The Power of No

This space has been pretty quiet for a while. It may seem like I fell off the map.

In a way, I did. You see, the past 18 months or so have been pretty challenging. Over the course of those months we have dealt with meningitis, two other bacterial infections, a tonsillectomy (which is brutal when you’re a teenager), a thyroid disorder, a parent having a stroke (and subsequently becoming much more involved in that parent’s care), a broken hand, vocal chord dysfunction, a concussion, pneumonia, and a cerebrospinal fluid leak (feel free to look that one up). Did I mention my husband got a promotion in June that has him working until 8 p.m. most nights?

And that doesn’t even include the normal drama that goes along with raising two teenage girls.

So, in the past year and a half, I’ve had to make decisions about the things that I can devote my time and energy to. Unfortunately, writing was something that had to take a back seat. This poor little blog suffered from a lot of neglect.

While the past 18 months have been a little rough, I have learned one very important thing. Sometimes, we have to say no. Whether we’re saying it to other people or to ourselves, it’s an important word to know how to use. And I have gotten so much better at it.

You want my daughter to practice two nights a week until 11 p.m.? No. You want me to add four more things to my schedule? No. I want to blog three days a week and redesign my website? No.

When it’s all you can do to just get through the day, no becomes a very powerful word. Saying no has allowed me to say yes to other things.

I’ve gotten to spend some time with my girls that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve been able to watch them as they have met some challenges in the past 18 months with grace and patience (and, yes, some frustration and anger).

I was able to say yes to a weeklong vacation with just my husband. And I’ve been able to say yes to time with God, time that I’ve been able to spend just soaking up His word and His love without any pressure to have anything meaningful to say about it.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you, dear reader, to understand the power of no. This little blog is a worthy endeavor. It deserves more attention than it’s getting because I know it reaches people. Maybe in the next month or two, it will get the attention it deserves. My fingers are itching to write and my brain is whirling with unsaid thoughts.

But that will come in God’s timing, not mine. I’m not going to force it. When there’s something to be said, I’ll say it. But there will be days when no is the answer to am I going to write today. There are so many things I want to say and share with all of you about this crazy thing called parenting, but I can’t do it at the expense of my own parenting.

So, look for me a little more frequently in this space in the coming weeks, but don’t be surprised if it’s sporadic.

And do me a favor, take a look at your own life, at the things you are filling your time with. Maybe there’s something there that you need to say no to. Maybe forever. Maybe for just a little while.

You won’t be sorry that you did.

Embracing Your Season

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The sun is shining, and it’s warm here today. We’re probably still in for some more cold weather, but it’s clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren’t so little any more. They’re growing up fast, and I’m trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn’t been a lot of time to write. There hasn’t been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They’re only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that’s hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I’m in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We’re juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband’s parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that’s what I’ll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, spring also has it’s great moments — the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He’s calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When You’re Not “Fine”

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This space has been empty for a while. Life has been crazy — some of the good kind of crazy, and it seems like more of the bad kind. I’m kind of to the point where I’m almost afraid to get out of bed in the morning to find out what new crisis is going to erupt.

I’ll be honest, it seems like every time I open a door or turn a corner in life lately, there’s been something unpleasant behind it. Very little about this life seems easy in this season.

I would love to write a blog post telling you that when we’re in the hard season, all we have to do is rely on God and everything will be fine. That sounds great, but it’s a lie.

You see, anyone who tells you that things will be “fine” when you’re going through a rough season is wrong. Those tough seasons in our lives sometimes leave us in a place that is far from the place we started, the place where everything was “fine.” Those tough seasons often mean we lose something — a loved one, our health, a marriage. When we come out on the other side of a tough season, we are changed. We are different. And we may not be “fine.”

Am I saying that God doesn’t have everything under control? No. I am saying that God’s plan is never for you to be “fine.” It is for you to be in a place where you can see Him and share Him. It is for you to be in a place where you have to rely on Him. It is for you to be in a place where others can see Him in you.

