‘Tis the season to be stressed! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Use these six tips to have a saner Christmas in your homeschool this year.
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#1 Make the Christmas Season Unique
The first tip for a saner Christmas is to treat the Christmas season differently. You’ll want to consider again doing a special study for Christmas this season. Consider this unique unit study on Christmas in the White House or an online study from Techie Homeschool Mom. It’s not too late to focus your studies on Christmas itself. But even if you’ve opted not to do a Christmas unit study, you can still change up your homeschooling this time of year. Consider changing your schedule. Church and family and even homeschooling events may keep you up later this time of year. Why not allow everyone to sleep in and start school later? For those of you who have younger children who get up at the crack of dawn no matter how late you stay up, consider having a longer rest time during the day or multiple rest times. Whatever you do, don’t treat this time of year like any other.
#2 Take Time to Get Organized
The second thing we can do to have a saner Christmas this year is to take extra time to get organized. There are plenty of things we can do to get organized for the Christmas season itself, but I am specifically referring to getting organized in your homeschool. Put your bookshelves back in order. File the papers that have accumulated since the beginning of the school year. Put your supplies and other items making your school pace space look out of order away.
Also begin decluttering your house. Use a slower schedule to go room by room to throw away, give away, or sell things you aren’t using. Move items you want to keep but aren’t actively using to storage. Having a decluttered home will make entertaining and even battling potential illness that much easier. Speaking of that, make sure you have everything on hand that you need for colds and flu. You could declutter your home in a weekend. Or using this approach, you could be finished decluttering by Christmas.
#3 Limit Activities
Make a Christmas bucket list with your family. If touring the expensive light display doesn’t make the list, don’t do it! Put all of your anticipated Christmas activities on the calendar so you can view them in one place. The potential for stress and overwhelm will be more evident if you can see everything you’re planning to do. When you see the potential for overwhelm, decide to skip some activities. But skipping is not the only option. You can also reschedule some of these. Celebrating with family on days other then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be a real sanity saver. Some families aren’t flexible on this, however. So you will want to use your flexibility for scheduling activities with other people.
One of the best decisions we made in my homeschool co-op was to have our Christmas party in January. Our kids, who aren’t necessarily happy about starting back to school, look forward to this a great deal. We exchange gifts and play Christmas games and even go out to eat. All of these things are easier when they are not smack in the middle of the busiest time of the year. If you are part of a group that has a party, suggest moving it to January. Don’t be discouraged if your suggestion isn’t well received. Suggest it again next year.
#4 Plan Ahead
The next important way to have a saner Christmas this year is to plan ahead. My book, The Organized Homeschool Life, gives you 15-minute missions that enable you to be prepared with Christmas clothing, Christmas decorations, and more this season. But if you’re not on track with the missions in The Organized Homeschool Life, you still have time to be early. The best way to prepare in advance for the holidays is to look through the calendar you created in step three. Make a list of everything you need to buy or do for each event on the calendar. My recommendation is to begin with the first events coming up and work forward from there. However, if you can combine shopping for all of the events on your calendar, you’ll save yourself a lot of time. Perhaps you have a list of items to purchase online. You can do that in one sitting. You could turn a shopping trip for the materials you need into a fun activity with the kids. As you are preparing, consider outfits that your children will need to wear. For some reason, this has always caught me by surprise. Will your child need to be wearing his holiday best for a concert or party? Does your child have shoes, socks, and a belt to look presentable? Now is the time to prepare these items.
Plan ahead for your homeschool too. Pull out books and curriculum you won’t be using next year and give them away or arrange to sell them. Do some research of other curriculum you would like to use next year. Spend time lesson planning for the new year. Be prepared for moans and groans after the holidays. Don’t anticipate hitting it hard immediately after the new year, but find some things to motivate your kids. Kids and moms need fun in January even more than they need it in December.
