When Your Kids Are Like Night and Day by Jessie Weaver


I’ve always been sort of baffled at how very unalike my two older children are.

Exhibit A: This was one of the first times David played on ABCMouse, a learning Web site. When his sister (older by two years) does these coloring pages on the site, she generally does everything one color, wanting to get it done as soon as possible. These days, she enjoys spending all her earned “tickets” to buy clothes for her avatar and decorate her virtual room. She is jealous of her brother’s thousands of tickets, earned because he will do puzzles on the highest level and spends his time detailing the coloring pages.


Exhibit B: This boy loves to dress up. He never changes after church on Sunday, no matter how dressed up he is. The first Monday after he wore his fancy suit to church on Sunday, he was home alone with my husband. Adam asked him to go get dressed. Adam says he came out dressed in the suit, again, having dug it out of the dirty clothes. Poor David had to learn that we do not wear dirty clothes. Usually.

My daughter, on the other hand, no matter how much she loves to dress up, changes the second she gets home from church into “comfy clothes.” I am never sure whether she is uncomfortable or she just wants the chance to wear another outfit. But she has to get into a new get-up whether Mommy thinks it’s necessary or not.

These two, they are remarkably different, showing that nature can have a funny sense of humor. I’ve never know whether it’s boy/girl, older/younger, or just their personalities. One is an extroverted, wild, active child with gangly limbs and big curls. One is introverted, generally quiet and focused, teensy-tiny and with none of his brother and sister’s curly locks. They are night and day.

I’ve found, though, that my job as a parent is not to identify more with one of them. I see myself and my husband in both of their personalities. I love those little reflections. But I can love every piece of them, as different as those pieces may be. And, most importantly, I learn differently from my children. From Libbie, I learn to live a little more exuberantly, embracing life in its fullest, loving people loudly. From David, I learn patience (did I mention he is SLOWWWWW?) and to take time to stop and smell the roses. I try to delight a little bit more at dandelions and puffy clouds.

God’s given me three very different children. (I’m not even getting into my baby, here!) And they are all blessings. I just have to learn how to delight in their differences!

Jessie Weaver writes regularly about family, faith, and food at jessieweaver.net. 


What Is Special Needs Parenting? by Ellen Stumbo


I heard someone say, “All children are special, and all children have needs.” While parenting children with disabilities does present an extra set of challenges, I do think it is helpful to think about the commonalities of parenting.

Many special needs parents feel isolated, but I have discovered that isolation is not reserved for special needs parents. I have heard from many young parents, single parents, and those with young children in the home that they too feel isolated. Maybe we can help each other feel a little less alone.

Special needs parents need friends. But so do parents of typical children. Friendship is a need we all have, and we all want to have meaningful relationships, friends that we can call up at any time and share life with.

Special needs parents worry about their kids constantly. Yes, our worries are exponential, especially if we have medically fragile children. There is no comparison, but all parents worry about their children too. I have friends who worry that their kid is hanging out with the wrong friends, or that they’re experimenting with drugs, or that their teenage daughter could get pregnant. While our worries might be different, we all worry. Maybe we can pray for each other, lift our kids up to God, and ask for wisdom and guidance as we parent.

Special needs parents worry their kids won’t have any friends or that they’ll be picked on. Yet I have talked to so many parents of typical children that worry about the same thing. And I have seen their tears and watched as they try to protect their kids. We love our kids fiercely, not one of us has more love than the other.

Special needs parents don’t have a manual or road map to know how to parent their kids. Parents of typical kids don’t either. We are all doing the best we can.

We are all parents, just parents, trusting that God will guide us in this lifetime adventure.

Ellen Stumbo Head Shot




Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com

5 Ways to Show Love to Your Kids Every Day by Jessie Weaver

With Valentine’s Day behind us, sometimes we can forget about showing love to our kids on a daily basis in tangible ways. Here are some easy ways to do that!


