Welcome To My Blog!

Go back a few years in your mind to your childhood and picture yourself in school.  Try to remember how you felt when you had been striving to understand a concept and you finally got it.  Goosebumps!  That lightbulb going off in your head!  Ecstatic joy!  You got it!  Nothing felt so good!  Well, I wanted to start a blog for parents and for grandparents about parenting, where you and your child could feel like “You’ve got it!” in this difficult world of parenting.  Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs that we are called to do.  When the baby is born he or she does not come with a parenting manual.  We have to learn how to parent from how we were parented, what we have seen modeled, and what we learn on our own.  What makes it even more challenging is that once we think we have it all figured out for one child, the next child comes along, and none of our strategies work for him or her.  It is so easy to throw up our hands in despair when dealing with issues such as sibling rivalry, defiance, and bedtime issues. Thank goodness that we have the Lord to help us in our parenting.  He is always present, giving us guidance, encouragement, and strength.  He tells us in Proverbs 22:6  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it.”  We don’t have all of the answers, but the Lord does, for He has a plan for a hope and a future for all of our children.  My purpose for this blog is to share some of my own personal anecdotes about parenting and then share additional resources that may be helpful to you in your parenting journey, so that you can experience the “I’ve got it!” sensation and have a good night’s rest feeling that all is right in your tiny corner of the world.

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith

Words….They Do Make a Difference

This past week the issue of “words that were stated” has taken over the news.  Careless words hastily spoken can have a lasting affect on people’s lives, especially the lives of children.  There is the traditional adage of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”  Unfortunately this saying is not true.  Words do hurt.  In fact, words crush, deflate, separate people, cause all manner of conflict, resentment, shame, betrayal, and I could go on and on.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance for the parents in today’s world to realize the power that their words have in their children’s lives.  The words that parents express to their children are words that will either build them up and encourage them, or words that will cause them to hesitate out of fear of not measuring up to expectations.  Words that will vocalize the warmth of love and acceptance or utter the coldness of anger and negativism.  Which words do you desire for your children to carry in their memory banks as adults?

In the blog, Parenting From Scratch, I found a post entitled, “Encouraging Things to Say to Kids”.  The post began with a quote from Rudolph Driekurs

“A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.”

After being an educator for 27 years, I will have to agree with Driekurs statement.  A child does need encouragement like a plant needs water.   In fact a child is as thirsty for encouragement, craving and longing for it;  as a sponge takes in water,  soaking it in deeply, so that it fills his or her being.  I have found that encouragement is the best way to relate to and teach children.   As children are being encouraged with the positive steps that they are making in whatever small task that they are undertaking, that paves the way for the more difficult and tedious tasks where they may need more help and instruction.

The author of the post states: “Rather than saying “Good job, that makes me so happy,” I try to find a way to focus on their efforts.  In short, encouraging statements keep the task/action/problem/accomplishment about the child, not about the parent. Every positive discipline tool is designed to encourage children, help them feel capable, and connect us closer to each other.  All of the following phrases acknowledge and appreciate something positive about a child and are encouraging words to hear:

  • I love you.
  • I’m sure you can find a way to solve this problem.
  • Boy, you have worked so hard on that!  It really shows.
  • I have faith that you will figure it out.
  • I know that you don’t like doing this, and I thank you for doing it anyway.  It really helps.
  • The amount of detail that you added to this drawing makes it seem so life-like.
  • You must feel really proud of yourself right now!
  • I’ve noticed that you have been working really hard at learning to cut your own food.
  • You did it!
  • Thank you for putting all of your towels in the laundry basket.  It helps us get ready much faster.
  • Trust yourself.
  • It sounds like your body is trying to tell you something.
  • I noticed how long you stuck with that.
  • You have a right to feel angry.
  • I can tell that some special mom/dad time would help you right now.
  • How do you feel about what you have accomplished?
  • I appreciate your cooperation.
  • Thanks for helping.
  • What do you think?
  • What do you need to accomplish your goal?
  • I’m listening.
  • That was hard for you; thank you!
  • I can see you are really angry right now, and that’s O.K.
  • What would you do about it?
  • I just want to sit and be close to you for a few minutes.
  • It’s O.K. to be sad.
  • I appreciate your setting the table so neatly.
  • WOW!
  • I know you are upset.  I would be too.
  • You can  try again tomorrow.
  • What is your understanding of what needs to happen?
  • Your piggy bank is getting really full; it must have taken you a long time to save all that.
  • You decide.
  • I have faith that we can find a respectful solution.
  • Look at what you have accomplished!
  • You are capable.
  • Thank you for getting dressed so quickly.
  • I noticed that you gave your toy to that boy when he was sad.  I bet it helped him feel better.
  • What is your plan for getting this done?
  • I’m sorry.
  • I love you.
  • Lead the way.

What wonderful examples that we were presented from the blog of positive words to utilize with our children!

On the other hand, let me pass on a selection of phrases that you should never say to your kids.  These phrases appeared in a post that I viewed on Facebook that originally came from Redbook Magazine.  The article was entitled“50 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Kids” by Betsy Farrell.  Here are some of the statements that I found to be most noteworthy.

  • B” is fine but an “A” is better.
  • You make me so mad!
  • Don’t eat that or you’ll get FAT!
  • You’re FAT!
  • I’m so FAT I need to go on a DIET!
  • I used drugs/smoked when I was a kid.
  • It’s not that big of a deal.
  • You’re so lazy!
  • Why do I have to tell you everything 100 times?
  • Big boys/girls don’t get scared.
  • Stop being such a BABY!
  • You’re being RIDICULOUS!
  • Stop being so SELFISH and NEEDY!
  • You better do what I say or else!
  • It’s MY  WAY or the HIGHWAY!
  • That’s the way I WAS RAISED and I turned out fine.
  • I hate it when you…(Insert bad behavior here.)
  • Shame on you!
  • UGH!  You’re just like your mother/father!
  • I told you so!
  • I wish you were more like…( Insert other kid’s name here.)
  • Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother?
  • That’s not good enough!

I literally was cringing as I was typing the statements above.  They wounded my heart and spirit just expressing them on the page.  I have seen the power that statements such as these have had on children’s lives.  Children have grown up with poor self-esteem; filled with shame and guilt, unsure of their own talents and abilities.  They have grown into adults who were often angry at the world and others, or angry at themselves for never measuring up.

Thus, it’s in your hands, parents, what “words” that you want to resonate in your children’s heads.  Words of praise that establish a good self-esteem and are uplifting, or words that can be stated carelessly that wound the heart and cause shame.

Additionally, I have found that when I have based my identity on the words that are found in the Bible, that my mind has been transformed.  I rise to a new level, finding my identity from who God says that I am.  These Biblical concepts, when stated and explained to my children have had lasting effects in their lives.  For these words were not from the lips of parents, but from the breath of God; from the Creator who created our children and knows them more intimately than anyone on earth.  God’s words were meant to intersect with our children’s lives; because He desires a relationship with each of them.  He loves them and has a plan for a hope and a future for every child born on this planet.  

  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11
  • I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3
  • Love never fails.”  1 Corinthians 13:8
  • Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
  • “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.  Against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23
  • For He Himself is our peace.”  Ephesians 2:14
  • Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Ephesians 5:1-2
  • “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without a fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”  Philippians 2:14-15
  • “And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”  Philippians 1:9-10
  • “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13

Here are some resources that may be helpful.

64 Positive Things to Say to Kids

Positive Affirmation Notes for Kids: Lunchbox Love

10 Simple Bible Verses for Young Children


May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith













Hello Again! I’m Back!

Salutations!  I have finally returned to my blog.  I’m filled to the brim with excitement about getting into the groove of writing again!  This first year of retirement has been a time of many transitions and changes.  Continued health issues have been challenges that I have had to face.  Now that I am beginning my 2nd year of retirement my circumstances are looking up!  I am thrilled to be able to sit down at my computer and write this post on my blog.

Goodness gracious!  So much has happened in our world since I last posted.  It almost seems like we live in another galaxy.  Our nation is in such an unbelievable mess!  Whether you are on the left or the right, black or white, we all have to admit that we have problems in our country.  Our dilemmas have no easy fix.  Nevertheless, these predicaments are issues that have to be faced and tackled.  If the leaders of our country can’t figure out how to solve them,  we need to start problem solving them in our own little corner of our communities and neighborhoods.