#5 Keep Things Simple
The fifth way we can have a saner Christmas this year is to keep things simple. If you love elaborate decorating, marathon baking sessions, or shopping for hours, then keep doing those things. But if you don’t love them, ask yourself why you’re doing them. Let me give you an example to get you thinking. I am in charge of a middle school event at my church. I want to provide a snack. Will middle schoolers think less of me or the activity if I provide store-bought snacks as opposed to making fancy Christmas cookies? I think we both know the answer to that. I do enjoy making Christmas cookies, but I don’t have time in my schedule without a lot of stress to make the cookies before the middle school event. I will be purchasing from the store. Here’s another example. If you are attending an ugly Christmas sweater party as I am and you don’t love creating a sweater with hot glue and craft supplies, pick up a premade sweater at the store or even better, ask to borrow one. We want the emphasis this Christmas to be on people and enjoying ourselves with them. If what we are doing to celebrate Christmas adds to our stress level, leading us to become ill, we aren’t going to be able to enjoy our loved ones.
We can keep things simple by buying fewer gifts. We haven’t purchased gifts for my husband’s side of the family in many, many years. We enjoy eating appetizers together on Christmas Day evening. No one has to prepare a full meal. We also enjoy playing games together. Last year we played Reverse Charades and everyone from the oldest to the youngest enjoyed playing together. will provide in the show notes, has one limitation and that is that there aren’t as many cards as I would like. This year I purchased Christmas cards to go with the game.
Talk with your family and friends about not exchanging gifts. If that isn’t an option, consider buying or making one simple gift for most people on your list. You may consider playing a White Elephant Game with a gift that is appropriate or just plain funny for anyone who ends up with it.
When it comes to your kids and close family members, you can limit the number of gifts to three by exchanging gold, frankincense, and myrrh gifts. We have done this in my family for many years and it has saved my sanity. I not only purchase fewer gifts for my children, but the limit and focus of the three types of gifts helps me decide what to buy.
[READ GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, AND MYRRH GIFT IDEAS]
I can give you an example from this Christmas for my own family. I have a son who is constantly asking me for cash. He goes out with his brother who is driving and a friend and loves to buy food. This year his gold gift will be cash in a box. He will love it. My daughter’s frankincense gift will be baking materials. Frankincense is what was burned in an offering to God. Her baking is how she serves God and our family, so these baking materials are an appropriate frankincense gift. I have older boys who are particular about their clothing. This Black Friday when they were around, I asked them to look over clothes that were on sale. I purchased the items as their myrrh gifts this year.
#6 Keep the Focus on Christ
Finally, keep your focus on the reason for the season. The part of the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas movie where the Whos gather around the tree to sing convicts me every time. All of their food, gifts, and decorations had been stolen from them, but their joy remained. This is who I want to be. I want to model this attitude for my children. Here’s my plan:
First, be as excited about worship and devotions as I am about all the rest of the Christmas stuff. Talk about how you love the music you sing, the decorations at church, and the reading of God’s Word.
Second, find and use advent devotionals. Daily devotions this time of year keep us focused on Jesus. Here are some resources for your devotional time.
Third, make giving a part of your Christmas. Discuss what to give, to whom, and why. Share your joy in giving of your time and money and ask your children to share in the process. Here are 12 ways children can give this Christmas.
I use these tips to have a sane Christmas each year. If I can have a saner Christmas by keeping making the Christmas season unique, getting organized, planning ahead, limiting activities, keeping things simple, and making Christ the focus of Christmas, so can you.
Which of these tips will help you the most? Let me know in the comments.
Do you ever feel guilty as a homeschool mom? If you’re anything like me, you’re well acquainted with guilt. How can we get past the guilt that plagues us?
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The Purpose of Guilt
Before we can think about ways to get past guilt, we need an understanding of how guilt is to function in our lives. Guilt is like a warning light designed to get us back on track. When that warning indicator is functioning correctly, we can make the changes we need to make and that indicator will disappear. If you’ve ever had a car like I have that has an indicator that goes off inappropriately or constantly, you know how annoying it can be. Sometimes our guilt is not an accurate indicator. When we’ve clearly done something wrong, guilt can drive us to apologize or change our behavior. But inappropriate guilt is like that annoying, always-on indicator in the car. We try to ignore it, but we often wonder if there really is a problem we need to address. Inappropriate guilt takes our focus off of what we need to be doing.
