Stone Soup for Five: Help for parents of hard kids {and a read-aloud list}

Help for parents of hard kids {and a read-aloud list}

After talking with some friends and looking back through the years, I thought it might be good to give you an update and a look back on raising a hard kid...  Though I am the first to tell you that we didn't do a lot of things right, there were a few things that seemed to help us during those stormy years.

So it is with trepidation that I'm writing this to you, but also with hope.  Because if you are in the trenches right now you probably need what I needed--someone who has been there giving you some ideas and suggestions so that you'll both hopefully come out of this alive.

Here are a few things we did, that now looking back on I think had the biggest positive impact on us and our hard kid.

1.  Find a common link with your hard kid. 
For us it is our sense of humor.  He has a quick wit and great way of picking out the hilarious in everyday life.  We often crack up at the same things and love laughing together.  All of us have the same dry sense of humor and it has served us well.  I am constantly on a search for things to laugh about together, especially as they get older and the laughable moments seem to come less and less.  Maybe your link isn't humor.  Find something, anything that you have in common.  Is it art or drawing?  A similar interest in airplanes or cars?  Video games?  Sports?  Outdoors?  Find it and start thinking of ways you can enjoy it together.

2.  Do something intentionally and routinely.
After reading a book I picked up on a whim at the library one day, I decided to read aloud to my boys for 100 days straight.  That's three and a half months.  I often do things like this... set a new goal, start a new thing, all excited about it because it will be AMAZING!  But I didn't take into account that I would also have to do this around often stinky attitudes, that seem to grow worse in the evenings.  But, you guys, we did it.  We read aloud for 100 days straight (I think we missed one or two because of a trip.)
There were nights I was fighting back tears, literally.  And nights I was so angry that it was hard to speak the words softly (which was a GREAT, humbling practice).  There were even a few nights that my hard kid wouldn't come in to our room for read aloud (but chose to listen from his room with the door open).
This 100 day read-aloud still, years later, gives us things to talk about, books to remember, series to look back on fondly, and fictional characters to battle against each other (Lord Ombra from Peter and the Starcatchers still beats most characters as the baddest and toughest to defeat).  I'll have a list of our favorite books at the bottom of this post.

3.  Take them to church.
Ever since our boys were little, church was what we did on Sunday.  I was usually a hot mess on Sunday mornings getting everyone up, fed, and out the door with most of their clothes on, but we made sure to make it happen.  As they got older, and approached the ages of 17 and 18, sometimes they wanted to sleep in and skip church, but we always invited them to go, and they usually did.  Our church is our family and their family.  Yes, I would OFTEN, if not weekly, get reports from nursery or Sunday School that they misbehaved and we'd deal with it, but we also got those remarks from school too and we weren't going to stop sending them to school, so we wouldn't let it stop our attending church either.  It was hard, but church is about the only place where we could be helped out, prayed for, and ministered to.  Church is the living and active hands and feet of Christ.  And as we attended and shared, we realized that just about everyone else was dealing with something hard too.  Church allows us to minister to others and be ministered to.  It is an absolute necessity.

4.  Get help from others.
If we had not been intentional about being at church during the younger years, I don't think I would survive the teen years.  We spend a lot of hours with pastors and older people from our church meeting one on one and in small groups when the pressures of raising boys threaten to undo us.  I remember one pastor praying with us and he thanked God for the for the gift of children.  I specifically remember arguing in my head that this was not a gift but a punishment for something I did wrong.  That moment stuck with me and I eventually realized that children are a gift not only in being my child, but also in humbling and sanctifying me.
We had many people from our church walking alongside us.  Praying for us, counseling us (mostly counseling me through my anger and bitterness), crying with us, and encouraging us.  I don't know how we would have done it without them.

5.  Pray.
Maybe you're reading this and it's too late to do some of these things.  Maybe they are out of the house now or almost there.  It's still never too late to pray.  In fact, beyond all those tips above, this is the best thing you can do.  Prayer changes hearts.  And the good thing is, it mostly changes your heart.  Especially praying scripture.
At times when I selfishly want to pray MY prayers for my kids, I find that praying scriptures settles my heart the most.  Praying scripture gets to the heart of the issue quicker than my overwhelmed mind can.  Instead of praying that he doesn't fight with his brothers, I am instead praying for Christ to be formed in his heart (Galatians 4:19).  Instead of praying that he doesn't do this or does do that, I'm praying that God gives him a heart that wants to know Him (Jeremiah 24:7).  It helps keep my prayers more God-focused than me-focused.  And, it protects me from being tempted to give up when something doesn't happen like I hoped and prayed it would.

If you are looking for some good books to get your kids hooked on reading (or for read-alouds) these are all books we've read (or listened to on audio CDs through the library).  They entertained both the boys and us, and many had good talking points.

*These links are Amazon affiliate links. 
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  1. oh boy...I love all of your posts, I am SO thankful that I found your blog (through Misty Winckler's WTP - your bullet journal link) - but THIS post, it is awesome. Thank you. I needed this encouragement today. Sunshine

    1. I'm so glad you're here! Us moms of hard kids need to stick together! So thankful it encouraged you!

  2. Would a hard kid be anything like a strong willed child? This is very good advice, thank you very much!!!!

  3. We have the same struggle with kids acting up at church. I like your perspective on church and school both being important and worth persevering through. Thanks for the encouragement! We'll be looking for a good book to read over the holidays. 👍

    1. Yes, it was really REALLY hard to continue going to church some days... but I'm so thankful we just kept trying. Hope you enjoy the books!


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