Foster Creativity

“Genuinely embrace their creativity – even if it doesn’t fit your definition of creativity. If it is drumming, give them the opportunity to play. If it is art or poetry, give them the tools they need to exercise that. Expressing their creativity is an expression of who they are. If we deny them that, we deny them the opportunity to grow into their own person.”12 Most

Go on “Dates” with Your Kids

10 ideas from Bella Thorne

“Going out for frozen yogurt at those popular FroYo bars is fun. Adding your toppings is so much fun. This is a perfect date night activity with your daughter. Going out for ice cream would be fun too. For some reason, you feel less guilty about eating frozen yogurt.”Long Wait for Isabella

“If there’s a splash park near your home, take her there often. She will be drawn to the water like a duck to a puddle.”From Dates to Diapers

Eat Dessert for Breakfast. Just Because You Can.

Send Fun/Funny/Seasonal Foods in Their Lunches.

Source: weheartit.com via Renée on Pinterest



Celebrate a Weird Holiday.

March 10 is “Middle Name Pride” Day. February 27 is “Polar Bear Day”! (Ideas for polar bear books and activities.)

“What could be better than Fairy Tale Day? Once upon a time there was Fairy Tale Day and we all lived happily ever after, the end. Great day to read some famous Fairy Tales to your kids.” – Squidoo, Weird February Holidays

What do you do to show your kids love every day?

February 2011: ParentLife Everyday

Each month ParentLife pulls together a one-page document for preschool and children’s leaders and teachers that highlights articles that might help families they work with. But this also is a great tool for parents!

The articles below are in our current February 2011 issue of ParentLife. Read the articles that minister to your family and pass along a copy to those who might benefit from it!



A Joyful Attitude: Equip parents in your church to teach their children not just respectful obedience but joyful obedience with three practical steps (pp. 14-15).

Kids with Connections: Encourage families to build healthy, positive relationships within their families, church, and community (pp. 22-23).

A Hope and a Future: Walk alongside families who have children with autism or other special needs. Remind them of the hope God promises (pp. 28-31).

Have a Church Preschool? Pass ParentLife along to parents on the lookout for a great preschool! And help make your preschool attractive to parents who are searching (pp. 12-13).

Growing Godly Girls: Give both moms and dads this section of articles focused on daughters this month in ParentLife (pp. 34-36).

A Great Christian Camp Experience: Learn more about CentriKid camps and why this summer experience could revitalize your children’s ministry (pp. 16-17).

100% – The number of kids in your home and church who will learn about love from their parents and adult leaders. Show them God’s love this Valentine’s Day!

For a downloadable PDF of this content, click on the link below:

ParentLife EveryDay February 2011

ParentLife Everyday December 2010

Each month ParentLife pulls together a one-page document for preschool and children’s leaders and teachers that highlights articles that might help families they work with. But this also is a great tool for parents!

All of the articles below are in our current December issue of ParentLife. Read the articles that minister to your family and pass along a copy to those who might benefit from it!


Know Busy Parents?
As kids get older, they seem to get busier. This article will help parents in your ministry maximize their tie connecting with their preteen through minimum planning and focused effort (pp. 16-17).

"I cannot raise this girl, but You can. I give her back to You."

—Max Lucado’s prayer about his newborn daughter, Jenna, when faced with the fears of becoming a new parent (pp. 18-21).

Help Parents in Uncertain Times
Are parents in your ministry fearful? Fearful of the economy? Fearful of job loss? Fearful of the future? Max Lucado inspires parents and points them toward God who holds the future (pp. 18-21).

Walking Through the Storm

Guide parents in your church who are going through difficulty. Angie Smith’s testimony and example of strength through a season of loss will inspire you (pp. 34-36).

Listen & Learn
Equip divorced parents in your church to know how to listen to their kids and help them navigate the impact of divorce. Counselor David Thomas answers common questions regarding the children of divorce (pp. 24-25).

Fixing Our Fibbing

Encourage families in your church to practice honesty and personal integrity. This article emphasizes the importance of setting an honest example for children (even in the small things) (pp. 22-23).