But that place may not be easy. It may not be fun. And it most certainly might not be “fine.” But one thing you can know for sure is that no matter what that place looks like, no matter where it is, God is there, too.

That’s the truth we need to cling to in the tough seasons — that God is there. He’s not asking us to go anywhere He’s not willing to go, too. And though we may shed many tears and even spend time shouting at God, He’s there, He loves us, and He’s walking with us — even when we don’t think He is.

There is something to learn in this season. There is growing to be done. And when this season passes (and, honestly, I hope it passes soon), I’ll be on the other side a different person than I was before this season began. But I don’t want to be “fine.” I want the lessons I’ve learned and the person I’ve become to shine brightly for Jesus. I don’t want to be “fine.” I want to be His.

One Easy Day

One Easy Day

I sat on my front porch the other day, looked at the sky and prayed this prayer: “Lord, can I have one easy day? Please?”

I’d been trying to navigate through the waters of a kid recovering from surgery while dealing with some other drama in her life and dealing with the other child who can’t seem to get organized enough to do the things she needs to do at school. Let’s not forget the everyday drama that just exists when you have 14-year-old and 12-year-old daughters.

I sat on that porch after meting out discipline to one of them and wondered when parenting had gotten so hard. I love being my kids’ mom. It’s a calling. I love them more than life itself. But right now, I really don’t like parenting.

It. Is. Hard.

Every single day is a constant struggle with one child or the other. There have been more tears shed in this house in the past month than at any time since they were crying babies. My husband is ready to move to Tahiti and come back when they’re 21. I’ll be honest. I am not enjoying it. I really want just one easy day.

I want one day where everyone does their homework without a fight. I want one day where friends act like friends. I want one day where everyone fills out their planner at school and knows exactly what they need to do when they get home. I want one day where no one forgets anything, no one has to stay after school and no one needs my help with math homework (I really didn’t like geometry when I was the student). I want one day without drama and without tears (theirs or mine).

I prayed that prayer for one easy day a week ago. And I still haven’t gotten it. But God has reminded me that he didn’t promise that this parenting thing would be sunshine and roses. He didn’t say this life would be easy. He did say He would be here. He did say that He would never leave us.

Because, you see, God isn’t interested in my comfort. He isn’t interested in me having an easy life. He’s interested in making me more like Him. He’s interested in growing me and my kids. He’s interested in forcing me to rely on Him instead of myself.

I could list off for you the lessons we’ve learned in this household this summer. I could tell you how much my older daughter has grown in her faith and her approach to life. I could tell you how much more of a priority it is for me to have a consistent time of Bible reading and prayer in my life. The evidence of growth in this particular season is everywhere in our family. But there have been very few easy days.

Because growing is hard. When our bodies grow, we tend to sleep more and require more food because growing is work. That holds true for spiritual growth as well. When we die to our selfish nature and become more like Christ, there are growing pains. And there are few easy days.

When we get on the other side of this intense growing season in our family, we’ll be able to look back at everything that happened and know that those hard days were worth it. Right now, though, we’re simply clinging to the knowledge that God is with us. We’re holding fast to His promises that He’ll see us through these tough parenting moments.

I know God is creating something beautiful in our family. I know that the end result will be more amazing than anything I can imagine. And I’m grateful.

But, I’ll be honest, I’m really looking forward to when God says yes to my prayer for one easy day.

When Your Child is Drowning in the Tough Stuff

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My 14-year-old daughter has taken a beating in the past few weeks. She’s been sick for so long that she doesn’t remember what it feels like to feel well (she had her tonsils taken out yesterday, so hopefully, she’ll be on the mend soon). She’s learned about the ups and downs of a relationship with a guy. She’s been frustrated by her soccer situation. It’s been a rough couple months, especially the past few weeks.