If a warning light on my car keeps going off, I can take my car to the shop and have it tested. The problem can either be fixed or the indicator can be turned off. But what do we do about guilt that keeps popping up? There’s no guilt shop to go to, or is there?
My contention is that if we allow God’s Word to diagnose our guilty indicator, we will often find either a quick solution or discover that our guilt is the only real problem. When we allow the world’s standards to determine whether our guilt is a real problem or not, we will likely drive through our homeschooling lives constantly feeling guilty.
Now that we understand the problem of guilt in our lives, what do we do about it?
The first thing we can do is confess.
If we have done something that God’s Word would say is worthy of guilt, the next step is confession. We are to confess our guilt to God, but we may not want to stop there. We may need to confess our guilt to our families, our friends, or anyone who has been affected by our behavior.
Confession makes sense if our behavior is worthy of guilt, but what if it isn’t? Confession can also work in that circumstance. When we confess to our spouse or our homeschooling friends something we feel guilty about, these godly individuals can help us discern whether the guilt is appropriate or not. My husband has been wonderful in helping me determine appropriate versus inappropriate guilt. He will reason with me and help me release inappropriate guilt. However, he has also pointed me toward changing when he feels my guilt is appropriate. Talking with my homeschooling friends and determining that the standards I have for myself are much too high has also been a very effective way for me to release inappropriate guilt. I highly recommend it. I’ve seen the moms in our HomeschoolScopes.tv Facebook group do this for one another.
I’d like to share a personal example with you. I have sometimes felt guilty that my children don’t have as many friends as kids in school do. My homeschooling mom friends have helped me to let go of that guilt. Children don’t require a large number of friends and I am providing my kids with the best education I can in the most loving, social environment possible.
Do the good you ought to do.
The second way we can get past guilt is to do the good we ought to do. We can instantaneously feel better by making even a small step in the right direction. If you know the right thing is to teach your children their math facts and you’ve been avoiding it and feeling guilty, the easiest way to get past the guilt is to go over those math facts. In fact, doing something you’re reluctant to do, for whatever reason, is much less painful than living with the guilt. Think about what one small step you could take in the right direction that would relieve your guilt and take it today. Don’t put it off!
Of course, if you are suffering with inappropriate guilt, then acting on that guilt is not the right step to take. After spending time in prayer, reviewing God’s word, and confessing your guilt to people you trust, discern whether or not you are suffering from inappropriate guilt. If you are, continue with the remaining steps.
Avoid situations that encourage inappropriate guilt.
Step three is to avoid situations that encourage inappropriate guilt. It’s harder to avoid the situations that lead to an errant indicator in your car, but it is possible to avoid them as homeschooling moms. Is there a certain someone who makes everything from scratch, does elaborate science experiments, or is one of those homeschooling wonder women? If so, you may need to avoid her until you get your inappropriate guilt under control. Likewise, you may need to take a break from social media. The perfect Pinterest Photoshopped images may give you guilt. If understanding that these images don’t represent real life doesn’t relieve your guilt, take a break from Pinterest. Do the same with Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
Consider who you are in the body of Christ.
The next step is to consider who you are in the body of Christ. I have a sister-in-law who shares the Gospel with nearly every person she meets. Numerous times I have felt guilty that my witnessing is paltry in comparison. But then I go to God’s Word and I am in prayer and I discover that God has given each of us a part to play. We are not all called to the same works. Imagine if we were! What a mess it would be. I can feel good about who God created me to be and the part He created me to play. I don’t have to compete with my sister-in-law’s way of witnessing or feel guilty when I don’t even try. Think about the gifts, talents, and interests you have. Would you want your loved ones to feel guilty if they don’t share those? I’m sure the answer is no. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love and let go of the guilt.