So, how do we implement our problem solving in our own little corners?  What exactly do we do as parents, grandparents, and young adults?

Robert Fulghum in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten  tells us to:

  • Share everything
  • Play fair
  • Don’t hit people
  • Put things back where you found them
  • Clean up your own mess
  • Don’t take things that are not yours
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
  • Live a balanced life
  • Learn some and think some
  • Draw and paint and sing and dance
  • Play and work every day some
  • Take a nap every afternoon
  • When you go out into the world watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder
  • Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup.  The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.  Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the cup- they all die.  So do we.
  • Then remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned- the biggest word of all- LOOK.

Oh, if we all could be like kindergarteners again, and abide by their classroom rules! Would our world be a better place?  It certainly would be a good place to start.  With our kindergarten core values listed above.  Yet there needs to be more, doesn’t there?  I loved it that Robert Fulghum lists that the kids learned the word “look”.  Where do the kids need to look to as to learn their behavior?  Their parents, grandparents, teachers and other caretakers involved in their lives.   For children learn the most from what they see than from what they hear- from what is modeled before them, than from what is verbally taught.

I found a fantastic post about this very subject on one of my favorite blogs, Thriving Home. The post is entitled, “Character is Caught, Not Taught”.

The author states “that it is impossible for us to know what is going to make an impression on our kids.   We don’t know when they are watching us closely or are oblivious to what we are doing.  We don’t know what small moments may impact their lives.  But we do know that these moments are happening.  Our kids are”:

  • Soaking up our attitude towards work
  • Our response to trials
  • The way we talk about people when they aren’t there
  • The way we use our money
  • The way we handle conflict with our spouse or friends
  • The way we treat strangers
  • How we respond when we are frustrated

“They are watching it all and are being shaped by the small and every day moments. Not the big ones.”

So, the author asked herself– “Am I living out the values I am teaching?”

  • I tell them to share their toys but am I being generous with my possessions and time?
  • I remind them to be thankful but how many times a day do I complain?
  • I instruct them to use a respectful tone but what am I sounding like when I am irritated?
  • I tell them to be patient but how do I respond when things don’t go my way?

She continues saying “that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.  In fact our imperfections are a great opportunity to point kids towards our need for God’s daily grace in our lives.  As parents, it is important that we look at our own behavior through the eyes of our kids. What are they seeing?  What are they hearing?”

“When they misbehave, maybe ask if they have possibly learned that from you.  Rather than just telling them not to do it, find a way to identify with the struggle and model how to fight the sin.  The good news is they not only pick up on the bad stuff, but they pick up on the good stuff, too.”

“Show them how to love, when it’s undeserved. Show them how to take a deep breath when you are growing impatient rather than lash out, Show them how to serve without demanding recognition.  Show them how to care for people around you.  Don’t just tell them- ask God to help you show them what integrity and character looks like in the mundane, small moments of the day.”

I know that when I began parenting that I was at an impasse.  There were some patterns that my parents had modeled that I wanted to use in my parenting and some that I knew that I had to discard.  I had dreamed of being a “Mommy” for so many years.  I had a “Memory Bank” that was loaded with images of parenting models that I wanted to adapt and use in my own repertoire.  I also had friends who had become mothers before I had become pregnant who had lit the pathway before me.  I read a plethora of parenting books to find my style of parenting and discipline.  It was James Dobson’s Dare to Discipline and Dorothy Corkille Brigg’s Your Child’s Self Esteem, as well as the Ilg and Ames books on Child Development, that I chose so that I would know what behaviors were to be expected at specific ages.

Mercy me!  Parenting is the most important job in the world!  We are raising the next generation.  I took this job seriously.  I became a member of a Child Book Study Group and a Mom’s Group.  I took Parenting Courses as they were offered, and I started a Mom’s Prayer Group.

I have found that the Bible has the best wisdom on raising children.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 speaks of modeling.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Proverbs 22:6 is another poignant verse.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

My favorite verse on modeling is the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

I will have to say that I recently crossed the path of a former student.  We both stood there for a few seconds, acknowledging in our minds that we knew each other, but trying to figure out names and places.  Finally- Bingo!  My former student stated: “Mrs. Smith, my second grade teacher.  You were the one who taught us about the Golden Rule.”    I was ecstatic!  Nothing could have made me happier than a student remembering that fact about me.  I hoped that she internalized that rule in her own life, making it a guideline for how she related with other people, thus making a difference in her little corner of her world.

Jim Henson the creator of the Muppets stated:  “The attitude that you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from, more than what you tell them.  They don’t remember what you try to teach them.  They remember what you are.”

Here are some resources that you might find helpful on your parenting journey:

5 Ways Parents Can Be a Model to Kids

13 Ways to be a Good Role Model

The Parent You Want to Be

May God keep you in the palm of His hand,

Debra Smith


















































































































































I Have A Dream

In recent days racism has reared its ugly head in my neighborhood; in the high school that my sons attended, the school a few blocks from my home, where five of my grandchildren will be attending in the future years.  It was stunning to hear a student verbalize prejudicial epithets against the African American race.  His words were filled with anger and hatred.  I was shocked that a student could be laden with such animosity against another race.  I was in disbelief that this was occurring at “my” high school.  When my sons had attended there, they had African American friends who were frequently coming over to our home, to play basketball, street hockey, or video games. Everyone would congregate in the house laughing and having a good time.  They never spoke of the school having racial issues.  Howard County was a place where many people of different races came to live and they seemed to be living together peacefully, accepting each other’s differences.  There were kids from China, Korea, India, Africa, Turkey, Russia, and the Middle East in my son’s classes in school, as well as African American and Caucasian students.  So, kids in Howard County were used to diversity and accepting differences in other students.  At least, this was all from my perspective.  I was also a first grade teacher who taught for 25 years and the elementary students on my level were accustomed to classrooms filled with kids from all ethnicities.  My classroom often looked like a mini- United Nations!

Therefore, it was difficult for me to wrap my brain around the recent racial incident, except for the fact that our culture seems to have reverted in some ways back to the 1960’s in regards to racial issues, if you look at all of the events that have occurred that have prompted the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  There have been many circumstances that have taken place where African Americans have been discriminated against, where they have not been treated fairly.  As a “white” American I cannot fully understand what that means; to be overlooked, to not be chosen, to be profiled, because of my color.  Nevertheless, as a believer in Christ, I know that it is not right to be prejudiced.  For Christ said to “Love my neighbor as myself.” Matthew 22:39

Let’s face the reality. Our society is broken.  It is a literal mess.  There is no easy fix for the mess that we are in.   Yet, in the midst of our brokenness, there is hope.  There is a light in the darkness.  We can have a dream, just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.  His speech, I Have A Dream has always been an inspiration to me.  It can encourage us today.  I am going to share some excerpts from his speech.

                                                   I   HAVE    A    DREAM

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident:  that all men are created equal.”   I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.  I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream today that little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.  I have a dream today.  This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.  Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”  And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Every time that I read Dr. King’s speech I get overcome with emotions and begin weeping.  God gifted Dr. King with the ability to so eloquently express God’s own heart and vision and desire for mankind.  That of having every nationality, every creed, every religion joining hands and living together peacefully.  Yet, we are only free to do that when we look at the rest of Matthew 22:37-39

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, He gives us the ability to love others as ourselves.  He enables us to treat others with love and kindness.  He literally makes us the light of the world to shine through the darkness and the mess in our own communities.  So that where we see prejudice and unfair situations, we can intervene.  We can start discussions with others about how we can make changes in our own small corners of the world.  

In my community’s situation my church decided to step in and make a difference.  We had a Prayer Vigil for Prayers Against Prejudice in regards to the high school situation.  We began the service listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream’s” speech.  Then we sang moving worship songs.  Next we listened to 4 speakers who spoke on prejudice, and between each speaker, we prayed.  It was a very moving service.

Along these lines, what can you do as a parent to help guard your child’s heart against prejudice?

Melanie Pinola shares some important points for us to remember in her article, “How to Talk About Race With Your Kids”.  She states that it would be wonderful if we could say to our kids that people might look different and come from different places, but we’re all equal and should be treated the same, and just leave it at that.  But, she mentions that if recent news has taught us anything, it is not so simple.  We need to face the topics of race and racism head on.

She continues saying that the race conversation is so important because kids notice from an early age that other kids are similar or different than they are– in every way they can be alike or or not, because this is how they figure where they fit in the world.  Racial identification plays a large part in our self-esteem, how others treat us, and how we function in society.