Everyday Teaching Moments

Equip parents in your ministry with practical ideas for experiencing God in daily family life. Pass along these three articles to help parents to teach their kids about God (pp. 26-27, 47).

—The percentage of ParentLife readers who love Christmas! Equip parents in your ministry to put Christmas in perspective this year with these six articles (pp. 38-41, 43-44).

For a downloadable pdf of this content, click on the link below:



Happy Haircuts

125_haircut.jpgIt is amazing how a haircut on a toddler can make a "baby" suddenly turn into a "big boy." I experienced this firsthand last week. My 20-month-old, Jack, has had a few haircuts here and there — short trims but nothing drastic. We tried to taking him to a salon once and it was not a pleasant experience, so the past few times, my husband has cut Jack’s hair at home.

Last Monday we decided it was time to cut it again. We’ve kept it fairly long for quite some time, but warmer weather is just around the corner and it was starting to get in his eyes, so we decided to go for a shorter cut this time. I was nervous, but ulitmately, I knew it was time!

So we put Jack in the bathtub (without water of course, makes for easier cleanup), brought in his favorite snacks and toys, and broke out the clippers. This plan worked well the last time we trimmed Jack’s hair, but this time was a different story. He was not at all interested in cooperating. He cried, screamed, and wiggled through the whole experience (which made this mommy want to cry right along with him). One of his wiggles caused Jason to take a fairly big chunk out of the side of his hair. We finished up as best we could, but Jack was making it difficult. So we gave up. (As a side note: I thought Jack would be mad at us for at least a little while afterward, but he bounced back quickly as if nothing had ever happend … much to my relief!)

The haircut looked passable … but Jason and I weren’t happy with it … especially with the super-short patch on the side. So Tuesday, much to my protest, we tried it again. This time, we brought the laptop into the bathroom and popped in one of Jack’s favorite DVDs. He sat still and cooperated without a single tear this time. It was like he was a different child. Jason was able to shorten everything up and blend in the sides without any trouble.

The result … my baby is now a big boy with a big-boy haircut. I was in mourning for a few days, but I got over it and realize now that it adds to his super-cuteness!

I don’t have any deep insight or thoughts to share based on this experience. I’m just curious … What was your child’s first haricut like? What tips or tricks do you have that you could share with other ParentLife readers? Do you cut your child’s hair or do you take him to a salon? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment or e-mail us at parentlife@lifeway.com.

Mommy Time-Outs by Jennifer Holt

My little boy, Jack, will be turning 2 in only four months, and I have a feeling that I’ll be putting Jennifer Holt’s tips for reclaiming 2s from tantrums (in the March 2010 issue of ParentLife) to good use! But sometimes it is not just your child that needs a time-out. Parents need time-outs too.  Consider the following extra tips from Jennifer!

Mommy Time-Outs

123_angry_2s.jpgSometimes despite all our best efforts, toddlers can get the upper hand. If you feel your blood pressure rising, it might be a good idea to take a time out of your own.  Here are some ideas.

  1. Walk away to a quiet place. If you are in your own home, be sure your toddler is in a safe place and take a moment for yourself. You may even need to go outdoors.
  2. Get distracted. Turn on your favorite TV brain drain or put your mp3 player headphones in. It’s OK to take a moment for yourself before you lose your temper.
  3. Get a drink of water if you can’t physically walk away. It will cool your body down and hopefully your emotions.
  4. Make a phone call to a friend. I’m sure you know someone else who has children who can sympathize!
  5. Just breathe. If you know any deep breathing techniques, they can be helpful. If not, just take a series of five deep breaths, filling your entire stomach with air from your nose, then pushing the air out through your mouth.

Damage Control
Many times you can see the writing on the wall just before your toddler explodes. When you see your child escalating, try some of these tips. Eventually, your child may learn to self-soothe with these same techniques.