Lower your standards.
The fifth step is lower your standards. I had a friend whose defibrillator fired in her chest when her heart rate reached a certain level. That firing understandably caused pain and anxiety. Her doctor determined that the standards set for the defibrillator needed to be changed. It shouldn’t have fired. Like that defibrillator, some of us have to change our standards so as to avoid pain, anxiety, and guilt. One of the most common reasons for our standards being too high is that we don’t really believe we are acceptable. We haven’t fully trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ in our lives. For most of us, this is subconscious. We are working and trying and striving as I discussed in my post on when strivings cease. The result is anxiety, stress, and guilt.
One of the most stressful situations for a homeschooler is being evaluated. Some homeschoolers are evaluated every year in their state, while others are never evaluated unless there is a legal problem. Imagine how you would feel if your homeschool had been evaluated and certified as fully acceptable. I believe in that case, we would feel free to homeschool without fear or guilt. While our homeschools probably haven’t been certified by an outside agency, we can know that we are fully acceptable to God–not because of anything we’ve done but because of what Jesus has done. He continues to work in us and through us and because He does, we can have freedom from inappropriate guilt. We can homeschool with peace and joy, knowing He is in control of our homeschool.
Homeschool in love.
The final tip I want to share with you for getting past guilt is homeschooling in love. It’s hard to make homeschool decisions. We often don’t know what the priority is, what the best classes or curriculum are, or how we should be spending our time. But love is always the right choice. When our homeschooling is done in love for God, for our families, and even for ourselves, we will be free from guilt. Let me explain that last part about loving ourselves. Genuine love should provoke no guilt. Love means providing the same time, opportunities, and gifts to ourselves that we would provide to anyone we love. Feeling guilt over taking time alone, to be with friends, or to engage in hobbies that renew us makes no sense because these things enable us to love others. Jesus never appeared to feel guilty over resting or being alone.
Allowing ourselves to be ruled by inappropriate guilt can lead to physical, emotional, and spiritual dysfunction. If we do not take steps to get past guilt, whether that is appropriate or inappropriate guilt, we do our families, our friends, and our Lord a disservice. We don’t model a healthy approach to guilt and we do not fulfill God’s purposes for our lives and our homeschools.
In conclusion, it is possible to get past guilt. When guilt is appropriate, we can confess it and make changes. We can feel instant relief. When guilt is inappropriate, we can avoid situations that encourage guilt, consider our role in the body of Christ, lower our standards, and focus on homeschooling in love — including loving ourselves.
What makes you feel the most guilty as a homeschool mom and which of these steps is most likely to help you get past it?
You don’t have to be early to save big this Black Friday and Cyber Monday on curriculum, homemaking helps, organizing products and more.
You just have to be organized!
Most of these sales will run through Cyber Monday, so don’t panic. You have a few days to save. But you do need help organizing all of the sales. I wanted to organize them for myself, so I used Airtable, one of my favorite online organizing tools. I’ve organized the sales in this table by category so you can take advantage of the ones you need. Scroll through the table to view all the savings you won’t want to miss.
Of course, I want to highlight the sale of The Organized Homeschool Life and Grammar Galaxy language arts curriculum. You’ll get 25% off with code BLACKFRI2017. Click on the links in the table below to use my affiliate links (if I have one).
Which of these sales are you most excited about? Comment and let me know.
Do you have a friend who is looking for a deal? Forward this post.
Trusting God with our homeschooling is the key to peace and joy. But how can we grow in our trust?
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Before we can talk about strategies for trusting God more, we have to talk about what leads us away from trusting God in the first place.