Parents sometimes avoid discussing race because they think young children don’t even see race or won’t understand racism, but the critical period for starting the conversation is the five-to eight year old stage, Civilrights.org says.  In all likelihood, the subjects will come up unprompted with your children at this early age, out of their natural curiosity.  You might be mortified if your young child makes a crude observation out loud about someone else being different, but instead of shushing them, use these opportunities to reinforce the lesson that different is both normal and good.  This can turn into a beautiful learning opportunity.

Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, Chinese New Year, and other events are good times to approach the subject.  You could discuss what the kids have been learning in school, what they thought and felt about those subjects and take the conversation further.  Even though schools talk about racial issues, it is important that you as a family talk about these issues with your kids up through the teenage years.

You always need to meet the child where he or she is first. Try to find out what prompted your kids’ comments or questions about race- school incidents, something they read or experienced?  Then further the discussion with questions like“How do you feel about that?  or “Why do you think that?  

Try to respond in nonjudgmental ways and stick to the facts.  Talk about the fact that the social world that we live in is often unfair to people of color, just because of their color, and that the persistent racial-ethnic inequalities are unjust and morally wrong.

For parents of kids of all colors it is a good idea to celebrate the differences and benefits of your culture.  One study shows that teaching kids, especially black kids to take pride in their culture is an integral part of their success.

All people are valuable and worthy of respect.  Have diverse friends.  Be a good role model.

In the book, Beyond the Golden RuleA Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice by Dana Williams  the author gives 5 Tips to Parents

  1. Model it.  Talk to your child about the importance of embracing differences and treating others with respect.  Remember, it is your actions, subtle or overt, that your child will emulate.
  2. Acknowledge differences.  Rather than teaching children that we are all the same, acknowledge the many ways that people are different and emphasize the positive aspects of our differences– language diversity and various music and artistic styles.  Likewise, be honest about instances, historical and current, where people have been mistreated because of their differences.  Encourage your children to talk about what makes each of them different, and discuss ways that may have helped or hurt them at times.  After that, finding similarities becomes even more powerful, creating a sense of common ground.
  3. Challenge intolerance.  If your child says or does something indicating bias or prejudice, don’t meet the action with silence.  Silence indicates acceptance.  A simple command- “Don’t say that.”– is not enough.  First try to find the root of his action or comment:  “What made you say that about Allie?”  Then, explain why that action or comment was unacceptable.
  4. Seize teachable moments.  Look for everyday activities that can serve as springboards for discussions.  School-age kids respond better to lessons that invite real-life examples than to artificial or staged discussions about issues.  For example if your watching t.v. together, talk about why certain groups often are portrayed in stereotypical roles.
  5. Emphasize the positive.  Just as you should challenge your child’s actions if he indicates bias or prejudice, it’s important to praise him for his behavior that shows respect and empathy for others.  Catch your child treating people kindly, let her know that you noticed and discuss why it is a desirable behavior.

Let’s end today with two beautiful reminders on this subject.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28

“Love is patient.  Love is kind.”  I Corinthians 13:4

Here are some resources that will compliment the post this week.

14 Children’s Picture Books Exploring Race and Racism

Beyond the Golden Rule

How to Talk About Race With Your Kids

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.


Debra Smith


















Kindness Matters

It has actually been quite a while since my last post.  My New Year began with a bang!  A urinary tract infection, that was resistant to 3 antibiotics, that eventually turned into a kidney infection,  laid me flat on my back.  Not quite how I expected to greet the New Year!  Sometimes life throws us a few curve balls and we have to just roll with the punches.  Nevertheless, in the midst of my health hoop-la, I was unable to write posts on my blog.  Therefore, it is wonderful to finally be feeling better, to be on the mend, and to get back to writing.

Now, onto a topic that is dear to my heart- KINDNESS.  What is kindness?  Webster’s Dictionary defines kindness as having a loving, helpful and considerate nature. In my mind, kindness goes hand in hand with the word RESPECT.  The definition for respect is: showing esteem, admiration, courtesy, and proper acceptance.

I grieve that as a 64 year old grandmother I see kindness and respect evaporating from the society and culture that we currently live in.  I was familiar with the time-honored tradition of looking people in the eye when passing in the market place, smiling and saying hello and receiving the same response, many times even engaging in small talk while waiting in lines at stores.  In today’s world, most people won’t dare make eye contact.  Everyone is in such a rush.  Eyes are most often diverted to cell phones as people rush to get on elevators where heads are lowered and a word is not spoken, unless it is to mention what floor is their destination.  Respect previously was shown to teachers, pastors, police, and to people in positions of authority.  No more.  Actually there seems to be no comprehension of what the word “respect” means.  No understanding of what manners are.  Now, I acknowledge that we have had many reasons to have had our concept of “respect” shattered with all of the scandals with public figures who we have trusted, having their ivory castles dissolve into sand.

Yet, we as a society, nonetheless, have to stand up for what is right and stand on Biblical principles that we need to teach our children as the next generation that will be leading our land.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Jesus states that the greatest commandment is in Matthew 22:37-39                                            “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Therefore if we are to base our values on these verses; loving God and loving our neighbor as ourself- being kind and compassionate to others and forgiving them because Christ forgave me, we have to purposefully take steps to live out our lives as adults modeling these concepts.  

It is of utmost importance that our children know that they need to lead with kindness and respect for all people.  So how does that play out?

We as parents and grandparents have to be the ones who teach our children kindness and respect.  In the article “The Art of Teaching Children Kindness and Respect” from the blog, Dirt&Boogers, Amanda states that when she and her husband began dating that they set values for their relationship.  The two main ones were being respectful and showing kindness.  They chose to respect each other in private and in public.  They would not speak bad about each other.  They would respect each other’s feelings, time, and space.  They would love each other, so they would respect each other.  They would also be understanding of each other and show kindness to each other.  They would do kind things for one another and respond to each other with kind words.  When their children were born, they attached these words to their family in a deep way.  “Our family is kind and respectful.”  That became their mantra, it became how they described their family and everyone in it.  Those 2 words became the foundation of their family.

Every interaction that the family has with each other is run through the filter of “Is this kind and respectful”?  If one of their children does something that is not kind, he is reminded that “Our family is kind and that what he did was not kind.”  Then they problem solve together and figure out what he can do next time, or what he should do now to repair the situation.

The parents are held to the same standards.  If mom and dad make mistakes and are not kind and respectful, they apologize that they yelled and admit that it was not the kind and respectful thing to do.  This shows that everyone lives up to the same standards set for them.

On another blog, “Sleeping Should Be Easy, Everything I’m Learning About Being a Mom” is an article about “The Healing Power of Kindness”.  The article by Lloyd Dean and James Doty, MD speaks about a growing body of scientific evidence at Stanford University that indicates that kindness holds the power to heal.  The Dignity Health/CCare Scientific Literature Review shows that when patients are treated with kindness--when there is an effort made to get to know them, empathize with them, communicate with them, listen to them and respond to their needs–it can lead to the following outcomes:  faster healing of wounds, reduced pain, reduced anxiety, reduced blood pressure, and shorter hospital stays.  The research also shows that when doctors and nurses act compassionately, patients are more likely to be forthcoming in divulging medical information,which in turn leads to more accurate diagnoses.

Kindness does matter.  It does make a difference in people’s lives.

Proverbs 16:24 states “Kind words are like honey- sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Biblical principals back up what the scientific research is showing us today.  Likewise, shouldn’t we open our eyes and see the truth?

Nina Garcia writes in her blog Sleeping Should Be Easy, an article entitled “How to Raise a Kind Child”.    In her article she lists 8 Ways to Raise a Kind Child.

