What exactly is a sturdy kid and why should parents want to raise one?
Sturdy children understand truth and operate in it regardless of how they feel. They are not ruled by their emotions. They seek out challenges and accomplish hard things all the while keeping a positive attitude.
Keith McCurdy gave some practical insight on what parents can do to Raise Sturdy Children at the ACCS conference last summer. Here are just a few of his simple recommendations:
- Claim who you are as a family: The speaker’s family had certain things they do and don’t do. The kids were well-versed in the family boundaries and it made them more secure and confident in who they were as a family unit. I want my children to feel security and identity in who they are as Perrymans. For example, the McCurdy family does not allow the children to have sleep overs of any kind. The children know that as McCurdy’s, they don’t do sleep overs. There is no long explanation required, it’s just a family rule. I can think of a few I would like for my girls: Perryman girls don’t cause drama! (A mom can wish, right?)
- Do less and require more of your children: McCurdy asked the audience to think of all the chores in their home their children would not be physically able to do. I sat and thought and could only come up with one: mowing the lawn. He urged parents to involve the children in chores. Baby boomer research has shown doing chores as a child was a common denominator in successful and responsible adults. My oldest, who is 9 years old, is able to do laundry from start to finish. She knows how to run the washer and dryer and is completely responsible for her and her sister’s laundry. My younger two help with loading, switching out, folding and putting away all their own clothes, even my three year old. I no longer do my children’s laundry. It is wonderful. They clean their rooms, vacuum, clean their own bathroom and load/unload the dishwasher. Even with all these chores, they still have plenty of down time to read, play and do homework.
- Emotions are God-given and valuable, but they cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy: This is why we cry in a movie; in that moment, our emotions are being manipulated by perfectly orchestrated words, actions and music on a screen to evoke a specific emotion. Our brains know it’s fantasy, but our emotions just don’t care! Our emotions are not a valid compass for life. Emotions do not necessarily tell us the truth. Our children’s emotions run the gamut on a daily basis. In my home, I have three daughters. While there is a lot of joy with all girls, there are also a LOT of emotions! My girls’ emotions are valid and important, but they should not have rule over them. McCurdy said something very interesting to me: God gave us emotions, so we could experience His love more fully! What a wonderful perspective! Our emotions are a manifestation of how much God loves us and we must learn at an early age how to manage them well, so we do not live in constant emotional turmoil.
- Put things in the right order: There is an order to life. For example, when children come home from school, they do home work and then chores and then have free time. This teaches children the proper order of things and a good work ethic. Teach children freedom and privilege are tied to responsibility.
- Limit technology: Parents have virtually ignored the research describing the negative effects of technology and invented the idea that kids need technology. McCurdy recommends teaching the skill before the technology. Before using a calculator, learn how to work the math out on paper. Before using GPS, use a map to find where you are and where you need to go. What would our kids be able to do if suddenly they found themselves without technology to help them? My oldest daughter was struggling with her multiplication facts this past year in 3rd grade. So, what do you think I did? I went to the app store on my phone and downloaded about 20 math apps for her to practice, of course! Instead of addressing the lack of understanding the concept of multiplication, I gave her a technological tool to help her memorize answers that also didn’t require a lot of extra effort from me. Technology has made me a lazy parent in so many ways and McCurdy’s words resonated with me on this point. My children need to learn the skills and I need to stop being lazy and dependent on technology to teach my kids. Ouch. That stung.
I truly enjoyed my time at the ACCS conference and pray I can apply these parenting truths in my children’s lives as well as my students’ lives.
If you would like to hear more about sturdy kids, listen here.