How We Do Personal Development for Kids shares an in-depth look at some of my favorite resources that have worked in creating stronger kids, inside and out.
I don’t often talk about my children, and rarely (if ever) show their faces; however, they are very much the reasons why I do everything I do. Daily I ask God what I could possibly have done to have such amazing children! This year, though, has been one that has shown me just how much we all need to work on our personal development to gain the strength of discipline and character, emotional awareness, and develop compassion for ourselves and others. I’ve always loved sharing my morning routine with you all as it’s developed over the years, but this summer we started to implement personal development for kids and it has made a huge difference!
What to consider before starting personal development for kids
As always it is important to keep in mind each child that you have, their personalities, abilities, maturity levels, and inclinations before you start creating a personal development routine. It is also very smart to, if possible, include them in creating this for themselves. Parents usually know best, but if you want to stick to a routine or actually SEE growth then it is very important to allow some flexibility and let your kids be involved in the process.
Example 1: About a year ago is when I really started to look at doing some personal development work with my boys to combat laziness and entitlement. In some research I ran across a website run by another kid that’s a “motivational speaker” so I figured we’d give it a shot. Long story very short, this site was not at all what I wanted my kids to learn and not at all something that spoke to them either. Often I’ll find myself just pushing through, but I couldn’t allow my boys to be miserable because then personal development simply wouldn’t work…so we quit.
Example 2: My kids are polar opposites, which is mostly fun, but can certainly make personal development options a little difficult at times. We tried taking turns, making each child pick what they wanted to work on for the day and the other would just have to endure it. This was also not successful or sustainable, so I backed off and forced myself to come up with a better solution.
At the end of the day I knew that they needed to be involved, and that we were going to need to focus on the things we deem important in our house: the Bible, the importance of discipline, the magic of learning something new, and creating a strong body and mind. Knowing that these are some of the things that have helped me allowed me to speak into the benefits with our kids. Finding great resources that helped was huge as well. And, perhaps most important of all, allowing them to ask questions created a culture of learning and discipline we could all be part of.
My favorite resources for spiritual development for kids
I am quite aware that this little smattering of books and resources are certainly not the culmination of all there is to offer; however, these have worked so well for us. They are engaging, simple, straight-forward, and fun for my boys – I can’t really ask for more than that!
- The Bible. Straight up the word of God, and something we reference often, although it can be a little difficult for kids at times. Heck, there are some things that are incredibly hard for me to read and/or understand! But I’m a firm believer that we need to make the actual, real-deal Bible part of our every day so that as they grow older it becomes familiar, not scary.
- The Big Picture Story Bible. This is one kid-specific version that is easy to read, has interesting pictures to look at and talk about, and certainly one that we’ve enjoyed for a while. The boys are almost too old for it, but we’ve loved going back through it over the summer.
- The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is a favorite you’ll find almost everywhere, and for good reason. It does a great job of introducing kids to the fact that Jesus has been the answer from the very beginning, and shows how every story in the Bible leads back to him. The stories a tad longer, so the boys are a little more engaged with it. Plus it gives me a good direction and some good words to use to explain the Bible in a kid-friendly way.
- Right Now Media. I want to be totally honest here and say that I think this is a subscription service that we have access to through our church, so I have no idea how much it costs. HOWEVER. It has a gigantic media library that’s great for all age groups, and we have really enjoyed the Kids’ section over the past few months. There is a series by Phil Vischer, one of the creators of Veggie Tales, that explain 1 John, Ephesians, Philippians, and 1 Peter that my kids ADORE. They laugh the whole time, and they’ve started asking much deeper faith-based questions because of it. There’s a ton of other things on Right Now Media that we’ll dig into when we’re done with 1 John (in the next week or so), so feel free to ask if you have any questions!
My favorite resources for motivational and discipline development for kids
This is a tricky one, since we are all motivated by different things. My boys inherently just want to help others – they want to be strong so they can stand up for those who need help, they want to be smart so they can create things that help the world, and they want to be kind. How do I know those things? I asked them! Before I asked them I thought they would be motivated by money and stuff (they are kids after all), and I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. I was already reading the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and was looking for a podcast from him when I ran across the podcast I’ll mention below. It was just a rabbit hole of research from there!
I’ll go into detail below, but what I love about these specific resources is that the practices apply to any area of life. What may seem as very specific to elementary-aged kiddos is being used in MY life as I set the example for my kids!
- The Warrior Kid books by Jocko Willink. There are obviously a lot of books that have to do with kids overcoming obstacles, but the ones that have stuck with my boys are the Warrior Kid books by Jocko Willink. They chronicle the issues that a boy, Marc, faces (feeling weak, feeling dumb, school bullies, etc.) faces and how his Uncle Jake, a Navy SEAL, teaches him to overcome them. The books focus on the idea that discipline equals freedom – when you practice discipline in the things that make you better, then you earn the freedom to have or do the things you want. Example: when Marc has the discipline to work hard on his pull-up game, then he earns the freedom from feeling like a wimp in gym class. The books apply it to learning, emotional awareness, food choices, and more, and it has really spoken to my boys!