  1.  Show gentleness– Our kids need to know how to be gentle, whether it is hugging a new baby sister or petting the cat, or playing with a stuffed animal.
  2. Don’t tolerate rudeness towards you or anyone These are manners you shouldn’t tolerate in your kids.  Nip it in the bud.  Raise kids who don’t talk back.  Enforce rules consistently, regardless of circumstances, don’t let them excuse him from being mean.
  3. Encourage helpfulness- and don’t reward it–   Genuine helpfulness should come from within.  Kids should be kind because they derive internal joy from being so and because it is the right thing to do, not because they get attention and money.
  4.  Praise their character, not behavior  You want your child to associate kindness as part of their makeup.  Saying “You’re so kind”, would have more impact than “You did a kind thing.” In praising a child’s kind character instead of his kind behavior, you are helping cement the idea they he is indeed a kind person.
  5. Don’t focus so much on achievement  Winning isn’t everything.  When everything is about competition your kids lose sight of other more noble pursuits: teamwork, effort, challenging oneself.  They might grow up narcissistic instead of empathetic.  Aiming so high at all costs leads your kids to focus only on themselves and see others as mere props or competitors.
  6. Point out kindness– Whether theirs or others- point out acts of kindness you see.  When reading books or watching movies, discuss good deeds the characters are doing.  Talk about how their kindness made others feel.  Also point out when characters aren’t being kind.
  7. Model kindnessParenting starts with us.  We need to model the values we want our kids to emulate.  Be genuinely kind in actions and words.  Your actions will teach your child more than any lecture or lesson could.
  8. Express empathyIt is even more important for your kids to be able to show empathy for what others must be feeling.  Empathy allows us to see beyond ourselves and therefore opens us to kindness.  The Golden Rule- “Treat others like you want to be treated.”

When I was teaching I had a poster in my class that we would refer to when needed.  This was what the poster stated:

                                                   Before You Speak  

                                                            THINK !

                                                       T – Is it True?

                                                       H – Is it Helpful?

                                                       I – Is it Inspiring?

                                                       N – Is it Necessary?

                                                       K – Is it Kind?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

It was very helpful in teaching children that they don’t have to say everything that comes into their mind.  For instance, if a child comes in with a shirt or hat that another child views as ugly, that child should keep his comments to himself.  If the shirt has a character on it that another child does not like, he should not poke fun at the child for wearing the shirt, but stay silent, because that could hurt the child’s feelings.  The same goes with eating food at lunch.  We have a multi-cultural group of children these days, who eat a variety of foods.  Some children eat sushi or seaweed for lunch.  Other kids should not make comments about another child’s food.  That is inappropriate and unkind.  The bottom line is the Golden Rule.  Would you like someone doing that to you?  Everyone is different.  You don’t have to like what they like.  It is o.k. if they eat or wear something different than you.  Some kids have allergies and can not eat what other kids eat at lunch. We need to have respect for each person’s differences and show kindness to all people.

I still believe in the magic words.  You may be wondering what the magic words are.   Please and thank you.  I so rarely hear them anymore.  The dinner table is the perfect place to begin to work on manners.  If Ben would like some more potatoes, then he may ask:  “May I please have some more potatoes?”  Then after he has been served his potatoes, he is to say:  “Thank you.”  Kids should say “Thank you.” to Mom for preparing the meal.  When a child is finished eating she may ask:  “May I be excused?”   In some families the kids take their plates and clean them off and put them in the dish washer, or put them on the counter, as part of their chores for the day.  The child also pushes in her chair.

When using the bathroom, to show courtesy and respect, the child should make sure that the seat is down.  If the child left any sprinkles on the seat, he should make sure to wipe them off.  He should also make sure to flush the toilet and make sure all of the toilet paper is in the toilet.  Then, he is to wash his hands and turn off the light before leaving the bathroom.

Teach your sons to be gentlemen and hold the door open for the ladies.  Help your kids to see that it is kind to help an elderly person with her heavy bags or with taking a cart back at the store.  Model that behavior, as a behavior that you want your kids to emulate.

By sharing kindness and respect with all who we encounter in the world today, we can make this world a better place.  We can spread the light within us and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

                                                             This Little Light Of Mine

                                     This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.                                                                                                                                              

                                     This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  

                                     This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.    

                                           Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.    

                                           by Avis B. Christiansen and Harry D. Loes

Here are some resources that you may enjoy.

20 Ways to Teach Kids About Respect

Teaching Respect to Children

How to Respond When Your Child is Disrespectful?

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith     

Making All Things New

There is something about the New Year that is clean and refreshing, vibrant and robust.  It is where I can symbolically push old baggage to the side and get a fresh start trying something new.  I always have an excitement about the New Year because it is as if I have been given an empty sheet of white paper where nothing has been written.  I am the one who has a choice of what is to be written on that paper.  What will it be?  How shall I begin my year?

Choices.  Shall I begin my year calling all the shots?  Will I be the one who is in control?  Honestly, I will have to confess that I am not my best master.  In fact, I am a horrible ruler of my own soul.  I make countless mistakes, if left to my own volition.  Therefore, I am not the best lord of my own fate.  Yet, the thought of making positive changes to make certain aspects of my life or the lives of those around me better bring me great joy.  I am always ready and willing to dash and clamour to climb up onto the bandwagon if I believe that I can even begin making some minor change in my life that will actually be an improvement that will benefit myself and others.  For I see change as a constant process that is continually happening all around us and within us.

Many shy away from the act of making resolutions in the New Year, often due to the fact that most people actually don’t keep the promises that they make. GOBankingRates.com surveyed over 5,000 people on their New Year’s Resolutions for 2016.  The top 6 resolutions were the following:

  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Live a healthier lifestyle
  • Lose weight
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Save more, spend less
  • Pay down debt

These resolutions are given as the top resolutions to make for 2016, yet I came upon another list that laid out the Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions.  They are:

  • Lose weight and get fit
  • Quit smoking
  • Learn something new
  • Eat Healthier and diet
  • Get out of debt and save money
  • Spend more time with family
  • Travel to new places
  • Be less stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink less

Why is it that we have such grand ideas at the beginning of the year that gradually putter out and vanish into thin air?  One study below, suggests that it is the way that we “phrase” our resolutions.  We should ask ourselves, instead of making a statement.

From a study just published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology researchers analyzed findings from 104 past studies, all of which looked at the question-behavior effect” or how answering a question about a specific behavior influences whether or not you’ll engage in that behavior.   According to the researchers, you’re much more likely to influence behavior using questions instead of statements.    Thus, researchers encourage people to use questions as New Year’s resolutions as motivators to trigger a psychological response by prompting people to remember why something is important.

Others might say that our resolutions aren’t specific enough.  They need to be written more like goals, with steps that you will take to meet that goal, and a target date when you hope to meet your goal.  For children and families I think that this is very important.  Life is constantly changing.  Children and parents, alike, are in the perpetual flux of going through one stage into the next.  Their wants and needs adjust as they grow and mature.

Hence, with all of that said, I believe that the first step in making New Year’s Resolutions needs to be a quiet time with you and God and your clean sheet of white paper.  You need to go before the Lord acknowledging that you know that He has plans for a hope and a future for you.(Jeremiah 29:11).  He has created you and given you the gifts and the talents that you have.  He also knows the weaknesses and shortcomings that plague you.  Ask God   where He wants you to change and how He wants you to do that.  What goals does the Lord desire for you to work on?   He is the one who can guide you and instruct you.  

Maybe God desires you to:

  • Spend more time with Him daily in having a quiet time.
  • Be more positive with the kids.  A critical spirit can be like a poison in a family or organization.
  • Not spend as much time on your “hand-held” devices.  They can literally drive a wedge between you and your family members, with your kids feeling that your phone activities are far more important than they are.

Psalm 119:10 states “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

Romans 12:2 states “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When we spend time with God daily He renews our mind as we read His Word, the Bible.  Then we know what the right and wrong way to go is for us.  We know what His will is, and that aids us in fulfilling any goal that we have made.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Philippians 4:6-9, 13,19 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally brothers, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, of anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me- put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

When we feel that we are weak or unable to fulfill a goal or expectation, we have a helper to aid us in giving us the strength to meet the goal.  God will help us when we go to Him in prayer.

The Teacher Treasury has some wonderful tools that can be used when making your resolutions and in goal setting.  Adults, parents, and children alike can brainstorm and fill in goals or resolutions to the following prompts.

  • I will be better at…..
  • I will try harder to….
  • Before the end of the year I want to……
  • I will practice…..
  • I will learn how to….
  • I will think about….
  • I will not be afraid to…..
  • I will always remember to….

Other grids that can be used are the following:

My goal is:                                                                                                                                      

My target date is:                                                      

To reach my goal I will do these 3 things:                                                      

I will know I have reached my goal because:                    

                                                        I am good at….

                                                        I need to work on….

                                                       My plan to improve is….

                                                       If my plan doesn’t work, then I’ll…

                                                      I’ll know my plan is working when…. 