And I’ve learned something in watching her battle through these things. First, she has more grace, patience and compassion than I ever will, and second, being a teenager is hard and being the parent of a teenager is hard, too. Being a teen is hard in ways it wasn’t when I was a teenager. And as a mom, I ache for my daughter and wish that I could spare her some of the hard lessons that this life is teaching her.

I know that God has it all under control. I know that he’s using these things to teach her something. But I’ll be honest, it feels like I’m watching my child stand in the ocean and get hit by wave after wave after wave. She comes up sputtering every time, only to get hit by another one.

That’s hard. It’s hard to watch your child hurt. It’s hard to watch them be emotionally and physically battered by life’s circumstance. It’s hard to watch them come up sputtering time after time after time.

And it’s hard to be the emotional rock that they need their parents to be. Because your heart is breaking for them. Every wave that hits them and knocks them down, knocks you down, too. It’s hard to have enough energy and emotional reserves to keep picking them back up again when all you want to do is lock yourself in the bathroom and cry for them.

In the midst of these tough moments, though, I am always reminded that God is creating something beautiful out of what seems like a mess. He’s standing in that ocean with my daughter. Not one single wave surprises Him. Not one single wave knocks Him down. When she is knocked to her knees, He’s there to lift her back up. She may not be able to stand in that ocean of life on her own as wave after wave of tough stuff knocks her down, but she can lean into God’s arms, absorb His strength and put her feet back under her.

And so can I. When this mom thing gets hard. When it hurts to watch my kid to get knocked down, I know that I can turn to my Father’s loving arms. I know that He can give me the emotional strength to see my daughter through illness, a tough soccer season, or a broken relationship.

Standing in this ocean we call life is hard for our kids, and it’s hard for us. No one ever promised us that life would be easy. But God did promise that He would always be at our side, ready to offer whatever it is that we’re lacking.

So, if your child seems to be drowning under wave after wave of tough things, remember that God is there to pick up your child — and He’s there to keep you standing as well. We’re not in this alone.

Why We Shouldn’t Fight Our Kids’ Battles for Them

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A couple of weeks ago, my older daughter chose to have a very difficult conversation with her soccer coach. She was struggling on the field, and she felt like if her coach made a few changes in the way he was coaching her that it would make a big difference in how she played. But she had to tell him.

We talked through the situation over and over and over again. She knew that she had some issues she had to own both on the field and in the way she was mentally approaching the game. But she needed help, and she had to ask for it.

Now, my daughter is an introvert and not a fan of conflict of any kind. She did not want to talk to her coach. I offered to do it for her or to help her, but she decided it was something she had to do on her own.

So a few weeks ago, she did. She stayed after practice and talked to him. She got in the car frustrated with herself. She had cried while she was talking to him, mostly because she was so nervous. She wasn’t sure she had made her points well, and she was worried about how her coach would respond.

The good news is her coach is a great guy. He listened to her and made a few small changes. The even better news is that simply having that talk gave her more confidence on the field and off.

She identified a problem, handled the situation with as much grace as a 13-year-old can muster, and learned that she can handle even the most difficult situations on her own.

And I learned something, too. I learned that when we let our kids fight their own battles, we see them grow right before our eyes. My daughter has played better on the soccer field in the past three weeks than she’s played all season. Some of that is attributable to all the hard work she has been putting in. But some of it goes back to the confidence she gained from talking to her coach, from knowing that even when the situation is difficult, she can handle it herself.

And that confidence has translated into other situations off the field she’s had since then. She feels like she has learned how to talk to anyone in any situation. She’s gained confidence that she can tackle a tough problem and solve it.

My first instinct as a mom is to step in and help my kids. Especially if one of my kids is struggling, and I know the answer to the issue, I want to fix it. But when we do that, we rob our kids of the opportunity to gain confidence in solving their problems themselves. We take away a teaching opportunity.

Make no mistake, there are situations where we need to step in as parents, but there are many situations when we step in way too soon. Instead of letting our kids learn to be advocates for themselves and engage in simple problem-solving, we solve the problem for them.