- The Warrior Kid Podcast. This centers around the books, but is a podcast with Jocko Willink (aka Uncle Jake) where kids can write in with questions about the books or how to overcome specific problems. This has been great to supplement the books and give us something to talk about in the car.
- Cultivate a list of affirmations. I’ve talked about this several times on social media, but we recite affirmations every morning with the boys. The way I explain affirmations to them is that they are a way to remind ourselves of who God created us to be. This also, alongside our reading and working to understand the Bible, gives us power to fight the lies of Satan that absolutely will come at us during the day. If someone comes along and makes us feel dumb (or even says that we are), we can look to the truth we say every day in our affirmations: I AM SMART. We know that God created us with amazing brains capable of learning and retaining information, so if someone says otherwise we can label that as a lie and move forward instead of allowing that lie to settle in our hearts. I need this time just as much as they do!
My favorite physical strength development for kids
As we all know most activities for kiddos have been cancelled for the year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get stronger. In fact, now we have more time to focus on getting stronger in ways that will help us down the road. I see this time as a way to introduce intentional daily exercise into my kids’ routines (versus just going to a playground and playing). Play is SO IMPORTANT, and we make sure we do a lot of it, but these are the handful of physical conditioning things we’ve been doing to help them develop a mindset that physical fitness is important. Honestly this is more about mindset than anything else, because what we learn about exercise (I CAN DO HARD THINGS) translates into every other area of life, and it equips us to do those things as well! The good news? These are all (mostly) free!
Please keep in mind that I am not qualified to give exercise advice; the following list is just what we’ve been doing with two healthy able-bodied boys.
- Pull-ups. I’ve been working alongside my boys to do bodyweight pull-ups, and I have to say it is impressive how much this has motivated them (especially since they’re so much better at it than me). We bought an inexpensive door-mounted pull-up bar at Walmart, and have been working on jumping up and coming down as slowly as possible (aka working the negative). It’s so hard, but every time they get a little bit better. And the first time my older one did a chin-up his pride was contagious and he smiled the most magical smile!
- Burpees. There are so many modifications that make burpees doable and actually FUN for kids. Research those – and do them WITH them!
- Sprints. My kids are SO COMPETITIVE, so timing them has helped sprinting, whether outside or up the stairs, more fun. I also try to remind them that they are different kids with different strengths, so while it’s fun to compete against one another the most important thing is to compete against yourself. That helps a little with a situation that is rife with sibling rivalry.
- Pushups. My biggest thing here is not that they do a ton of pushups, but more that they have proper form. Form is SO IMPORTANT for everyone, especially for kiddos who are developing strength.
- Squats. Again with the form – I want them to have strong legs and a strong core more than I want them to be able to squat super low.
My biggest takeaway and lesson in this area? Make it fun! We also do a lot of hiking, swimming, playing on playgrounds (while social distancing of course), and just being active in general. I try to let them know that the dedicated exercises are there to make it easier for them to do the things they love, and while it doesn’t work every time it DOES help when I can relate the exercises to the activity. Want to be better at hiking without wearing out? Squats and sprints will help. Want to go across the monkey bars in one run? Pull-ups and pushups give you that freedom. Slowly but surely it’s starting to click!
What we do to develop gratitude in our kids
I want to be 100% honest here and say this is a work in progress for every single member of our family. Gratitude is something we are working hard to cultivate in every area of life, and I know that doing this is a lifelong journey.
I also know it will be worth it.
That said, I try to keep this simple: every day I ask them about one thing they’re thankful for, one thing that made them happy, and one thing that made them feel sad/angry/anxious. And then we talk about it.
I also try to take the opportunity to teach them about just how many blessings we have. When there’s a complaint about not having ___________, we talk about what it would be like if we had the ____________. Would life be that much better? Or would we be wanting something else the next week? Could we survive without it? What about the kids who could never have it? How would we feel if we could give it to someone else instead? I’m not saying this is a perfect system, but I want them to get used to asking questions before diving into impulsive decisions in terms of “stuff.”
Friends, parenting is so hard. There are so many ways to mess this up, and the truth is if you’re parent? You’ve already messed up in some way, shape or form. There’s a high likelihood that you will continue to do so; in fact, that’s a guarantee. However, I believe that teaching our kids how to get a little better every day will set them up for a lifetime of learning, growing, discipline, hard work, and optimism.
My biggest pieces of encouragement are to involve your kids in the process, don’t shy away from questions, be patient, stay consistent, and be willing to learn alongside them. Your example is going to be one of the biggest influences in their life, so when they see you pursuing a better then it will help it to become a way of life for them as well!
I hope this post is an encouragement for you…and please ask any questions you might have in the comments below!
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