  1. Pretend Play. Ask your child to pretend he is someone else. What would Thomas the Train or Spiderman be doing right now? What would they say?
  2. Start the Music. Singing a happy song (with hand motions!) often helps. I love to use “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” even when you’re not so happy.
  3. Physical Touch. If you have a sensory kid, she may respond to a tight hug, a back scratch, or a rocking motion.
  4. Distraction. Carry a favorite toy or snack in your purse as a distraction. Sometimes a “stress ball” or squeezable toy will help children to self-calm.

What are your favorite (and effective) ways for dealing with tantrums? 

Spring Is Almost Here!

I do not know about you, but I am always happy to turn my calendar to the month of March. Typically by mid-January, I am tired of winter. The holidays are over, the days are cold, and the daylight is in short supply. In Middle Tenessee (where we live), it does not snow much at all (although this winter we’ve had more than enough). But a typical winter day is often cold, rainy, and dreary.

Jodi_picture.JPGThis year, I am afraid our family also has cabin fever. My little boy, Jack, is almost 20 months old and he loves to be outside. It has been a long winter spent mainly in the house. We are anxious to get outside and enjoy the outdoors comfortably again. Thank goodness there have been a few spring-like days just recently where we’ve been able to get outside!

One of the DVDs we like to watch with Jack walks through the four seasons and highlights the things that make each season unique. It has made me stop and think recently about how amazing our Creator is. Each season is special in its own way. Each season provides something to get excited about and yet there is always something that makes you look forward to the next season as well.

  • Summer is warm and a great time to spend outside enjoying God’s creation.
  • Fall brings relief from the summer’s heat, and the leaves are bright and beautiful as they change colors.
  • In the winter, everyone looks forward to (or wishes for) the beauty of falling snow. Winter also is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
  • And in the spring, we begin to see God’s creation come alive again, a perfect reminder of Easter and Jesus’ resurrection. It is a time of joy!

So in keeping with the spirit of spring, the March 2010 issue of ParentLife is packed with joy! You won’t want to miss it!

  • March10PLCover.jpgSpring is a time to celebrate. Get creative, budget-friendly party ideas in the article “Let’s Have a Party!”
  • Take time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through the eyes of your child in “Do You See What I See?” 
  • Start making plans now to implement some new Easter family traditions with “Favorite Easter Traditions” from readers just like you.
  • And don’t miss “Bonnie St. John: Make Time for Joy” to find out how this single mother has found joy in every aspect of life.

So even though it was snowing on my way in to work this morning, I’m encouraged by the fact that Spring is just around the corner! Have a great Spring!

Don’t forget to let us know what you think about our March 2010 issue! We love feedback from our readers.

Preteens & Dating Terms by Mia Pinson

115_Preteen_dating.jpgPreteen dating is not something that should be taken lightly. In fact, statistics show that preteen dating can lead to serious problems. Depending on whom you talk to, each of the following terms can have a different definition. But this glossary should give parents an idea of what their children are talking about when they mention dating or a relationship. Discussing these terms with your child now can help you set guidelines for the future as you seek God’s plan for his life.