Re-evaluate your strengths
My story is that I was called to homeschool, even though I did not want to. I knew nothing about homeschooling, including the fact that I would love it so much. Yet somehow after trying and failing, I determined that I had what it took to be a successful homeschooler. Like Paul in the New Testament, we can feel as though we are fully qualified by the world’s standards. I am a psychologist, so it stands to reason that I would know how to discipline and motivate my children, such that they would be excellent students and people. I was also an A student myself. It seems that I would be able to understand the material that I would be teaching my children. And even though I have not taken any education courses, I did teach at the university level, so certainly I would be qualified to teach K-12. To top it off, I now have more than 18 years of experience in teaching my own children and my friends’ children. I have successfully graduated two students, one of which was homeschooled all the way through high school. Both are getting A’s in college. You can see that I have ample temptation to think that I am a good homeschooler in my own strength. I don’t have to depend on God.
Even if you do not have a PhD and you haven’t been homeschooling for as long as I have, you, too, have qualifications that tempt you to rely on yourself for success in homeschooling. Consider what those are. Perhaps you were a classroom teacher before you began homeschooling. Perhaps you have done a huge amount of research on homeschooling and you feel confident that you know you are homeschooling for the right reasons and have chosen the best homeschooling approach. Perhaps you have a very supportive family and homeschooling network. You feel as though you can’t fail. Whatever your reasons for feeling qualified, those reasons can keep you from trusting God.
Here’s why that’s a problem. If your students do well, if they place in the Bible bee, if they are a top player in their sport of choice, if your student’s testing suggests that he or she is well above grade level, you can take the credit. The Bible calls that pride. Yet none of our so-called qualifications are really ours. Every advantage I have in homeschooling my children is a blessing from God. I did not create any of them myself. The same is true for you. While taking pride in our children’s successes can feel good while we are riding the high, the fall will be even harder. My children have embarrassed me on many, many occasions. The clinical psychologist has seemed unable to teach her children to use the potty on a reasonable schedule, to get overfood fears, or to make me look good in public. They have scored poorly on some aspects of achievement testing and have given evidence that’s they haven’t been taught certain key concepts. Guess why? Then there is the issue of misbehavior. If I’m going to take credit for my homeschooling because of my qualifications, I also bear full responsibility for my children’s behavior. This burden of trying to ensure that my children succeed spiritually, academically, and socially is too heavy a yoke for me. If it is also too heavy a yoke for you, I advise you to consider that your worldly qualifications for homeschooling are worthless. If you acknowledge that you are weak and unable to help your children become all that God wants for them to be, your burden will be light. Your yoke will be easy. I know I am simply not capable of training and teaching six children to their strengths, for the purposes God has for them. So many times I am at a loss when it comes to discipline, choosing curriculum, and arranging experiences that I think will prepare them for an uncertain future. I am weak, but therefore I am strong. In my weakness I can rely on God’s strength and wisdom to home educate each of my children, and you can too.
Determine what you really want
The second way we can trust God in our homeschools is to reevaluate what we really want. At first we may think what we want is for each of our children to go to college on a full-ride scholarship. Perhaps we think we want our child to win a top award in the activity of their choice. But this isn’t what we really want. We want children who trust and walk with God. We have no idea how to raise children who live this way, but God does. As a tenderhearted mama, I want everything to go smoothly for my children. Yet that path is unlikely to lead to a strong faith. I have to leave my children’s salvation and faith life in God’s hands. No matter how wonderful our Bible curriculum, our church, or our kids’ Christian friends, God is the author and perfecter of our children’s faith. What we really want isn’t children who make us look good. What we really want is His peace. If I trust in myself and my own abilities for our homeschool, I know too well my shortcomings. I’m going to be perpetually anxious about my children’s future. I know that there are things I’ve spent too much time on and things I haven’t spent enough time on. I know my character has not been above reproach. I have been lax in parenting in some areas and overly strict in others. If my children and their future is up to me, I have a lot to worry about. But if I put my children’s future and our homeschooling into God’s hands, I can be secure. I know that He will either prompt me to make a change and to do His will or He will take my wesk efforts at homeschooling and use them for good. I can not only have peace, but I can have joy in my homeschooling.