The truth is that it’s our job as parents to equip our kids with the tools they need to deal with difficult problems. If we solve the problems for them, we’re not giving them those tools. We’re simply removing the problem. Our kids need those problems. They need to learn that life is full of problems that have to be solved. They need to learn to look to God for wisdom and answers to their problems. They need to learn how to identify and resolve issues on their own.

And we, as parents, have to step back and let them do that. We can and should offer advice. We can and should show them how problem-solving is done. We can and should offer any type of support they need. But when push comes to shove, there are an awful lot of situations that we need to let them take a stab at solving on their own.

Because learning to solve problems is an essential skill in life. And when our kids solve them on their own, they gain confidence that we can never give them any other way.

What Do You Need to Succeed?

Succeed

I’ve been learning a lot about success from my older daughter this week. I wrote last week about how soccer has been a rough go this season. She changed coaches. She’s been hurt. She’s struggling to pick up everything new she needs to know to compete.

And this weekend it all came to a head. She made a mistake in an important game that led to a goal. She made the same mistake in the next game. She came home discouraged and frustrated. She felt like she would never get it. She felt like the worst player on the team. She felt like she had let her teammates, her coach and herself down.

After the tears had been shed (a lot from her, a few from me because it’s never easy to watch your kid struggle), I asked her this question: “What do you need to succeed?” The answer to that question could have been anything. She could have told me she was done playing soccer. She could have told me she didn’t know. She could have told me she needed me to be quiet.

But she didn’t tell me any of those things. As we talked, she identified that she needed to figure out where she was having trouble, and she needed more practice to fix it. So, we made a plan. She asked to talk to her coach and went in prepared to hear what he had to say. Some of what he told her was hard to hear, but he clearly identified three areas she needed to work on. He told her what she was doing wrong and how to fix it.

Next, we addressed how to get her more practice. We added two practices to the schedule each week to increase the amount of time she has to get touches on the ball. She’s committed to putting in the practice to get better, to learn how to not make the same mistakes.

So, now she has a plan and the work ethic to follow through, but what I learned this week is that we all struggle with something in our lives. Our kids all have something on their plate that isn’t going the way they want it to. And too often, we try to solve that problem for them. We try to identify the issues and fix them. What we should be doing, though, is teaching them how to identify the issues and to figure out what they need to fix them.

We need to be asking our kids “What do you need to succeed?” about everything in their lives. Because what they need to succeed may not be the same thing that you or I would need to succeed in the same situation. God made each of us different. He gave each of us the ability to tackle problems in a different way. We have to recognize that each of our children may need something different from us to help them succeed.

Success in any endeavor is ultimately up to our kids. They have to put in the work and the time to succeed. But we can help by providing them with the things that they need to succeed.  We just have to ask them and help them identify what those things are.

So the next time your child is struggling with something, set aside the temptation to simply fix the problem. Instead, ask “What do you need to succeed?”

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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Locker Room Courage

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We had tears in the locker room this weekend. My younger daughter played in a hockey tournament in Des Moines. Her team lost the third-place game, and my super competitive daughter was frustrated. She was also tired and irritated about some teasing from her teammates.

As I hugged her and talked her through her frustration, I was struck by the courage she displays every time she steps on the ice. Forget that hockey can be a brutal sport, and you have to be pretty tough to play it. Forget that she willingly steps on a sheet of ice knowing that she will block a shot, take a hit or be tripped by a stick. All of that takes courage. But it’s the courage she shows in being herself that leaves me in awe, wishing that I had half as much courage as she shows every day.

You see, girls hockey has taken off in certain pockets of this country. If you live on the East Coast, the West Coast or in the northern Midwest, you can take your pick of girls’ hockey teams. But here on the plains of Kansas, we don’t have a lot of kids who play hockey at all, much less girls who play. There are a few girls on her team and a handful of girls who play for other hockey organizations in her age group, but there isn’t a girls’ team for her to play on. There isn’t a support system for girls’ hockey here.

