As kids grow, messaging changes
One of the most obvious jobs of parenting is to nurture our kids, and a major part of nurturing has to do with feeding them. Most of us understand that what we put into our children’s bodies is important, but how often are we as deliberate about what we feed their souls?
Food for the body is more obvious and easier to control. But what feeds the soul?
Messages are a major food group for the soul. So the question parents should ask is what kinds of messages do we feed our kids so that we can effectively nurture their soul?
Just as we wouldn’t presume that our kids are eating well but, instead, we deliberately plan their meals with the best possible foods, we should carefully plan the messages that we convey at each stage of childhood.
From birth through the elementary years, we can nurture our children with the following messages.
• You are worthy of love and connection and so is every person you meet.
• You have the right to feel safe and protected.
• You are not an extension of us (your parents) but you are your own unique person.
• You have special talents and abilities that you will be able to use to make the world a better place and, because of that, you are a valuable member of every community that you are part of.
• You are also strong and you have the ability to learn anything and to overcome challenges.
Our kids need for us to be direct with them, especially when they are little. Saying things such as “You are safe,” when they feel scared, and “Mommy is here to protect you,” sends a valuable message, one that we need to back up with action.
As kids grow, the messaging changes. Their souls need different food to prepare them for a purposeful adulthood. In these years, we want to convey these messages:
• Society owes you no debts but you owe society your time, attention and talents.
• You are responsible for the maintenance and betterment of every community you are part of, and your family is the very first community that counts you as a member.
• You cannot control other people or determine the outcome of situations. You can only control yourself and your reaction to the situations and outcomes you encounter.
• You are responsible for both your successes and your mistakes. Own them both but don’t get stuck in them. Instead learn from them. Let one success fuel the next one and take responsibility for your mistakes. Figure out what went wrong, how you can improve and be sure to apologize and make restitution whenever necessary.
• Your time in this life is finite, so be sure to invest it and not just spend it, and live your life as though you will leave a powerful and lasting legacy!
When we deliberately feed our children’s souls with these nutritious messages, they are more likely to grow into healthy and strong adults.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.