I used to do public speaking for competition when I was in high school and college. Speaking when every word counted and I was being evaluated and compared was very distressing. I often had to run to the bathroom before a competition. I found it hard to sleep the night before competitions, too. But now that I speak without that fear, I enjoy it. I have no nervousness about it. In the same way, we as homeschoolers can rediscover our joy in homeschooling when we know that a record isn’t being kept. And even when records are being kept by law, we know that it’s God’s responsibility to help us make the grade. Which of us would not rather have God’s peace over pride in our children’s accomplishments?
Be in the Word
To trust God in our homeschools, we must be in the Word. The Bible reviews God’s work in His people’s lives. We see that God’s purposes are always accomplished, despite his people’s failings. No plan of His can be thwarted, not even by us. Make time to read scripture as frequently as you can. Read scripture while you are nursing, listen to Scripture while you are walking, read the Bible as part of your homeschooling. However you are in the Word, read it to refresh your faith in a trustworthy God. Don’t read as an obligation but to fulfill your need for trust in Him — so you can return to His peace in your homeschooling.
Review how God has helped us through the years
The fourth way we can trust God in our homeschools is to review how God has helped us through the years. The Israelites constantly reviewed God’s mercies and miracles in their lives. They told their children and their grandchildren about them and in the process were reminded that God was trustworthy for them as well. We can and should do the same in our families. Consider all the worries you have had in the past. Think about all the tough situations you have been through. If you’re like me, most of the things you worried about did not happen. Your worry was wasted time and energy. And those things that you did experience that were very difficult and painful, looking back you can see that God was sustaining you. You can see how He used what was meant for evil for your good. I do admit that we probably all have an experience or two that we don’t understand. Maybe we still don’t see God’s purpose or hand in a situation that has caused us great pain. However, when we look at God’s record in our lives, we see that there is ample reason to trust Him for those circumstances and our homeschooling too. We know that even if our daughter just doesn’t get algebra, that God has a plan for her. He has a hope and a future for her. If we are having trouble finding homeschooling friends, we can consider how he has met our needs for friendship in the past and trust Him to meet our needs in the future. If we don’t know where the money for books or activities will come from next year, we can remember how all our needs have been provided for thus far. As you consider the future, remember that God often provides for us day-to-day. He doesn’t give us a five-year plan or budget. If God has helped us thus far, that is enough.
Read about how God has helped others
A fifth way we can trust God with our homeschools is to read the stories of men and women who have trusted God in far more serious circumstances than ours. We can read about men like George Mueller who trusted God with all of the finances needed to care for 10,000 orphans. We can read about men like Nate Saint whose premature death was used by God to bring a lost people to Him. We can read about men like Ben Carson whose academic career was less than stellar at the beginning, yet God enabled him to become a surgeon who has helped people in the most serious medical circumstances. Read the answers to prayer on the Guideposts website.
Pray little prayers
The final way that I want to share with you to help you trust God in your homeschooling is to pray little prayers. We can get the idea that God only cares about the big prayers, the relative who has cancer, the family provider who is out of a job, the poor people in oppressed countries. When we believe in a God who only cares about big prayers, it’s understandable that we wouldn’t trust Him in our homeschooling. Does God care about algebra? Does he care that your son still isn’t reading? Does he care that you have no idea how you’re going to get everything done before co-op? I can tell you that he cares about each of these things and so much more, but you won’t believe me until you pray and see God’s response. I have learned that God cares about frivolous things like rain messing up my hair before I give a speech, a close parking spot when time is of the essence, finding a dress for an important occasion that’s on sale. He will answer these kinds of prayers if you pray them because He loves us. So often we forget that God is a more loving parent then we are. We care about these little requests that our children have, so how much more does God? To learn to trust God in your homeschooling and experience His piece, begin praying little prayers. Allow him to demonstrate His love for you in this.
In conclusion, reevaluate your strengths, determine what you really want, read God’s Word, review how God has helped you over the years, read about how God has helped others, and if you will pray little prayers, you can learn to trust God more in your homeschool. This is my desire and I highly commend this goal to you in the new year.
