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Tell Them Your Stories!

Have you told your children your stories? Not just what happened the day they were born, or how you and your husband met, but the ones about you--the ones that tell what you were like when you were little, the things that made you into the person you are now. It can mean a lot to a child to hear that her mother used to be a little girl, that maybe she got in trouble, or was once very sick or struggled with math--maybe she did something really, really bad, and had to apologize and be punished!

You may have forgotten a lot of those things, or intentionally put them behind you, but these stories are powerful. Imagine how a child who's been made fun of, or who doesn't do well in school, or who has badly misbehaved and has to make amends might feel hearing a similar story from you: What a gift! To learn that she's not alone, that someone she loves and respects--her own mother or father--knows how she feels and can understand her pain!

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when you share your stories:

  • Share how you handled it--how did it feel to have to confess that you stole something? How did it feel when you were the only one not invited to the party?

  • Explain what you said to yourself; did you call yourself names, or say "You're so stupid!" to yourself? Did you continue to think of yourself in this way after the event, maybe even as an adult? Were you confident that your parents and friends would still love you?

  • Explain the difference between knowing that you're guilty--you DID something wrong and must make things right--and feeling a sense of shame--you ARE a bad person, and must hide when you make a mistake, because if someone knows what you did, they won't love you anymore.

  • Explain the love of God to your child--He has promised forgiveness, and He has promised never to leave you or turn away from you. He loves you! Always!

  • Of course, remind your child of your love for her as well, NO MATTER WHAT! Help her to understand that all of us are learning to act in a more loving and virtuous way, but that we all do selfish and naughty things from time to time.

  • In your determination to avoid shaming your child, don't neglect or be afraid to give consequences for bad behavior. It can be difficult to punish a child who has tearfully, genuinely apologized, but it's still incredibly important that you punish and correct; children must learn that a decision to act in a disobedient, defiant, or destructive way will always end in loss and separation--pain of one kind or another.

When you show your child that you have weaknesses, when you empathize with her pain and help her through it, you'll also be giving her the ability to empathize with others.

And a last note about sharing your stories: Use discernment; some things should not be shared, or at least not with younger children; also, be careful not to glorify or joke about "getting away" with things you'd never want to encourage your child to do.

When you show your child that you have weaknesses, when you empathize with her pain and help her through it, you'll also be giving her the ability to empathize with others. When she starts to realize other people have rough times, even her parents, it's easier for her to be aware of how others are feeling.

Begin to think about some of your stories (don't forget the funny ones!) and have them ready so that when your child comes home discouraged, wounded, defeated, you can say, "Let me tell you a story. . ."

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