To play this sport, she has to play mostly with boys. She has to be willing to step on the ice, many times as the only one with a ponytail doing so. She has to be willing to prove that she belongs over and over again. She has to work to fit in when we travel with the boys — because she’s the only girl.

And she does it all mostly with grace and determination. It seems as if she does it almost effortlessly. But then there are the moments in the locker room when the tears roll down her cheeks. There are the moments when she comes home from practice frustrated with something one of the boys said to her or upset about a coach sending her to a lower skill group just so she can be with the other girls. And that’s when I realize that to be true to her love of this sport, it takes courage.

It takes courage in great measures to be different. It takes courage to stick it out when the going gets tough, when the boys are more than she can handle and the desire for someone else to just be like you is overwhelming. Honestly, it takes more courage than I think I could muster.

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I know that the lessons she’s learned about staying true to who she is and how to muster up the courage to be different are ones that will stay with her through her whole life. Knowing that even when the going gets tough she’s willing to be the person God created her to be, makes me confident that the courage she’s learned in these childhood years will make her a force to be reckoned with as she gets older.

As her mom, I wish this road were a bit easier for her. I wish that we could offer her more than just hugs in the locker room when it gets to be too much. But I know that God is molding her into the person He needs her to be and these lessons in courage will pay big dividends in the future.

Sometimes, though our kids choose to do things that take courage. When they do, they need our unwavering support. They need us to bolster them. They need us to be there to offer the hugs and the encouragement to keep going.

Through it all, though, I know this: My daughter amazes me every time she chooses to put on her hockey gear and step on the ice. I watch in awe, and I learn something about courage from her every single day.


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6 Steps to Help Your Child Deal With Difficult Situations

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Two weeks ago, my older daughter was blindsided by a decision that adults had made. That decision affected a really big part of her life in a really big way. It caused a lot of hurt and frustration for my daughter that we are still dealing with. It forced my daughter to accept a new direction for reasons she didn’t understand. It’s been hard, and it’s been the cause of a lot of tears.

One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is helping our kids deal with things that happen that our kids had no part in. When you’re a kid there are so many other people in your life who can make decisions that will affect your life. Often, our kids don’t get a say in those decisions.

And explaining those decisions to our kids can be difficult, especially when we might not agree with them entirely ourselves. But that’s our job.

It’s our job as parents to help our kids navigate through things that may seem unfair or downright mean. It’s our job to help our kids see that while that decision may not seem like the best one at the time, God can use it for good. He can take those circumstances that seem so crummy and create something beautiful out of them.

Since we’ve been dealing with this exact issue for the past few weeks, I wanted to share the steps we’ve taken to keep our daughter focused on moving forward and not getting stuck in the unfairness of the situation.

1. Let your kids vent their feelings.

When something unfair or unwanted happens to our kids, it can be easy to shove their feelings aside. There’s nothing you can do to change the situation, so why dwell on it, right? But our kids need to be able to express how the situation makes them feel. We shouldn’t expect them to suddenly be happy with a situation that they didn’t create. Our kids need time to process through the situation, and that requires that they have an outlet for their feelings. Be the person they can talk to. Let them know that their feelings are valid. Give them a reasonable amount of time to vent and cry if they need to.

2. Be honest about the situation.

If your kids have questions about what led to the decision that has made them so unhappy or frustrated, answer them honestly. Don’t be judgmental, but let your kids know the sequence of events that led to the situation. Try to be objective about those events, even if it’s hard. The decision has affected your child’s life. They have a right to know the age-appropriate explanation of what happened.

3. Point out the steps that need to be taken to move forward.

Your child needs to know that while the situation may seem crummy at the moment, they do still need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. They need to know that they have to move forward. Help your child decide on what steps they need to take to make the best of the situation. They may need to talk to someone else. They may need to adjust their own thinking. They may simply need to be encouraged to give the new situation a chance.