My goal for________is_____

These are some things I will do to get to my goal……………

Rebecca Gruber shared a fantastic post for New Year’s Resolutions for Parents on her blog, POPSUGAR.

  1. Save on the small things so you can do the big things.
  2. Go on a family tech diet.
  3. Be a better parenting team.
  4. Become cleaner eaters.
  5. Erase the mom guilt.
  6. Break the common bad-parenting habits.
  7. Boost your kids’ self-esteem.
  8. Be in the picture…literally.
  9. Reinstate the family dinner.
  10. Live in the moment (not on instagram).
  11. Don’t judge other parents.
  12. Simplify; remove things from your life that you do not need.
  13. Be positive.
  14. Keep your family healthy.

(I have this as one of the resources, where you can get more “How-to’s” for each item listed.)

God’s Word tells us the following:

Colossians 3:12-14, 17  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Putting on love.  Think about that for a moment.  For this New Year of 2016 making a goal of putting on love.  Choosing to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Choosing to tuck away that critical spirit, and set free a spirit of love and grace to all who live around you.  Choosing to let the spirit of Jesus, shine through you.  If we all did this we would be a part of working together with the Lord in making all things new.

Revelation 21:5  “I am making everything new!”

Have a blessed and wonderful 2016!

Here are some resources for a fantastic 2016!

New Year’s Resolutions Kids Can Make

Parenting Resolutions

Reward Charts 4 Kids

15 New Years Activities for Kids

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

How to Make Lasting Christmas Memories

I remember the eager faces of my sons as they sat at the top of the steps with bated breath yearning to dash down the stairs in breathless expectation to finally view the long-awaited Christmas tree with the gifts from Santa, and the many other presents that they could finally open on Christmas morn.  What a thrill it was to see the happiness etched on their faces as they progressed from opening one gift after another!  Yet, a few months later, most of the toys were at the bottom of the toy box.  They had lost interest in the new toys, or the clothes that they received were outgrown in 3 to 6 months.  Gifts are wonderful items to accept, an excitement to wonder what is inside, and a delight to open up.  They are many times articles that we desire or need.  However, for this Christmas, when I was limited financially in what I could give, I began pondering on how to make lasting Christmas memories.   How can I give something that is more than a gift?  It has to be something that I do that makes a memory that will last forever.  I guess that as a grandmother, who has just turned 64, I yearn to make memories that will be planted in my grandchildren’s hearts.

Consequently, the first step that I took in making memories was that my daughter-in- laws and I organized for all of my grandkids and my niece to come and make sugar cookies together.  We had such a delightful time.  The kids drank their hot chocolate, while the adults had their pumpkin chai tea.  We rolled out the dough and then cut out all of the cookies with angel, tree, and star cookie cutters.  Then we placed the cookies on cookie sheets and baked them.  Finally, we dunked them in icing and decorated them.  Cookie sprinkles were strewn everywhere as chocolate faces busily designed their perfect cookies.  What joy!

Secondly, my daughter-in-law introduced us to the idea of acting out the Nativity story.  Therefore, all 14 of us are going to get dressed up in character and act out the Christmas story. Of course, we will have baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, and a narrator to tell the story.  We will also have a photographer who will be filming our endeavor.   This will definitely be a memorable event!   I also found some Nativity coloring pages that I have stapled into booklets for my 8 grandchildren to have when they come to Nana and Poppy’s house.  This will be another means of communicating the real reason for the season to my babies.

Next, we are going to have a birthday cake for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  I want to make sure that my grandchildren know why we celebrate Christmas.  Jeannie Cannon in her article “What Your Kids Really Want for Christmas” states:                                      I want them to remember the anticipation, the thrill, the joy of celebrating the Christmas miracle.  Christ has come.  The greatest gift has been given.  We can tear up the naughty and nice lists.  Jesus has done for you and me what we could never do for ourselves.  We now have God’s unfailing and forever love.  So, come let us adore Him!  I want to give my kids a Christmas that is all about the miracle, not the material.  This means drawing nearer to the heart of Christ, choosing memorable experiences over fleeting tangibles, and serving and giving to those in need.  Because no matter what their lists are asking for, what every child really wants is LOVE.  To love and be loved.

Jeannie continues saying that here are a few simple ways that we can give and share that love with gifts that won’t end up at the bottom of the toy box.

  1. The Gift of Jesus         We can let our hearts draw nearer to Christ as the calendar draws nearer to Christmas.  We will gather, we will read, we will talk, we will pray, we will play.  We will celebrate the coming of our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
  2. The Gift of Presence      We can lean in.  Listen.  Create simple moments and memorable experiences.  Spend more time and less money. Yes, less doing and more being.  Our presence is the present is what they want.
  3. The Gift of Giving          We can give and serve and love.  We have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” party.  For the presents for Jesus, He wants our love, our trust, our hearts.  He wants us.  He wants us to love Him and love one another.  We can love Him by loving one another.  Jesus said:  Truly I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.    I have seen joy in my children’s eyes as they  have come to experience loving and serving and giving as Christ has first loved and served and given to us.  Our children long to know that they are part of something bigger than themselves that they have been created for a purpose.

Finally, I have collected so many ornaments that my tree is heavy with them.  I am going to let my grandchildren select one ornament from my tree that they can claim as their own and take home and put on their own tree.   Another memory maker,  that they will be reminded of each year as they place the ornament on their own Christmas tree.

One of the most important messages that I want to impart to my grandchildren is that Jesus is Immanuel God with us.

Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us“).

God sent His son Jesus to be with us.  He is not a God who is far away and unapproachable.  He is a God who loves us and cares for us.  He is a God who listens to our cries and a God who comforts us.  He is a God who encourages us and who strengthens us. He enables us to persevere through the troubles and storms that occur in our lives.  He is our friend and comforter who never leaves or forsakes us.  He offers us hope when we are depleted.  He extends peace in the midst of discord and chaos.  He embraces us  with His love where there is hatred.

Therefore at Christmas time we can not help but fall on our knees to worship this babe who was born in Bethlehem.  This baby, who is our Lord, our Savior, our God!

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord or Maker; for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.”  Psalm 95:6-7

Here are some resources that you might enjoy this Christmas.

Ten Minute Christmas Skit

Nativity Preschool Pack

Advent Coloring Book

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith


Naughty or Nice

“Oh, you better watch out, You better not pout.  

You’d better not cry, I’m telling you why,

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He’s making a list.  He’s checking it twice.

He’s gonna find out, who’s naughty or nice.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.

He knows if you’ve been bad or good.  So be good for goodness sake.

So, you’d better watch out.  You’d better not pout.  You’d better not cry,

I’m telling you why.  Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Do you remember these familiar lyrics?  I do!  The song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots seemed to be played frequently during my childhood.  I suppose it was written as a deterrent for naughty behavior at Christmas time.  I also remember hearing stories of Saint Nicholas leaving coal in stockings of “bad” little boys and girls on Christmas morning.  For me, these reminders were all that I needed to keep my behavior in check.  I was certain that I was going to be good so that I received nice items in my stocking on Christmas morn.

How does that same refrain work in today’s culture?   As a teacher for 25 years I have been amazed at how children’s behavior has changed over the years that I have been teaching.  When I began teaching in the 1970’s, students had a basic respect for authority figures.  Even though I had a few students with rambunctious behavior, mostly all of them respected authority and understood boundaries.

In today’s schools that has actually flip-flopped.  There are many students who enter school with no respect for authority figures and no understanding of boundaries.  In fact, I have recently heard that many pre-schools do not utilize any kind of behavioral plan using a consequence for negative behavior, and allow children to do anything they desire to do during the day, not enforcing any kind of boundaries.  No wonder it is so difficult getting children to sit still, listen, and focus on a lesson in kindergarten and first grade.  Children have been programmed to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it.  Everything revolves around the big ME.

Children need to be an integral part of the process of creating a set of  home rules that all kids in the family will follow.  Then, they need to see positive behaviors modeled before them so that they will know what is expected of them.   It is important for kids to be recognized for performing the correct instructions.  Positive comments or rewards for being good pay off lasting benefits.  This makes other kids want to do the same.  Good behavior spawns more good behavior.  If you choose to focus on what a child does wrong and on negativity, it ends up being a downer for that kid, and for the rest of the family.  More negative behavior will occur.  Praise is a winner every time.

