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Entries in Parenting (37)


Parenting Wisdom from the Garden

Sue Badeau (and her husband Hector) share a powerful story about adopting and raising 22 children. Sue has a lot of experience and wisdom to share, as she does in this positive Parenting UPGRADE.

"I do not have a green thumb," Sue says. "I can’t even keep a cactus alive and cactuses barely require any attention! If I can’t nurture plants to bloom and flourish, how can I do it for children, especially those with special needs? Have you ever felt this way?"

Yes, Sue. Every parent faces challenges, and there were times I (Dawn) wished I had a special button to push to make my children immediately blossom into godly, productive human beings. Though Sue doesn't have a "fix-it-quick" solution for all your parenting issues, but she does offer wise counsel.

Sue continues . . .

When I was a child, my Papa had a huge garden. I loved spending time watching him there.  Being a pesky little kid, I peppered him with questions:

“Papa, why is this one in the shade?

“Papa, why do those need stakes to hold them up, but the others don’t?”

“Papa, how can you tell the weeds from the good plants?” 

And on . . . and on . . . and on!

He always patiently answered me.

I’ve learned that being a mom, particularly to children with special needs, is a lot like being a gardener. You prepare the soil, plant and water. You fertilize, weed and prune. Most of all you pray, watch and wait.

Some flowers need lots of light; others need a cooler, darker place to grow. Water this one every day— that one only once a week. This one needs rich soil. This one does better in a sandy base.  

So much to keep straight.    

You have no control over the elements—sun, rain, wind. Early frost, squirrels, vandals. You pray, watch and wait.  

Some children are like zucchini. They grow and thrive anywhere. Some are like hot-house flowers—all conditions must be "just so" for them to reach their full potential. Some require so much more work than others, it's exhausting! 

When a bud appears, I rejoice and marvel in wonder at its beauty as it unfurls. When one begins to bow or break, I carefully provide extra supports and TLC.  

Sometimes, my best efforts are not enough.

And sometimes resilience, in spite of all my mistakes,  amazes me. 

Here are three top parenting tips I learned in Papa’s garden:

1. Learn as much as possible about each child’s unique needs.

Learn about temperament, learning styles and more so you’ll know how to provide the right amounts of "sun and fertilizer" for each child.

2. Forget about being "fair" if your idea of fairness is to treat each child the same.

Children bloom best when treated as individuals. All children will squawk about fairness; don’t let this tempt you to treat them all alike.

3. Pray, watch and wait.

There is much you can't control as a parent, just as there is for a gardener. Stay faithful in prayer, and wait expectantly for God to do a good work in each child, remembering: His timeline may be different than our own.

My children are not zucchini. 

But each one is a magnificent addition to my garden.

"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (2 Corinthians 9:10).

Which of these parenting "garden" tips speaks to you today? Is there something you need to do to tend your family garden?

Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker, author, and child welfare and trauma expert. Sue and her husband Hector are lifetime parents of twenty-two children—two by birth and twenty adopted. They wrote the book Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids. Learn more about Sue at and


Alike, But Opposite

Peggy Leslie, a Bible teacher, speaker and author, is first and foremost a Christian, wife and mom. It’s her “mom” role I wanted her to write about here, in a special Parenting UPGRADE.

“'Opposites' are supposed to be two different things. Right? So, how,” she asks, “did I get five opposites in my five children?”

Some years ago, Peggy told me (Dawn) about her special times of interceding for these five “opposites.” I loved it and asked her to share with UPGRADE readers.

Peggy continues . . .

Our first three children were born in less than three years. Even before the first reached kindergarten, I observed that from the beginning each one, though in many ways like the others, was different from his or her siblings.

Karen, our firstborn, had a beautiful Sunshine Girl smile and could be very entertaining. Yet overall she was somewhat reserved, definitely not a chatterer.

Chuck, on the other hand, was one of those outgoing children who never met a stranger. We said he was “born talking.”

Scott was the observant one and the one most likely to share deep feelings. One day little Scottie came to me and said, “Mommy, I feel sad.” None of the others ever did that voluntarily.  

The differences continued as Kate (the sweet little “ham” and born teacher) and April (the sensitive musician) came along.

In the beginning I knew nothing about studies on temperaments, A-B-C-D “types,” or birth-order. But as I observed—and dealt with—each child’s idiosyncrasies, I concluded that to a point, each of my children was “born that way.” 