  • Hooking Up — The term “hooking up” equals every parent’s nightmare. And, it does happen with preteens. When two preteens hook up, they get together for one party, one night, or even just one hour. Sometimes, they know each other, and sometimes, they do not. It really does not matter because there are no strings attached, no commitments, and no plans to ever develop a relationship.
  • FWB (Friends with benefits) — Two good friends who do not want to be in a boy/girl relationship. Instead, they become involved physically whenever it “just happens.”
  • Talking — When a boy and girl are “talking,” they are casually flirting and showing interest in each other. Most of the time, they are not ready to commit to a relationship and are testing the waters to see if their relationship can go further.
  • Drop-Off Dating — Drop-off dating occurs when parents drop their preteen off somewhere they think is safe such as a mall, skating ring, or movie theater. What parents may not realize is often after they are dropped off, their children are picked up and taken to another location.
  • Going Out — When two preteens say they are “going out,” they probably mean they are in a relationship that is recognized by their peers as exclusive. Terms like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are used. Preteens can “go out” without going anywhere on a date.
  • Group Dating — Group dating can be chaperoned or unchaperoned. When preteens group date, they may go out with older friends who drive. Caution: Going on group dates no longer means that your child is safe from being physically intimate (especially if your preteen group dates with older couples). Many teens and preteens now act the same way in front of their friends that they would alone. In fact, sometimes being with friends actually makes it more difficult for preteens to say  “no” to situations in which they are uncomfortable.
  • Family Dating — For many, family dating is a good alternative to secular dating. After searching God’s Word and listening to each other, families can choose their own rules and relationship guidelines. Family dating allows parents to get to know their child’s friends in a more natural setting while it still keeps children under the protection and guidance of their parents.
  • Courtship — Courtship is a “no nonsense” approach to finding a mate. Courtship is not a casual dating relationship. In fact, some couples wait until marriage to kiss each other. Generally, in courtship, a man will pursue a woman with the ultimate goal of finding a spouse. She, in turn, has the benefit of her family’s support and of knowing the man who is pursuing her is seriously seeking God’s plan for their future instead of a casual relationship.

For more on preteen dating, don’t miss Mia’s article "Growth Spurts: 9 to 12 Years — The Dating Game" in this month’s issue of ParentLife.

Is your preteen dating? Does your preteen use these terms? Tell us about your experiences!


Thinking About a Pet?

We had a tough last year with our pets. Our youngest pet, Tobey, was killed by a wild animal in a neighbor’s yard. Our oldest cat, Samantha, had to be put to sleep because of mouth cancer. Aside from dealing with the loss of these dear pets and talking with our kids about their deaths, we soon found that we really wanted another pet. After 5 months, we finally decided on a cat, Charlie. He is a frisky tabby that we dearly love!

After talking with a rep from the ASCPA about a ParentLife article, we found that many families adopt pets at Christmastime. Our monthly Real Life Solutions writer, Dr. LInda Mintle, has some good advice for families considering getting a pet.

Q: Our 10-year-old daughter is begging us for a pet. I have two younger children and adding a pet to the mix feels overwhelming. However, my daughter desperately wants a pet and I am an animal lover. I am not sure about the added responsibility right now. What should we consider in making this decision?

92_pet-adoption.jpgA: Most children will beg you for a pet some time in their young lives. The main issues to consider are the child’s developmental stage and your expectations for taking care of a pet. Obviously a cat or dog would require care and attention — feeding, grooming, exercise, clean up, and more. Other pets, such as fish and guinea pigs, are less time and care intensive and good choices for younger children. They offer you an opportunity to see how committed to taking care of a pet your child really is and how long interest will be sustained. Go to the library and get a book about pet care. As a family, talk about the needs of a pet, what type of pet you may consider, and what the expectations would be. For example, certain dog breeds are more kid-friendly than others. Goldfish or hermit crab requires very little upkeep and expense. Visit a pet store and talk with a friend who has the kind of pet you are interested in to get a better idea of time and care issues.

Know that your child could lose interest in the pet after several weeks and you may end up with the responsibility. Schedule playdates with a friend who has a pet and see if the interest in the pet sustains over time. Decide what you can handle right now and do not be swayed by the begging.

Finally, consider the cost of owning a pet, family stability in terms of moves and housing, the demand of time and energy, and the possibility of the pet becoming a source of family conflict if people slack off on their responsibilities. The benefits of pet owning should be considered as well. Pets help teach a child structure, empathy, compassion, nurturing, loyalty, trust, and responsibility and provide companionship. Pets are also sources of unconditional love and dependability. Pets can improve mood and blood pressure, increase family exercise, and even reduce stress.

For more information on adopting a pet, visit aspca.org. Visit Dr. Linda Mintle at drlindahelps.com.

Do you have a pet? Tell us what kind of pet you have and why!