Are You Up for the Challenge?

You are probably asking, “What challenge NOW?”

Well, with so many time stealers out there in the big bad world, our job as parents is to be purposeful in how we spend our family’s time. And make no mistake, there are a lot of options.

One of the best ways to spend your time (and probably one of the most important things you can do while you still have your little blessings under your wing) is to help them discover their purpose here on our planet. Now, we realize that they have a lifetime to fulfill their calling, and most don’t have it all figured out by the time they’re 18, but you can have a general idea as to what lane they’ll be running in during their stint as a big person. What we DON’T want is for them to waste precious time as an adult trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up (oops, I think that’s our story). Let’s save them from that great tragedy.

So, what are we doing to figure it out this big conundrum? (Wait! Don’t panic. We’re about to give you the answer.)

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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Transcending The Ballet Budget

It’s back to school time, and that means time to pay tuition for ballet, club soccer, swim team, and whatever else your budding star might pursue this year.

While we all know financial constraints are a reality, especially when it comes to extra curricular activities, if it’s God’s plan, He will provide. If your child is passionate about something, but the cost doesn’t fit your budget, pray and ask God for creative ideas to fund it.

Call the activity directors and ask if there are scholarships or financial aid or if you could exchange work for lessons. You might be able to answer phones, file, stuff letters, and so on, in exchange for all or part of your child’s tuition.

Horse back riding lessons are pricey, and we have a big family. But when our older daughter had dreamed of being an equine vet and know everything cheap flea medicine to the most newest treatments for animals and humans like the different pain treatments from charles willis, so we knew that horses need to play a part in her extra curricular plan. During her annual week of horse camp, she had built relationships with the trainers and worked out a deal to exchange cleaning out stalls for riding instruction.

Now that music is her primary focus, opera is a focal point in her education. On our own, we wouldn’t be able to afford the youth opera program, but the opera house has wealthy supporters who want to infuse the next generation with a love for opera. Their endowments mean scholarships for kids like Skyler who are passionate about music.

If all else fails, talk to family members. A semester’s tuition could be a far more valuable Christmas or birthday gift than toys or clothing – especially if it’s something that feeds your child’s true passion.

As you plan this year’s extra curricular activites, don’t let financial constraints hinder your child from pursuing her passions. With God all things are possible!

 

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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I Don’t a Have a “Thing”

What’s your “thing”?  Mine is writing and reading. Give me a day to myself, and I’ll pack a book, a magazine, a journal, and a pen, and head over to the beach. I have a friend whose thing is photography and scrap booking. She recently told me she feels called to tell her family’s story. My husband’s thing is clearly music – it’s his part-time job, his ministry, and his hobby.

Our kids have a thing too. Actually, my daughter has a few! She loves horses, singing, knitting and crocheting. Our oldest son loves Disney and Pixar movies. He’s got entire scripts memorized, and Seth (our 3rd child) loves science. Give that boy a microscope and tweezers, and you won’t see him for the rest of the day.

But on Friday, when I took my fourth child out on a date to celebrate his seventh birthday, it dawned on him that something was missing.  After devouring a cup of Coldstone, the best ice cream on planet earth, we headed down Main Street to Toy Lab.  He had $50 to spend from my grandparents, and I was thrilled to watch him spend it.  What could be more exciting to a 7-year-old than free reign in a toy store?

Just through the front door was the Ugly Doll display. Sam slipped past it, and grabbed a basket to hold all of his loot. Then he made a bee line back to the Ugly Dolls to get the Picksey key chain he’d been waiting for.  It was $6.

We walked carefully up and down each aisle as he deliberated. For a moment he held a hula hoop. “This would be fun.” But after further thought, he put it back. “They have these at kid’s church, and I probably wouldn’t use it much at home.” [2013 update – Sam is the hula hoop champion! Last year he was the last one standing at the Busch Gardens hula hoop show down.]

Every other toy he considered found a similar fate. For one reason or another, he decided it wouldn’t be a good choice. Finally, he turned to me and asked, “Do you think G.G.’s feelings would be hurt if I didn’t spend the money? I’d rather save it for when I find something I really, really want.”

He handed the clerk a $20 bill for his Picksey key chain, collected the change and led me out of the store. When we hit the sidewalk, Sam’s shoulders slumped, and he looked at the ground, clearly feeling sad.

“What’s the matter, Sam?”

“I don’t have a thing. Everyone else has a thing, but I don’t.”

He was right, I guess.  We hadn’t yet figured out what he loves and what he’s passionate about, and that made birthdays and Christmas difficult for Sam. Whenever people asked us what he’d like, we’d strain to find an answer. And although he’s always grateful, there’s a subtle sense of disappointment in every gift. If you didn’t know Sam, you’d probably miss it, but it’s a parent’s joy to bless their kids, and we’ve never really experienced that gift-giving bliss with him. When someone doesn’t have a “thing,” it’s hard to give a gift.

Outside Toy Lab, I squatted down next to my sweet boy, looked up at his big sad blue eyes and asked if he wanted to get a slice of pizza and talk about it. Maybe together we could figure it out.

Sipping our soda in cushy booth at Pantellini’s, waiting for our pizza, we talked about the school year.

“What’s your favorite class this year, Sam?”

“Hmmm…Oh, I know.  Latin.”

“Latin? Really?”  I was surprised. He doesn’t strike me as the Latin kind of kid.