4. Remind your child that adjusting to change takes time.

While God has a plan in mind that will use this situation for good, it may not happen overnight. It may take a while before your child can see how God is using the situation for good. Remind your child to be patient and to look for the bright spots along the way.

5. Be your child’s biggest champion.

If there’s something you can do to make the situation easier for your child, do it. There are moments when we need to step back and let our kids navigate their own way, but when a situation arises that our kids didn’t create, it’s OK for us to step in and be an advocate for our kids. When our kids are simply trying to process through a difficult situation, they may need our help to find their way. And that’s OK. That’s why they have us.

6. Keep an eye out for the good.

God promises that He works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). That means that no matter how difficult the situation, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep your eyes peeled for that light and point it out to your kids when you see it. Remind your kids that God isn’t going to leave them stuck in the difficult times forever. Good is coming. We just have to be looking for it.

Difficult situations aren’t fun for our kids, and they’re not fun for us. There’s nothing worse as a parent than to see your child hurting. But God gave our kids parents to help them find Him even in the difficult times. We just have to keep our eyes on Him and wait for Him to work things out for good.

Is Your Love Dependent on Your Child’s Performance?

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I made a parenting mistake this weekend. And my daughter called me on it.

We were at my daughter’s very early morning, very cold soccer game. She was struggling with it being her first game back after several weeks off for an injury. The field was wet, and the ball was skipping. She went to kick the ball right in front of where I was sitting on the sidelines. She missed. And I yelled her name in a harsh tone of voice.

My daughter was already frustrated because she wasn’t playing as well as she wanted to. Her ankle hurt. And her mom expressed frustration with her play.

I try really hard not to be an overbearing sports parent. I try to tell my girls I love watching them play no matter how they play. I try not to overanalyze their games. We try to let sports be just something else that they do — not the thing that defines their worth.

But on Saturday morning, I got caught up in the game. I got caught up in my daughter’s concern about her playing and her frustration with her ankle. I yelled, and she heard me.

When she came off the field, she was in tears. She was upset that her ankle still hurt. She was upset that she hadn’t played well. But the thing that made it all worse was that I had yelled at her. “You sounded more mad than my coach was,” she said.

That’s when I knew I’d blown it. That’s when I knew that I’d taken one step back on this parenting journey that is so often a constant dance of two steps forward and one step back.

You see, my job as a parent is to be there. It’s to pick my kids up when they fall. It’s to let them know that they are loved no matter what. It’s to have their backs all the time.

Because when my kids come off the field after a bad game or home from school after a frustrating day, they need to know that I love them not because of how they played or what grade they got on their test but because of who they are. They need to know that there’s one place in this world that’s safe, at least one person in this world who loves them no matter how they perform.

It’s easy to get caught up in our kids’ sports or artistic endeavors. It’s easy to focus on performance over character. It’s easy to crush our kids’ spirits because we forget that what they do on the sports field, the dance floor or at school isn’t a reflection of their worth.

When we parents become so caught up in our kids’ performances that we forget the performance has nothing to do with our child’s worth, we diminish who our kids are. When we focus only on performance, we reduce our kids to numbers and deeds. We lose sight of their personality and the plans that God has for them.

Simple words that we utter without thinking can make our kids think that we care more about their performance than we do about them as people, so we have to be careful. We have to think about what we say. We have to let our kids know we care more about them than we care about their performance. Because when we give the impression that we only love them when they perform well, we give our kids the impression that love is conditional. We turn love into something that has to be earned.

And when we do that, we can make our kids questions God’s love, too. If our love is conditional when our kids have every right to expect it to be unconditional, then how can they trust that God’s love is unconditional?

Our kids should never have to question whether we love them. They should never have to question if God loves them.

Our words have power, and we need to use them well. We need to use them to let our kids know they are loved no matter what. We need to use them to make sure our kids never think their worth is based on their performance. We need to simply be careful and choose our words wisely. Because when we do, we teach our kids the true meaning of unconditional love.