Have you ever found yourself wanting to help, but getting in over your head when you commit to serving? Over the 20 years that have past since the first time I volunteered in a reading program, life has taught me a couple things that I wish I would have known then.
Kids Thrive When We
• Prioritize our relationship with them
• Offer them appropriate choices
Kids will thrive when we prioritize our relationship with them. Like most parents, my greatest teachers have been my children. Learning to value relationship with my kids over their obedience has been a difficult but fruitful road. I have taken this lesson into my volunteer opportunities as well. From serving for an hour in church nursery to working with a child over an entire school year, there is always an opportunity to communicate that I value relationship over their obedience. I want them to know after spending time with me that I care far more about them than I do about their behavior. The amazing thing is that their behavior improves when they get the message, “I care about YOU, no matter what you DO”.
Next to prioritizing my relationship with kids, the second biggest lesson I have learned from parenting has been the importance of choice. In the past I often looked at giving kids choice as weak, a lack of leadership. As a highly opinionated woman, I have often communicated to people that, “It’s my way or the highway.”. Unfortunately, kids haven’t had a great response to that message. You can imagine my surprise when kids I served and my own kids didn’t agree with “my way” all the time….most of time…well, almost never. After much failure in parenting, I found Love and Logic. This material and other books like Loving on Purpose , opened my eyes to the importance of choice in relationships. When I began incorporating appropriate choices into my instruction to kids it revolutionized the effectiveness of my interactions with them. By giving two appropriate choices rather than making command statements to kids I tutor, mentor, parent, or care for on any level, I give them control in our relationship which communicates respect and values their intelligence.
Dana Williams, Life Center of Durham Volunteer