Maybe your child has a specific area where he or she has their naughty behavior.  Let’s say it is tattling or lying.  Make sure that you praise your child for the other good qualities in his or her character.  Maybe your child is very giving, or very helpful.  Give lots of praise in those areas, but tell your child that everybody has one area that they need to focus on, and that this area is his.  You can talk about the specific behavior and why the child does it.  Is the tattling because she wants your attention when you are working with the other kids?  Talk about how you can carve out special time with her each day, or an extra special time each week.  Make a chart where she gets a star for each day that she doesn’t tattle.  When she gets so many stars she gets a reward.  For the lying, discuss if he was lying because he was afraid that he was going to get in trouble.  Talk about why lying is wrong, and that you would rather have him tell the truth, when he does something wrong, than lie.  Discuss how that takes real bravery, and that brave boys get extra time with mom or dad.

I can’t accentuate enough the power of praise over negativity in changing behavior in children.  If a child always hears that she is doing things wrong, or that what she does is not good enough, then she begins to internalize that she must be bad and begins to feel bad about herself, thus acquiring a poor self-esteem.  This can lead to the child not wanting to try anymore, and wanting to give up, because she has begun to believe that she can’t do the work that she is being asked to do.  The child may then begin acquiring “acting-out ” behaviors because she is anxious, depressed, and doesn’t know what to do in the deepening crisis that she is in.

Let’s turn that situation around and use praise instead of negativity.  When a child is hearing praise about the accomplishments that he makes, he begins to gain confidence in himself, one brick at a time.  Each word of praise is like another brick that is building up his belief in himself and his abilities to try new things and learn.  His self-esteem blossoms and   his ability to learn increases.  He doesn’t even think of misbehaving, because he wants to make the right choices; he desires to have a good character.

For young children, Christmas is a time when the normal routine and schedule often gets tossed aside because of all of the added holiday activities.  Even though these activities are exciting and fun, they can often cause a lot of stress and anxiety in little ones.  Being on- stage for a Christmas pageant, or musical production can be fear-inducing in kids and cause tears or melt-downs and even loss of sleep in our children.  Many Christmas parties have cookies and candy that many kids don’t usually eat and they come under the influence of a “sugar-high”, often running around and acting more impulsively.  Staying up later than the normal bedtime will make kids more fatigued the next day, so they are not as alert and as well-behaved at school, and then they’re tired and grouchy when they get home.

On the blog, Toddler Approved, Kristina writes that children crave consistency, stability and routine.  She gives 15 Tips on How To De-Stress Young Children During the Holidays

  1. Stay with your routine as much as possible.
  2. Give warnings of transitions.
  3. Spend at least 15 minutes a day of one-on-one focused attention on a child.
  4. Don’t over schedule.  Leave time for naps and rest.  Be realistic about what your family can do.
  5. Communicate.  Sometimes children feel frustrated but they don’t have words to tell you.  Be aware of visual clues and give your child words to use.  Such as “I’m tired.”  “I’m hungry.”  Listen to them and answer their many questions.
  6. Toys.  Take their favorite toys with them through transitions or time away from home.
  7. Music.  Calming music helps children relax.  Dancing to fast music helps them release stored up energy.
  8. Laughter.  Act goofy and find humor in situations or start “tickling”.
  9. Massages.  Rub your child’s back or feet while talking soothingly to them or while listening to calming music.
  10. Deep breathing.  Say:  “Breathe in.  Hold it.  Breathe out.”  Repeat this several times.  While your child is doing this say something like:  “I feel relaxed.  I feel happy.  I feel good.”
  11. Movement.  Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce stress and ensure that your child gets a good night’s sleep.  Play outside when possible.  Roll around on the floor and roughhouse.
  12. Blow bubbles or blow up a balloon and toss it around.  Offer a squeeze ball to tighten and relax muscles.
  13. Stay on a healthy and familiar diet.
  14. Bedtime ritual.  Share books and cuddle time before they go to sleep.  Have your child tell you what they did today.  Help them express their “walk through the day” remembering the positive, happy things that they did.
  15. Gratitude Meditation.  Help your child express gratitude for all the things they have, such as family, food, home, friends, toys, and books.  I will add- praying to God about these things.

Kristina also speaks about the issue of anxiety that many kids face at this time of the year.  We often do not realize how overwhelming it can be for children when they are in new situations where there are new people that they do not know, or with people that they don’t see that often.  Many times it can be really scary when Uncle Ernest wants Susie to sit on his lap and Susie hasn’t seen Uncle Ernest in a year.  Or Aunt Lillian won’t stop hugging Johnny and Johnny really doesn’t liked being hugged.

Kristina shares that in such situations parents should:

  • Stay in close proximity when around new people.
  • Recognize that new faces, routines, situations can be uncomfortable/stressful/scary and acknowledge that verbally and offer emotional support.
  • Be realistic with the amount of time you spend with new people/new situations or in situations that cause anxiety.
  • Bring a familiar object or find a comforting activity when you arrive at a new setting.
  • Encourage people to give your child space and wait for him/her to come to them/initiate interactions with them.
  • Don’t require expressions of affection offer choices-hug, high-five, don’t push it.  Be respectful.
  • Prepare ahead of time.
  • Take breaks.

My final point to mention is that there is nothing like having a hug from mom or dad.  I have always been big on hugging.  I still hug my 6 ft. tall sons.  They will always be “my babies”.  A hug is powerful.  Sometimes a child just needs to be hugged- no words are needed.  A hug doesn’t need words.  It communicates love, acceptance, and that the parent is “here for you”.  On the blog, Home Grown Friends, Meredith has created The Hug Jar.  It is a jar with stuffed hearts in it.  A child can go and select a heart from the jar and hand a parent the heart, whenever the child feels that she needs a hug.  What an awesome idea!

As always the Bible gives us the best advice to aid us on the road of parenting.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on your doorframe of your houses and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:5-9

In other words, if we introduce our child to God and make Him a part of our child’s life, He will make a difference.  Knowing God’s laws, the Ten Commandments is important.  Even more important is that a child knows that God wants to be his friend and desires to be with him in every circumstance in his life.  A child needs to know that Jesus was born to save him from his sins.  He was born to have a personal relationship with your child that will last into eternity.

Here are some resources that I hope that you will enjoy.

Holiday Parenting Tips

The Hug Jar

4 Tips for Better Holiday Behavior

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith





Visions of $$$ Danced in My Head

Christmas is a magical time of the year for children.  Everywhere you travel there are elaborately decorated homes strung with glittering lights of every color.  Blown up figurines of Santa and his reindeer adorn front lawns, as well as Frosty the Snowman.  Spotlights illuminate Nativity scenes that are on display in the front view of a church.    Doors are bedecked with ornamental wreaths. As you walk into the Mall you hear familiar Christmas carols and feel as if you are in a fantasy land as you view the elegant decor and the allure of the merchandise.  It is as if every item is crying out “Buy Me, Buy Me!”  And….if you happen to be going to the Mall with your kids during the Christmas season, then you’re in BIG TROUBLE, because the entire time that you are there, they are desperately trying to drag you to the toy, electronic, or clothes department to show you what they desire on Christmas morning.  All I can envision is part of the poem “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Moore where he states…  “The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”  I reinterpret the words as  ” Visions of $$$$ dancing in my head!”

Yikes!  It seems like the real meaning of Christmas can so easily be eclipsed by all of the gift buying, spending money on making everybody happy, and all of the work of getting ready for the big day. My goodness, the tasks can be quite overwhelming!  There is buying all the presents.  Next, wrapping them.  Then, writing Christmas cards.  Next, baking cookies.  Of course, there is decorating the house for Christmas, after the family time of putting up the Christmas tree, and bringing up of all of the Christmas boxes, the lights, the candles, and getting up on the ladders to install the outside lights.  Then, there is planning menus and cooking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Finally, there is writing thank you notes and cleaning up.   Whew!  I just got tired typing this paragraph!  Getting ready for Christmas is exhausting!  Add to that, the Christmas musicals, kid’s performances, the parties you attend, and the extra events that you want to take part in.

The bottom line is that all of the decorations, all of the activities, all of the gifts, the baking, the cards, and the clothes for the parties cost money.  Christmas is expensive!  Santa Claus isn’t real and he doesn’t leave free presents under the tree.  It’s parents who spend all night putting that toy kitchen set or train engine together.