One of the many blessings of homeschooling is getting to spend quality time with your children all throughout the day, but every stay-at-home parent knows that sometimes, you just need a break.
Our daily routines can get so repetitive and seem to “drag on.” If this sounds like your current situation, you’re not alone. Keep reading for several creative tips to add more fun into this new school year. Many of these ideas will leave you feeling much more refreshed, too!
10 Fun Additions To Your Homeschool Schedule
Math & Science
One way to make math more exciting for your students is by using different types of media as teaching tools. Incorporate games, fun videos, and catchy math songs into your curriculum and your child will become more motivated to learn.
For science, get some fresh air and go on a nature walk in the great outdoors. Plan out activities beforehand, such as identifying different types of plants or bird watching. Another fun way to learn about the environment, and get some exercise, is to take a trip to the nearest zoo.
Engage the senses by taking your child to a kid’s museum, inviting a music teacher over in the afternoons, or practicing cooking skills prior to lunch. Music lessons are ideal because they allow you to take a much-needed break at least once or twice a week.
Any of these ideas would make an excellent addition to your routine this year. Check out the infographic below from TakeLessons for more ideas for your daily homeschool schedule.
What are your ideas for adding fun to your homeschool schedule?
How can we encourage mental toughness in our children and why does it matter?
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First let’s define mental toughness. For our purposes mental toughness is being able to cope with and adapt to the challenges of life. We already know from the Bible that we will have trouble. So we are preparing our children for the inevitable. We want our kids to be strong in the Lord. We don’t want them to crumble at the first sign of adversity. I say that we can encourage mental toughness because I don’t believe this is a formal subject for which a curriculum or even a lecture is appropriate. Instead we have to encourage it as we live.How can we do that?
Allow children to experience natural consequences
I believe the first way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions. As tenderhearted mothers, we often cringe at the potential for our children to suffer. We don’t want them to know the pain of their choices and would prefer to give them second and third and fourth chances. The problem, of course, is that children will never learn to make better choices if we shield them from the natural consequences.
I have an example for you. On multiple occasions my children have signed up to participate in things by their own choice. Later on, this same child of mine has decided that they didn’t feel like continuing to participate or participating on a certain day. They weren’t concerned that their teammates and coach or activity organizer was depending on them. The natural consequence is that I refused to shield them from was having to do something that they no longer wanted to do. Of course, as I allowed my kids to experience this type of natural consequence, I was also teaching them Christian character. They learn loyalty and faithfulness and commitment.
Anytime our children make a choice, there will be consequences, both positive and negative. It’s important that we refuse to protect them from the negative consequences unless they are truly destructive. You will have to pray and use your parental discernment about which natural consequences your child should have to endure. Our decision should always be loving and never abusive. But always keep in mind that the difficult consequences your children face will make them stronger.
Encourage children to take responsibility
The second way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is by insisting they take personal responsibility. A refusal to take responsibility for our own choices and mistakes goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. We shouldn’t panic if our child has a propensity to shift blame to others, because it is the human condition. However, we should not allow our children to shift blame without rebuke. Even when someone else’s choice or the circumstances were a contributor, our children need to take responsibility for their part in a bad situation. Did your child participate in the appearance of evil? Did your child stand by as someone else did something wrong?
Encouraging your child to take personal responsibility is an easy thing to do when it comes to team sports. If your child has the habit of blaming other players, the coach, or the conditions for their errors, ask your child to own up to their mistakes. At the same time, it’s important to teach children that admitting to mistakes does not mean they are unloved or without value. Some children believe that if they admit to doing wrong, it means they are worthless. In fact, some adults believe this as well and it explains why many people refuse to apologize. Instead, remind your child that everyone makes mistakes. And not just mistakes, but sinful choices. God has already offered us the solution for this. Our sins do not keep us out of fellowship with him or out of fellowship with one another if we admit them and ask for forgiveness. This is likely a lesson that will need to be repeated multiple times.