God had designed each one with a unique, inborn make-up that Gene and I needed to recognize.  

Here are a few things I learned along the way—some of which I wish I’d figured out sooner!

1. Pray, pray, PRAY to know how to “Train up your child in the way he should go . . . " (Proverbs 22:6)—which will usually be quite different from his siblings!

Gene and I have always prayed for our children, but for a long time in a kind of haphazard way, and usually individually. Many years ago, we came up with a plan. We call it SPD—Special Prayer Day.

With seven in the family, each gets his or her own SPD (Sunday: Gene; Monday: Karen ....; Saturday: me). On that day, I usually contact that one by phone call, text or email and ask, “Do you have any SPRs [Special Prayer Requests] today?”

I cannot count the number of blessings and answers and special moments that has brought to our family.  

Come up with you own plan. Just be sure to pray!

2. Observe each child so you’ll recognize differences and know the way that one should go.

3. Celebrate each one’s uniqueness.

Don’t try to force one into an area he’s not good at (sports, music, drama, etc.).

Don't expect, or try to make, one child like another one.

4. Encourage talents or skills God put there by providing ways to enhance them (sports sign-ups, music lessons, etc.).

5. Discipline when a child uses those talents and skills in inappropriate ways.

To me, those last two hints envelope the meaning of Ephesians 6:4b: ...bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

6. Pray. It bears repeating!

Do you rejoice that your children are alike, but opposite? How do you pray for them?

Peggy Leslie is a long-time Bible teacher and international speaker. She and her husband Gene, married 51 years, are the parents of five grown children. They love to spend time with their 12 grandchildren and are blessed to have all of them living in San Diego County. She and co-author Donna Jeremiah have published two Christian mystery novels: Storm over Coronado and Intrigue in Coronado.


Raising Fearless Children in a Fear-Filled World

I've always been impressed with Julie Watson's godly approach to life. In this Parenting UPGRADE, she tackles the topic of children and fear.

“Spiders used to scare my children," Julie said. "Now, they get names and are considered family pets!”   

LOL! I (Dawn) don't think I'd ever name a spider, but I love Julie's story and the blessing she has already been to little ones who needed her to help them understand how to trust God.

Julie continues…

When my three amazing, foster children entered my life seven months ago, they were absolutely terrified of everything: the dark, being alone, new people, new places, and, of course, spiders to name a few.

For someone who had wasted ten years of her life living in fear, I could relate. I recalled what God taught me before I was delivered from my fear, but as a new mom I wasn’t sure how to teach my children the same in an age-appropriate way.

For me, after being diagnosed with a slow growing form of ovarian cancer at age 27, I lived in fear every day that the cancer would return.

The sad part is that I had (audibly) heard God say to me, “You’ll never go through this again,” after receiving my diagnosis. I knew that still, small voice was God’s. I knew it, but the more I thought about it, doubt began to creep in and questioned it. I questioned it every day for 10 years.

On the 10th anniversary of my surgery, I got down on my face before God and begged Him to remove the fear that had kept me in bondage.

I had an instant healing! Immediately I received peace that the words spoken to me in the hospital all those years before were indeed His; I had nothing to fear. I walked out of my room that day free from my fear and I never looked back.   

Considering all the years I wasted, I didn’t want my kids to wait to learn to trust God.

I started with small things: spiders!

“God made spiders,” I reasoned, “to help keep the bug population down. Would you prefer to have more bugs or less bugs?” I asked.


“Then, you have to see that God’s purpose for spiders is good—as He gives everything a purpose, including you!”

Long story short, after about two months of showing the children how nice spiders are, the kids stopped screaming every time they saw a Daddy Longlegs.

Last month the kids actually started giving names to the spiders and call for us all to come meet our new “pet.” To this day, Blackie, a family favorite, still has his home set up in a corner of our sunroom. 

With kids you start with the small stuff and then move on to the more difficult as their faith grows.

Here are the steps I have been using that can free us if we are living in fear. 

1) Believe God’s Word is true.

Whether He has audibly spoken to you or has talked to you in prayer or through His Word, know this: It is true! (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:105

2) Don’t doubt God by listening to the lies of the enemy.