“What is it about Latin that you like?”

“I like Ms. Josie. She’s a really nice teacher.”

“Oh, I see. Okay, well what I meant was, of all your classes this year, which one has the most fun things to do?”

“Well…let’s see…Oh! I love 50 States and GeoGang.”  This was more like it. Both are very hands-on, project-based classes.

“Great. What do you like about these classes?”

“Miss Elaine is such a great teacher, and I love Miss Angie, and my friends are in both classes.”

He was missing the point.  Or so I thought.  Actually, for the first few moments, I was missing the point, but then it dawned on me.

“Sam! Your thing is people! You love people, Sam.  That’s your thing.”

He looked up with a huge smile, and his blue eyes sparkled with an epiphany. That’s it! He is all about the people, and he knew that I was right. He’d found his thing.

“I know what I want to be when I grow up,” he said, little finger in the air and mouth open wide.  “I want to drive an ice cream truck. Then I can go to all different houses and meet the kids, and they’ll be so happy when I give them ice cream.”

“That’s a great idea, Sam.  You would be the best ice cream truck driver.”

In light of our revelation, it was no surprise that the highlight of our date, for Sam, was our trip to Picasso’s Moon, our favorite little knitting shop. We each brought something to knit and sat in the cozy shop, chatting with the ladies. Sam soaked in their attention, and they were pleased to give it. Who wouldn’t want to gush over an adorable little boy who likes to knit?

He hasn’t spent the rest of his birthday money, and I’m not sure he ever will, but he got the best gift he’s ever received.  For his 7th birthday, Sammy got his “thing.”

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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Are You As Self-Aware As a 5th Grader?

On Sunday I was the substitute teacher in the 4th and 5th grade Sunday School class. This is a fun age group because they really like to talk.  Well, that is, once they realize you genuinely want to listen. If they suspect your motive is to teach a lesson, they shift into zoned-out-classroom mode, but once they see that your goal is authentic conversation, they’re all in.

I went into class this week with a burning desire to share the good news that God has a unique plan for each of their lives, and I’d planned to take them on a field trip through Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 29:11. I thought it would be so much fun to share these verses with a fresh audience – one who hasn’t grown tired of hearing them.

But as class began, I sensed God dropping a thought in my heart.  “Tell them about David!” With so much excitement we talked about the job of a shepherd. We talked about how God was using the shepherd years to prepare David. We talked about Goliath (they really dig that story), and how fighting off dangerous animals prepared David to face Israel’s enemy – an enemy the grown-ups were too afraid to fight.

We looked as Psalm 139 and decided together that although David’s shepherd job was less than glamorous, he still had a positive self-image. He knew he was formed by God and that he was wonderfully made. Then we turned to Jeremiah, and I was able to draw their attention to the plans God for had for their own lives.

Truthfully, I’d gone into that class thinking I would be telling them something new, but it turned out I was the student that day. The kids had a lesson for me.

Unlike most of the teens and adults I’ve talked to about this topic, these kids were well aware that God had created each of them for a unique purpose, and every one of them had a clear idea of what it was.  Not every kid had a career plan, but they knew I was talking about much more than a career, and when it came time to explain it, these kids blew me away with their self-awareness.

Not only did they understand the passion of their hearts, they knew a lot about themselves. They could tell me whether they preferred to spend free time alone or with someone they love or in a group.  And their answers were all different from each other. They knew their strengths and their challenges, and they were able to talk about it without pride or embarrassment.

I was amazed by their confidence. These kids had no problem accepting that God has a plan for their lives, a plan to prosper them and give them a hope and a future. They just figured it was obvious, and they were excited to think about how God could be using their circumstances right now to prepare them for the future.

So here’s the burning question: what happens to people between 5th grade and high school? What happens in adulthood that fogs this understanding and muddies self-awareness? Very few people can successfully hold onto it.

Let’s change that for the next generation.

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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Soul Peace

There’s a subtle restlessness in our soul that craves the very activities we were created to do. If you were created to teach, your soul will dwell in a state of dissatisfaction until you find some way to teach.

We were all created in the image of God. He is an artist, an inventor, a counselor, a writer, a speaker, a judge, a botanist, a physician, a king, a shepherd, a musician. He’s everything that ever was or is or will be, and we are created in His image to reflect at least one aspect of His workmanship.

But when we miss or even dismiss the thing we were created to do, a void begins to open in the Inner Man, and the chasm is uncomfortable. Sometimes we try to stuff the hole with busy schedules.  If we do more things, we think, the void will be filled. Sometimes we fill it with food, or substances, subconsciously trying to numb the discomfort of the opening.

In America, there’s a great tendency fill the void with amusement. In fact, I often think Americans view amusement as a high calling – something to pursue at all costs.

But there is a certain peace for those who make themselves aware of what it is they were created to on this side of heaven. It’s a persistent kind of peace that can transcend life’s stressors. For those who take the next step and actually begin doing the things they were created to do, there is an even more pervasive peace that becomes the substance of hope.

Every person longs for it, and as parents, it’s what we want for our children. Our hope is that they would hear God and understand who He created them to be. And that they would seek after that calling with all their strength and be used mightily by God to impact heaven.

Let’s model soul peace for our children, walking in the plans and the purpose God has for our own lives, so that we can disciple them and point them with confidence in the direction God has planned for their lives.

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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