Teach children to feel the fear and do it anyway
The third way we can encourage mental toughness is to teach our kids to feel the fear and do it anyway. Anxiety is very uncomfortable. It makes sense that we as parents don’t want our kids to feel uncomfortable. This is particularly the case if we have our own anxieties. But keeping our kids from feeling the fear and doing it anyway will make the fear grow bigger. You may want to listen to the episode I did on anxious homeschoolers.
[LISTEN TO HELP FOR ANXIOUS HOMESCHOOLERS]
Anxiety that isn’t challenged will spread to more and more situations. You may think that it is better not to have your child do the public speaking assignments for your co-op. But soon your child will be balking at other assignments that tap into his social anxiety. You will be doing your child a great service to encourage your child to feel the fear and do it anyway.
In order to do that, we have to give our kids the tools they need to cope with anxiety. Those tools will likely include meditation on Scripture that relates to trusting God, taking deep breaths, relaxation training, and mental imagery in which your child practices relaxation. Our kids need to know that avoiding anxiety will make it worse.
Teach children how to control their thoughts
Related to encouraging our kids to confront their fears is the truth that we are capable of controlling our thoughts. As parents, we want to discuss with our children the importance of taking thoughts captive. Many thoughts will come to us briefly that are not within our control. But once we have the thought, we are capable of controlling it. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive and to bring it into obedience to Christ. We can do this or we wouldn’t be given this directive. We can also renew our minds. I encourage you to read about my post on the topic.
[HOW TO RENEW YOUR MIND THROUGH TRUTH JOURNALING]
We do not have to accept the thoughts we have that are lies. Sometimes writing those thoughts down enables us to combat them with the truth more easily. The mental battle our children will have when dealing with challenging circumstances is the most important one. When our child believes a lie about her circumstances she is likely to respond with a negative emotion, which will in turn affect her behavior. Mental toughness is developed by being a disciplined thinker. For more on controlling thinking, read about black-and-white thinking in your homeschool.
[BLACK-AND-WHITE THINKING IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL]
Model mental toughness
The fifth important way we can encourage mental toughness in our children is to model it. If we refuse to accept the natural consequences of our choices, if we refuse to accept personal responsibility for our behavior, if we refuse to feel the fear and do it anyway, and if we persist in thinking and meditating on lies, our children will not develop the mental toughness that will be such an asset to them in the future. We must work on our own mental toughness in this regard. Furthermore, we have to be talking with our children about the challenges we are dealing with. Talk with them about the situation with as much detail as is appropriate for your children’s ages, and then talk about the strategies you are using to cope. Modeling is incredibly powerful. So many people will share examples of their parents’ mental toughness once they are adults and are reminiscing on their lives. We want them to have plenty of examples of mental toughness to hold onto.
Provide your children with mental toughness role models
Along with modeling, we want to give our children access to other role models. This suggestion is one that we can easily incorporate into our formal homeschooling. I love exposing my children to missionary biographies and Christian historical biographies that demonstrate mental toughness. Reading about men and women who suffer unjustly, rely on their God, and bravely serve despite trying times will instill a desire for mental toughness and a framework for pursuing it for our kids. I love YWAM biographies for this purpose, but books about Esther Kim, Samuel Morris, and Winston Churchill are more of my favorites for giving kids mental toughness role models.
To conclude, I want to give you a picture of the importance of mental toughness. You’ve likely heard the story of the person who wanted to help a butterfly that was struggling to emerge from its chrysalis. The person removed the chrysalis and the butterfly died. The struggle to emerge from the chrysalis is what provides the butterfly with the strength to live. In the same way, we do not want to prematurely remove the struggle from our children’s lives. Our kids are going to be dealing with difficult circumstances, challenging people, and injustice in the future. Like arrows in our quiver, we want them to be sharp enough to wage battle against the enemy in the years to come.
How do you encourage mental toughness in your kids?