Put on the full armor of God and protect your heart, mind and spirit. (Ephesians 6:11-13)

3) Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

As a child of God you have the power of the Almighty’s name—the most powerful thing in the universe. Use it! If you can’t think of anything else to say, just say "Jesus" and the enemy must leave! (James 4:7, 2 Timothy 1:7)

4) God’s plans for you are perfect and He will always see them through to fruition.

Even though life is not always easy, God will never leave or forsake you. He will walk beside you to see His purpose fulfilled in and through you! (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 121)

And, yes, in case you’re wondering . . . as of today, my kids are no longer afraid of spiders, the dark, being alone, going to new places or meeting new people, as long as we have prepared them a bit and reminded them why there is no reason to fear when Jesus lives in our hearts.

Are you fearful of something and living in bondage? How will you protect yourself from the enemy and find freedom from fear today?

Julie Watson worked in children’s ministries for 10 years and as a Grant writer before becoming a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. She and her husband, Shawn know these children were hand-picked by God to be their own, and plan to adopt them as soon as they are legally allowed. 


Help Children Think Outside Themselves

Have you ever fallen for the slogan, “Because you’re worth it”? In today’s Parenting UPGRADE, Moms Inc. ministry founder, Holly Hanson, shares her insights on raising kids who see the value in considering others more important than themselves.

“It’s easy to live in this world and believe the lies that everything should be all about you!” Holly says.     

I (Dawn) see this message ("You're worth it ... You deserve this!") everywhere, and Holly explains it’s pretty hard to fight, especially for the younger generation. Although selfless living is important all year long, the holidays are a good time to help children focus on others. Holly recently shared with me the tools she is using to help her young daughter develop eyes that see beyond herself.

Holly continues …

We began developing this character trait of looking for opportunities to share when Angela was quite small.

I can remember lots of times when we would go to an event, intentionally bringing an extra parking pass, meal voucher, or entry ticket, just for the enjoyment letting her find a family who was in need and blessing them with it. 

The big payoff came on Halloween this year. We headed to the pumpkin patch with two of her fifth grade friends and a few train ride tickets they planned to use. We had two spare tickets, and I asked Angela and her buddies if they would like to scope out a family with children and make their night a little brighter. I waited in line while they went off to do the job.

Angela quickly ran back and said, “Mom, I’m going to give my ticket away. The family we picked has three kids, and we need one more so they can all go together. I just won’t ride this time.”

It was at that moment I thanked God for a glittering glimpse of selflessness in the heart of my 10-year-old daughter. (Angela is in the center of the photo, above.)

Looking beyond yourself is a lifestyle practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

In several Bible passages, we are encouraged to selflessly think of others.

Matthew 25:40 says, “The king will reply, ‘Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”

In Romans 12:10, Paul says, “Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another.”

Eagerness. I think that’s the true key.

When we actively look for opportunities to see beyond ourselves, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some ways to encourage selflessness: 

  1. Encourage your child to invite a shy student to his or her birthday party.
  2. Find a homeless person who spends time near your home or work or school. Work with your children to think of safe ways to bless that person and regularly encourage them.
  3. Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child or buy a gift for an Angel Tree family this Christmas. Help your kids (or grandkids) imagine what those children would love to receive.
  4. Encourage your child to find a new friend each year when school starts or on the first day of camp - and show them “the ropes”. I recently was told that this made all the difference for a little girl Angela met this summer.
  5. Model the practice of giving up your seat, letting others in line ahead of you, and helping an elderly person (or a mom wrangling kids) with the door, if you see a need.
  6. Find a friend’s monetary or material need and simply meet it. Host a fundraiser, get a donation, or do a garage sale.
  7. Establish a regular prayer list for people in your circle of influence who are hurting or need intercession. Encourage your children to make their own list. This is critical in teaching them that they have the power to ask God for big things on behalf of others.

Also, create ways to incorporate a “purpose” into events you host at your house.

One year we created a “water science” birthday party and used experiments to teach the kids about clean water. Instead of bringing birthday gifts, we asked our guests to bring between $5 and $10 to be contributed toward a well-drilling project through World Help.

My friends told me their kids came home talking all about it, with empathy for others they didn’t have before.

It’s these small foundational steps that help us reap the rewards of putting others ahead of ourselves.

Nobody ever became a worse person because they cared about others.

Which of the seven steps above can you do right away to encourage selfless living in your own family?

