as though they are the greatest threats to a child’s sense of worth.

Let’s have a look at what “great self-esteem” has accomplished in our kids.  According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2800 teens get pregnant each day, resulting in nearly one million teen pregnancies nationwide per year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say nearly 3,000 people under the age of 18 become regular smokers each day. And according to Students Against Drunk Driving, 72% of high schoolers report having used alcohol – 37% say they did it by the 8th grade.

Education is bearing similar fruit. “The statistics are staggering: among 30 developed countries, theU.S.is ranked 25th in math and 21st in science. It’s estimated that by the year 2020, there will be 123 million high-paying, high-skill jobs in the United States, but only 50 million Americans will be qualified to fill these positions.”  www.waitingforsuperman.com

So either self-esteem isn’t as important as everyone thought, or the Western parenting model isn’t building real self-esteem. I’d say it’s the latter. People do need to know that they are valuable and their life is worth something, but the question is, how do we help our kids get there?

What makes a person feel worthy? I can tell you one thing that doesn’t – flattery. And isn’t that what we’re doing when we tell our children that every single thing they do is fabulous? Every picture is a masterpiece. Every note played or sung is magnificent. Every performance is stellar. Our kids are smart, and deep down, they know it isn’t true. Now, what does that do self-esteem?

Schools have jumped on the flattery band wagon too. Nearly every child gets an award, and almost every student is “honored” as Student of the Month. A few years ago, I went to my nephew’s baseball game, and I was amazed that the whole “three strikes and you’re out” rule has struck out. Now, kids get to swing as many times as it takes to hit the ball — wouldn’t want to hurt their self-esteem, you know.

Psalms 12:3 says, “The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips.”  And Proverbs20:19warns, “meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”

Our kid’s want to know that we value them and that they’re worth something, but that’s not the message we send when we play lineman, aggressively fighting off all threats of failure and disappointment.

We tell them we value them by spending time with them and listening to their stories and offering honest, heart-felt answers to their questions. We tell them we value them when we take an interest in discovering who God created them to be, and giving them open and honest feedback so that they can find the lane they were created to run in and then run in it with excellence.

Our daughters (Skyler and Sydney) are best friends (that worked out well, huh?), and recently they choreographed a dance together to perform at the county fair. When they had all the moves down, they performed it for us in Jody’s living room. We couldn’t help but think they were so cute, but we also knew that their dance wasn’t performance worthy.

“Did you guys have fun doing that?” we asked. “You sure looked cute! And we’re so happy that you enjoyed it. We could tell you were having a blast. But we don’t think you should perform it at the fair. You both have so many talents, and perhaps if you had lessons you’d be ready to enter a contest, but for now, you should focus on your strengths.”

If our daughters were passionate about dance (or even just strongly interested), we’d encourage it – scouting out local dance performances, signing them up for classes, and encouraging them to enter dance contests.

We call this “running in your own lane.” And when we care enough to help our kids figure what their lane is, we are sending a message that they are valuable to us.

Once they figure out what they love and what peaks their interest, they have a sense of worth because they can live with purpose. They’ll know God has a plan for them, and they’ll even have a clue about what the plan is. All of that adds up to self-worth.

In case you were concerned about our little dancing queens, they had a happy ending at the county fair.  Between the two of them, they raked in a stack of blue ribbons, won a good amount of prize money, won best of show for two items, sang beautifully before a live audience, and did a stellar demonstration on how to spin art yarn. Their recognition came from hard work and talent. They had earned it, and the reward felt good.

As for dance, they’re both currently enrolled in a ballroom dancing class. So maybe they can try next year…maybe.

We can help boost our kid’s self esteem by encouraging and equipping them to work hard and enjoy true rewards. Few things feed self-esteem like a sense of integrity, and to that end, we can coach them to define their own values and hold them accountable to live by them. As we disciple our kids and help them discover the plans God has for them, and then challenge them be the very best they can be, we can help improve their sense of worth. These are the markers of real self-esteem.

Dare I say flattery has the opposite effect? What are your thoughts…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Does Your Child Have This Habit?

A couple of years ago, an 11-year-old asked me a question that so impressed me, I was inspired to add new step in my family’s daily routine.

We were setting up for a big community garage sale as a fundraiser to help finance a week-long training camp for teens at the state capitol.  During set up, I spent more time chasing down the kids to help than actually working.  The fundraiser was for them, not the adults, but the adults seemed to be doing all the work, and I was irritated, to say the least.

Holding a serving spoon with a glob of nacho cheese caked to it, I turned to the nearest child to ask that it be cleaned.  Subconsciously, I expected her to comply, but it was clear the kids had their own agenda that day. They were there to socialize, and all parental orders distracted them from their real purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all obedient kids. There was no real disrespect, and they all did what was asked without complaint.  It was more of a clash of expectations — we expected them to socialize in the midst of the real agenda – work – and they expected to have to do some work in the midst of their real agenda – socializing.

So there I was, searching for a teen, cheese-encrusted spoon in hand.  Anna was closest to me, and at this point, my expectations had been set. I figured she’d take the spoon, shoulders subtly slumped at the faint disappointment of having to interrupt her conversation, and run off to the sink so she could hurry back and resume the real work of socializing.

Instead, she smiled and said, “Sure!” and reached out her hand to take the spoon. She was cheerful and unrushed, and everything about her body language said, “I have no other agenda right now but to serve you.”

When she returned, she didn’t drop the spoon on the table in a rush to resume her conversation. Instead, she handed me the spoon and said, “Is there anything else you would like me to do?”

I was amazed. Had she really just asked me if she could do anything else? And with a smile, no less?  WOW! My first instinct was to kiss her sweet cheeks and tell her to go play.  Her attitude made me want to bless the socks off her.  The truth of the matter was, I still needed her help, but after she completed a few more tasks for me, I lavished her in praise and sent her on her way.

Returning to frustration, I went on a manhunt to find the other teens, but Anna’s character that day inspired a new plan for my own kids.  Just like teaching our kids to use the potty, it’s all in the training.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Just like everything else we’ve trained in our kids, it takes persistent, hard work.  The truth is, we have to start by training ourselves.  Building a new character trait in a child starts with the parents making a decision, setting a plan, and then disciplining themselves to work the plan consistently. But it’s worth the payoff.

Here’s the plan we’ve been using:

  • We started by explaining that anytime a request is made or instruction is given, they are to return when they’re done and ask, “Is there anything else you would like me to do?”  That question is really what completes their task.
  • Then came role-playing. Whenever we role-play, we start small.  So in this case, it was “Bring me a tissue” or “Bring me a glass of water.” If they returned without asking the new question, we asked, “Is your task really complete?”
  • Just like any other habit, as we enforce it with every little task, it will soon become second nature to them.

It’s easy to focus on making sure they do their homework and keep their room clean, but it’s those subtle issues of character and attitude that can slip under our radar, and yet in life, these are the principle things.  God is faithful to point them out when we’re paying attention, and our reward for diligence is a respectful and cheerful child who blesses the people around him.

Occasionally we might even garner a few heart-warming compliments.  At the yard sale, it was my pleasure to pour out praises on Anna’s mom.  She deserved as much recognition as Anna.

At the end of the day, the work of character training pays large dividends.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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