I have always enjoyed buying gifts for my family.  It has been a joy to buy matching dresses and pants and shirts for my grandchildren.  Unfortunately, this year has to be different.  This year I can’t buy the dresses and the matching outfits.  This year I can’t buy all of the gifts that I would like to give to my family.  Why, you may ask?  I retired. With budget cuts and restrictions due to a more limited income, Christmas buying and giving this year has been viewed with a different lens.  Amazingly enough, it has simplified things for me.  I haven’t had to get out into the craziness of the marketplace and wait in lines and be allured by this sale item or another fantastic deal.  I have had to learn to give creatively from what I have.  I have always been a bargain shopper.  If I see something on sale at a really good price and I know that it is something that one of my grandchildren or children would like, then I will buy it and save it to give to them at a later time.  Fortunately, I have some of these items saved up, and I am making use of them for this Christmas.  As a retired teacher, I have treasures of books, stuffed animals and games that my grandchildren will adore.  I am also doing a lot of baking and giving baked goods as gifts.

Maybe, you are seeing “Visions of $$$ dancing in  your head” and there is not enough money to go around for all of the expenses that you have at this time of the year.  As hard as you want to admit it, you have to cut back.  You can’t buy all of the gifts that your kids want under the tree on Christmas morning, and it breaks your heart.  You know I am beginning to see that less is better.  It’s o.k. to limit the amount of items that kids will receive.  Alison Wood  has created the blog, “Pint-sized Treasures”.  She writes that as a mom that she often struggles with giving her kids too much or not enough, and that she often wonders what the balance should be.  Can you relate?  She wonders if she spends too much money could she be causing her child to become materialistic or would she simply be showing her love.  So, to help her with this situation she created a Christmas Wish List.  It is a list that helps parents and kids keep the right attitude and perspective during the biggest gift-giving and receiving time on earth- Christmas!

The Wish List is a list that the kids are given to fill out themselves.  It also helps kids to distinguish what an actual need and want is in reality.  Parents can also fill out a list.  The list contains the following items:

  • Something to wear:____________________
  • Something to read:____________________
  • Something you want:__________________
  • Something you need:__________________
  • Something to give:____________________

For the Something to Wear item this would be something that would be a very special clothing item.  Maybe a really nice sweater that your daughter had been longing for, or those hiking boots that your son had been eyeing in the catalog.

For Something to Read make it an amazing book that your child would grow in knowledge or have joy in reading.  Maybe your son loves sharks, so you go and purchase an awesome shark book with phenomenal photographs.  Your daughter loves dancing, so you find a book about dancing, and ballerinas, that is absolutely mesmerizing.

For Something you Need ask your child to name something he or she needs.  With kids there is always something that they need.  A friend of mine always got new underwear under the tree.  I always bought my sons new socks and put them in their stockings.

For Something You Want, this is the difficult area, because your child can only write down one item.  Other relatives can purchase want items.  This can also be a time when your child can learn patience in waiting until his or her birthday to receive the other items that he or she would like.  It can also be an opportunity for a parent to begin giving an allowance for chores done in the house and your child learning to save money, learning to tithe money to the church, and learning to spend money.  The money saved can go in a piggy bank and be saved up for one of the “wants” that the child has.

For Something to Give this is the area where Alison wanted the kids to focus on others.  Christmas is more than just receiving gifts.  It is a time of thinking about others.  There are needs all around us.  Many kids won’t have a Christmas like you or me.  Help your child brainstorm about who to give to and what to give.  If money is an issue you can make a gift or a card for someone or bake cookies or cranberry bread to give to someone.  Christmas coupons can be made as well.  Giving to the Salvation Army outside of Walmart could be an example or making a bag full of items for the homeless and giving the bag to a homeless person could be another idea.  Maybe there is an elderly lady or man in your church or neighborhood.  Your child could rake their yard, bake cookies, or make a Christmas card for them.

I have the Wish list as one of my resources at the end of my post.

Oh my, have you noticed what has happened?  We have been so busy frantically putting up the tree, decorating our homes, baking the cookies, writing the cards, preparing for the programs, buying and wrapping the gifts that it has been so easy to forget what the real reason for the season is.

                         JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

Jesus was born on Christmas Day.  The Messiah, God’s son came to earth to die and forgive us of our sins.   Jesus was the greatest gift ever given to mankind.  He was born for you and for me to be our Savior.  What a wondrous gift!

I have listed some resources below that you can use for gift giving in this Christmas season.

The Best Christmas Wish List

Christmas Coupons for Kids

Gorgeous Gifts Kids Can Make

Light ‘Em Up

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith




Christmas is the holiday that is filled to the brim with anticipation for what is to come.  It all commences on the first day of December or the first day of Advent in counting down the days until Christmas Eve and then finally Christmas!  Realistically though, in our culture today, the anticipation begins far before December the first.  Christmas decorations and advertisements for the newest toys, gadgets, and gifts begin in October and November.  In fact, it seems as if Christmas on the retail level kicks off more prematurely each season.

                 “O Come O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”

Advent literally means to prepare for the coming of our Savior- to prepare for His birth.  Each day of December is a countdown until Jesus’ birth on December 25th.  Many families have celebrated the Advent season in a variety of ways.  When my sons were growing up, we participated in many different activities to make the Advent season come alive to them.

The first activity that I would have ready before the first day of December was that of hanging up our Advent calendar.  The calendar consisted of a large felt Christmas tree and 25 numbered pockets.  In each pocket there was a felt ornament to put on the tree for each day of Advent.  The boys would take turns placing an ornament on the tree daily for our Advent countdown.  They would always have fun wondering what kind of ornament that they would be pulling out of the pocket each day.  They thoroughly enjoyed placing their choice on the tree.

“The first Noel, the angels would say was to certain poor shepherds in fields

                                                        where they lay.”

The second activity that we focused on was our Advent wreath.  The wreath would be a greenery table wreath with 4 red candles and 1 white candle in the middle.   Decorations that ornamented the wreath were red bows at the base of each red candle and then tiny figurines of the characters in the nativity story: Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, lambs, the wise men, and the angels.  I also trimmed the wreath with tiny figurines that represented something that the boys and that my husband and I enjoyed.  My husband was a football fanatic, so I tucked a tiny football in the leaves.  The boys adored playing baseball and soccer, so I placed a tiny bat and glove and a soccer ball in the greenery.  I loved music and reading, so I adorned the wreath with a musical note and a miniature book for me.

The wreath had 5 candles, one for each Sunday of Advent and then the last one was for Christmas Eve.  We would light a candle each Sunday and have a devotional about that candle and re-tell a portion of the Nativity Story.  The first candle was the Prophecy Candle.  It was the Candle of Hope.  We were able to have hope because we believed in a God who was faithful.  The second candle was the Bethlehem Candle, the Candle of Preparation.  God kept His promise of sending a Savior, who would be born in Bethlehem. To prepare meant to get ready to welcome Him.  The third candle was the Shepherd’s Candle.  It was the Candle of Joy.  The angels sang a message of joy when the Savior was born.  The fourth candle was the Angel Candle, the Candle of Love.  The angels announced the good news of a Savior.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16  The fifth candle was the Christ Candle.  Jesus was the spotless lamb of God, sent to take away our sins.

                  “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive its King.”

I still have poignant memories of our Sunday evening times around our Advent Wreath.  It was so meaningful to me, knowing that somehow my husband and I were teaching our children the true meaning of the season, amidst all of the hustle and bustle in the world outside of our home.  Amidst all of the clamor for more of this and more of that, we were getting down to the true significance of the holiday.  I was so thankful for the modeling and assistance that I had from friends and family in making Christmas come alive for my kids.

“Oh, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see the lie.  Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.”

Of course one of our favorite traditions for getting ready for Christmas has been decorating the Christmas tree.  My poor husband has always had to carry up crate, after crate of all of my decorations.  But, for me it has always been such a festive time to decorate.  We began purchasing an ornament for each of the boys every year that they would have for their own tree one day.   When the boys were small we would go to the Christmas tree lot together and pick out the perfect tree.  Then we would come home, put on the Christmas music, and make hot chocolate and apple cider and then decorate our tree.  What wonderful memories I have of those days.  What fun we had together decorating our tree!

As Christmas gifts for me, the boys gave me piece after piece of the most beautiful Nativity set, that always held center stage in our decorating scheme.  The set looked as if it was made of exquisitely hand carved wood, but interestingly enough it was made from plastic. I was overjoyed by that fact, because I wanted my sons to have a Nativity set that was touchable,  one where they could move the pieces around and play with and talk about the characters.  I was thrilled when I finally had all of the characters and the stable so that my collection was complete.  I wanted this Nativity set to impact my sons and for them to realize that Christmas was at the heart about Jesus being born in the manger and not all about getting toys from Santa Claus.