Holly Hanson is a veteran Emmy Award-winning journalist who finds her calling in her family motto: “Love God, Serve Others.” Holly has written and produced internationally for Women of Faith, Turning Point Ministries, and locally with KFMB-TV, KFMB-AM and KPBS Radio. She is married and is a mom, step-mom and grandma. Holly is active at Shadow Mountain Community Church, serving on the Women's Ministries Council, singing in the choir, and running Moms Inc., a ministry she founded and directs. 


Creating Screen-Free Spaces

Arlene Pellicane is committed to family togetherness, and in this Parenting UPGRADE, she explains how modern media can get in the way.

“When my husband and I were married more than fifteen years ago, he had a strange request,”LetSomeT Arlene said. “Could we have a TV-free home for the first month of our marriage? He wanted to spend quality time together in the evenings after work instead of turning on the tube.”

My (Dawn’s) first impression when I read that was, "Wow! What a man. What insight!”

Arlene continues …

Although it was quite a stretch (I was working as a television producer then), we did it. When we brought the television back, it seemed like a noisy intruder to our peaceful oasis. We’ve never subscribed to cable or watched TV in our home since. 

As a result, our children (ages 4, 7 and 9) have grown up in a TV-free home. My kids aren’t up on the latest programs. They’ve never had the television on as background noise. When it is movie night or we watch a funny video online, it’s a big event and the kids come running. 

But I can honestly say a media-poor life has given us a family-rich life. Ethan, Noelle and Lucy have grown up with a love of books, music, exercise and plenty of time for imaginative play. 

Now I am not saying that canceling cable is for every household. But I do want to encourage you that it is possible to raise your children differently even in a media-saturated world.

My oldest, Ethan, is in fifth grade, and his friends can’t believe he doesn’t have a television or video games. 

“You poor thing, what do you do all day?” they ask. Ethan smiles and says he likes to read, play the piano, and build things with Legos. It may be difficult at first to cut back on television for your family, but in time healthier alternatives will arise in the absence of television.

Now, before you think I’m unaffected by screen time, let me confess. 

I may not watch television, but my home computer with its dual monitors is always humming. I’m constantly sitting in front of my computer, writing books or blogs, checking emails and social media, updating my calendar and contacts. I’ve explained that mommy is an author who works from home, which legitimizes my screen time to my children. 

But I know many times I’m shopping on Amazon or reading a friend’s blog—spending unnecessary minutes with my screens instead of taking a break. 

Spouses are especially gifted at pointing out areas of improvement.

When I asked James about my screen time, he exclaimed, “You are always on your computer!”

As a result of this realization, I am doing an experiment by turning off my computer after dinner. This forces me to be more productive in the day time and ensures I won’t waste my time mindlessly online in the evening. 

Like me, most adults automatically check their devices several times an hour. Staring at screens is anything but relaxing. So when you set a curfew for all your gadgets and power off at the same time each night, it will actually prepare you to have a better night’s rest. You can put yourself, not just your kids, on a schedule. 

How much television are you going to watch per day? How long are you going to stay online? 

My co-author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World, Dr. Gary Chapman, posted a question on my Facebook page about how to create more distance between ourselves and our digital devices. Here are a few of the responses:   

We are putting a bin at our front door with a sign that says, “Unless you are expecting a call from God, the Pope, or the President – please deposit your device here so we can make the most of our time together.

We unplug from the time we get home until we get up again the next morning. 

Try going without devices in your home just two days a week and see how relaxed and refreshed you are.  Enjoy the outdoors the other days. True happiness! 

Wireless is on a timer so it goes off at night. 

There are many ways you can tailor-make a digital Sabbath that will work well for you and your family.

As you pull away from the noise of the screen, you will be able to tune into the heart of God and your family members more easily.   

What has worked well in your life to create screen-free space?  What would you like to try this week? 

Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (co-authored with Gary Chapman), 31 Days to a Happy Husband, and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. Arlene has been featured on the Today Show, Family Life Today, K-LOVE, The Better Show, The 700 Club, Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah, and TLC’s Home Made Simple. Visit Arlene at for free family resources including a monthly Happy Home podcast.

Note from Dawn: In case you still need some motivation to create screen-free space in your life, watch this sweet, powerful video featuring Arlene’s family.

Graphics: adapted image, courtesy of smarnad and photostock, both at



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