“Away in a manger no crib for a bed.  The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”

Another one of my favorite decorations to place on one of our living room tables was a music box that played “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him”.  The music box was a figurine of Santa Claus bowing down to baby Jesus in the manger.  My sons loved the music box.  They always wanted me to play the song and they would watch with wide and sparkling eyes as  Santa and baby Jesus spun around to the tune.  I would hold the boys with tears in my eyes, thanking the Lord for giving the artist who created the music box and song, his vision.

Since I have become a grandmother, one of my daughter-in-laws has found the most phenomenal books to use with the family for Advent.  It is a handcrafted book, entitled The Advent Book, published by Jack and Kathy Stockman.  The book has exquisite artwork on each page and a door that your child opens.  Inside of the door is some more elaborate artwork with part of the Nativity narrative.  The book is a large book with thick cardboard pages that are well-constructed and will not tear easily.  My grandchildren are mesmerized by the book and can’t wait to read it every night before going to bed.  Even though the book is costly, it is well worth the money spent.  It is sturdy enough to be an heirloom that you can pass down in your family.

Here are a wealth of resources that you can use for the Advent Season.

12 Ways to Have a Christ Centered Christmas

Advent Printables

The Christmas Story According to St. Luke

150 Advent Activities

Advent Wreath

The Advent Book

May the Lord keep you in the palm of His hand.

Debra Smith

Thanksgiving Memories

As the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, memory after memory have been flashing in my head, recalling events that have been indelibly impressed on my mind, never to be forgotten.  For the Smith family, Thanksgiving was the holiday that was always eventful.   When our boys were younger, before my husband went into the ministry, we always traveled to South Carolina to be with family for the holiday.  It was a joyous occasion for us.  We would all gather at grandmother’s house with all of my husband’s family and all of the grandchildren.  It was quite a crew, with 5 children and spouses and then around 12+  grandchildren, plus Great Grandmother Easterlin.  We all had a great time being together.

“O give thanks to the Lord for He is good for His steadfast love endures forever!”                1 Chronicles 16:34

One Thanksgiving the refrigerator was not cooling properly and everyone staying in the house, except Aunt Ann, who had not eaten the turkey, contracted food poisoning.  My husband and I were upstairs with all of the cousins.  I recollect that there were 8 of the kiddos with us.  One by one they woke up scampering to the bathroom to throw up.  I remember helping one of the kids throw up in the sink, while another was at the commode, as another was at the bath-tub throwing up.  I felt as if I was living in a nightmare coming to life.  It was unbelievable!  I just prayed that my husband and I wouldn’t get sick, because we needed to take care of the kids.  No such luck!  I was thankful that the scourge hit us last.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is God.  His love endures forever.”  Psalm 107:1

Another year during Thanksgiving, we were having a wonderful time with the family and suddenly I started coughing and shivering.  I didn’t have a cold, so it was very bizarre.  I took my temperature and it was 104.  My mother-in- law called her doctor and we hurried to his office.  He listened to my lungs and said that I had pneumonia.  He immediately sent me to the hospital.  I was seriously ill.  The hospital couldn’t find an antibiotic that would be responsive to my infection.  Finally they found one, but I was in the hospital for a week.  My husband needed to get back to NC to work, so he found an ambulance that would take me to the hospital in our hometown.  We decided that he would drive the boys home, while the ambulance was transporting me to our hometown hospital.

As I was led out to the ambulance from the hospital, I was shocked to see that the ambulance was an old hearse!  The two men who were to be my transporters did not seem like that they were skilled technicians.  In fact, I felt that I was back on an episode of Andy of Mayberry with Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle.  The men rolled my bed into the vehicle with me facing the back window.  As we started driving down the road and were on I-95, I was terrified that the back door was going to open and that I was going to roll out and slide right into one of the sixteen-wheeler trucks that I was facing.   All I could do was pray that God would get me home safely.  I had no phone to call my husband, since cell phones were not in existence at that time.

Suddenly I looked down at my I-V and I saw that it was backing up with blood.  I motioned to one of the men in the passenger seat in front and pointed to the I-V.  The men pulled the “ambulance” off of the road to look at the I-V.  When they scoped the situation out, and began discussing the circumstance among themselves, I came to the realization that they had no medical training and that they had no idea what to do!  I was absolutely horrified!!  My prayers were intensified that God would take care of me.  He did.  We were close to Burlington, NC , where they took me to the hospital emergency room. When we got there, the nurses, and doctors were fussing at the drivers, about their negligence in treating me.  I truly saw the reality of my danger at that moment, and how God had taken care of me.  I also was whisked back to Mayberry again and visualized these drivers as the two bumbling men, Barney and Gomer, attempting to do a task that they were in no way qualified to do.

The doctor and nurses at the hospital attended to me and we were quickly back on the road.  Within minutes I was in the arms of my husband at one of the hospitals in my home-town.  God had taken care of me in the worst of situations.  I had so much to be thankful for.  I remained in the hospital for another week and a half, but the time that I had in recuperation was time that I will always fondly remember.  It was a time when I feasted on God and His Word and drew closer to Him.

“Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.”  Psalm 95:2

One recollection that I have had this year was that I would always read my sons books about the first Thanksgiving, about the Pilgrims and why they came to America.  We would delve into the history about what really happened long ago and then talk about why we still celebrate Thanksgiving today.  It is even more important that parents read and discuss this now with their children, because in the public schools today, there is very little time to  teach about holidays and the history of them.  Therefore, parents need to do the teaching on this important topic, especially Thanksgiving, because of its religious roots.  There are a lot of different books that are good for different ages.  Here are the names of a few:

  • Thanksgiving Day-                by Gail Gibbons
  • Magic Tree House Book –  Thanksgiving on Thursdayby Mary Pope Osborne
  • Pilgrims  Research Guide- by Mary Pope Osborne
  • On the Mayflower-                 by Kate Waters
  • The Story of the Pilgrimsby Katharine Ross

Another tradition that the boys and I established was that we would chat about all of the things that we had to be thankful for:  all of our clothes, our toys, our house, our food, everything that we owned.  We discussed that God had given us all of these things.  Then I talked with the boys that there were other kids who didn’t have all of the things that we did.  There were other kids who didn’t have enough clothes to wear, who didn’t have enough food to eat, who didn’t have enough toys to play with.  I asked them how they felt about that.  They were very sad about it.  We talked about what we could do about it.   Together, we came up with the idea that we could give some of our clothes, some of our food, and some of our toys to other kids.

Accordingly, what we set out to do, was the following:

  1. We sorted through all of our clothes.  Some clothes we knew were being passed down to our brother.  Some were too worn out to give.  Some clothes were almost like new and never worn much because the boys didn’t particularly care for the style or color. Those were the ones we decided to give away.  We also decided that we were going to choose names from the Angel Tree at church and buy new clothes and toys for the kids we chose.
  2. We looked through our pantry and chose cans and boxed items to give to the Food Pantry at church or to the one at their school that was collecting for families in need.
  3. Then the most difficult job of all!  The boys categorized all of their toys.  They chose the toys that they would keep.  There were some toys that they wanted to give to specific people.  They collected other toys that they were going to give to kids in need.  This act of going through toys also gave the boys an opportunity to get their toys organized and get game pieces back in the right place.

As we engaged in these different activities we would discuss how we were thankful for the clothes and toys that our grandparents had given us, or our aunts and uncles had given us.  We had enjoyed wearing the items or playing with them.  But, now some of the items we had outgrown, some of the toys we had enjoyed playing with, but now we were going to give them to other children so that they could enjoy wearing the clothes or enjoy playing with the toys that we had.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

In my favorite devotional, Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young, the author writes the devotional from her quiet time with God.  The part she writes is Jesus speaking to her as she has read His Word.  Her writing about thankfulness is very inspiring.  She states:         Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.  That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything.  You give Me thanks(regardless of your feelings) and I give you Joy(regardless of your circumstances).  This is a spiritual act of obedience.  Those who obey Me are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.  Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts.  You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective.  It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting of adversity. 

The following resources may be useful during the holidays.

Thankful Jars

Blessings and Giving Thanks Printables

Count Blessings Tree

May God keep you in the palm of your hand.

Debra Smith