When Your Child Has No Filter

Last month I was unpacking Christmas decorations when I noticed a small gift tag in the bottom of a box. Written in a child’s handwriting were the words, “Awesome Samuel.”

Two Christmases before, one of my children wrapped packages of Tic Tacs and labeled each one with a custom tag. Apparently, I saved some of them in a little stack.

Awesome Samuel

Bossy Claire

Pretty Awesome Mom

Mean Gayu

Nice Hannah

Coolest Dad Ever

Doctor Noah is in the house

Pretty amazing! You know who! (the child wrapped their own)

Some of our kids don’t have much of a filter. Am I right?

We try to model kindness, sharing our thoughts and feelings without hurting others. Sensitive kids instinctually understand this. Kids from “hard places” (or with other challenges), may need to be taught.

With young children, we can help them practice the right way of communicating feelings and thoughts.

When kids get older, it is trickier. They have to want to learn.

A counselor told us we should work with our kids on being “fun to be around,” even using those exact words. Imagine how powerful it is for a child to hear, “I like you; you’re fun to be around.”

I want to be able to say that honestly to all of my kids.

We’re trying to create a lighter, happier atmosphere, instituting a consistent Pizza & Movie Night on Fridays, playing more games, reading aloud with my one who loves it.

I’m not a fan of reward charts, and generally speaking, they don’t work for kids like mine. That being said, I’m seriously considered creating a Kindness Chart. I would divide the day into three chunks: before school, after school, evening. Each day when a block is navigated with kindess, a check (or star, or sticker) would go in the box.

But this is where it starts to break down for me. What is valuable enough to my children to be a motivating reward that won’t also be too financially costly for me? And deep down, I really don’t want to do this – I just want them to be kind and respectful.

And then there’s the being consistent part.

But I’m getting desperate enough for kindness in speech and actions that I may have to take the plunge.

I just had a thought, maybe it should be a Kindness & Respect chart! Yes!

I don’t have incredible wisdom here, but I’m guessing you have similar stories and thoughts. Parenting is downright complicated. Parenting pre-teens with significant trauma histories can leave a mom flummoxed, exhausted, or in tears.

The Christmas when we received gifts with these special labels, I’ll be honest, we laughed. We have to keep a sense of humor on this hard road of parenting – sometimes we may laugh until we cry, while other times we just cry.

I want to choose joy and laughter.

Will you share a story with me about your family? We’re in this together, friends.

With courage and joy in the journey,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

20 Comments

  1. Michele
    January 8, 2018

    Those personalized gift tags made me laugh – I can so easily see some of my children with the mental no filter “tags” they have made for others in the family. Lately I find the dynamics of our family changing rapidly as the older ones are in college or last years of high school and the balance is totally thrown off – kindness and respect seem to be out the window. A reward chart might be helpful. We are also thinking of separating the two youngest into their own bedrooms. It would mean our college students would loose their own space when they are home but might create more peace.

    Reply
    1. Martha
      January 9, 2018

      This weekend our small group was making scarves for the homeless. My son made a sweet appropriate tag that read “I hope you don’t freeze to death.” Ahhhh! I completely understand what you’re going through.

      Reply
      1. Lisa Qualls
        January 9, 2018

        Great example, Martha! Thanks for sharing.

        Reply
    2. Lisa Qualls
      January 9, 2018

      We are in the exact same spot. We separated Eby and Wogayu into different rooms, although most nights they sleep in the same room, but at least they have space. This is the first time in our parenting that a child has had their own room – apart from when Hannah was a baby and before Mimi was born. So many things to think about.

      Reply
  2. Cindy
    January 9, 2018

    “Mommy, can I always be a girl?” “Yes, Why?” “Well, do all girls have to turn into ‘womans’?” “Um… what do you mean?” “Well, I noticed when girls become ‘womans’ their bottoms get spread out and bigger and I don’t like that. I want a smaller bottom, not spread out and big like yours.” “Um…”

    And then we had a repairman in our house who had some very poorly done tattoos. We’d been through the discussion of writing on walls or yourself with permanent markers. This repairman was a bit on the grumpy side but my daughter could not contain her worry about the state of his arms. So she asked “Excuse me mister, didn’t your Momma ever tell you that you shouldn’t write on yourself?” Thankfully, he howled instead of getting mad.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 9, 2018

      So funny, Cindy. Our kids keep us on our toes.

      Reply
  3. Katy
    January 9, 2018

    I started telling my kids a kind or good thing they did from the day when I put them to bed. I think they appreciate it and I found it also good for me to keep me seeing the positive and looking for what they’re doing good. Sometimes I find myself only correcting the negative and forgetting to point out the positive to them.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 9, 2018

      That is a fabulous idea, Katy. Thank you!

      Reply
  4. Barb Sheffler
    January 9, 2018

    As I was hanging a tank top to dry my 4 yr old asked if I had bought her a new dress, when I laughed and showed her what it was I asked,”do you think that will fit you?” She said, “no, cause you’re fat”. When I told her that wasn’t a nice thing to say she told me, “oh I’m so sorry I thought you already knew!!”

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 10, 2018

      That made me laugh out loud, Barb!

      Reply
  5. Anka
    January 10, 2018

    We started a “kindness and respect jar” for our son. Each time I noticed that he handled a situation with kindness or respect, or when out of his way to be helpful, I put a fuzzy craft puff in the jar and thanked him specifically for his kind/respectful/helpful action. Puffballs only go in, never get removed. When the jar got full, we went out for a treat of his choosing (donuts, milkshake, something small).

    This had a dual purpose because it was not only a motivator for him to show kindness but a motivator for me to go out of my way to notice and communicate that to him. We ended up being able to go get treats about every 2 weeks. We started doing it during a really bratty period, but now that I recall it, I think we should really bring this jar back!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 12, 2018

      That is a beautiful idea, Anka. Thank you so much.

      Reply
  6. Bridget
    January 11, 2018

    Hi Lisa I’ve been a grateful lurker on your blog for a long time as I work with kids from hard places in a few different ways. One thing we’ve tried in our family is taking a season, like Advent, and finding ways to assign kindness in a time-limited way. Maybe every Sunday each person in the family draws the name of another family member and then has to show kindness to them all week — the following Sunday we see if we can guess who was being especially kind to us, celebrate, and pick new names. Hard to keep going for more than the 4 weeks of Advent! We also have an Advent calendar with little doors that open, meant for candy or trinkets. We put a note for one of the children in each door giving them something free or inexpensive — make cookies just you and mom, go for a run just you and dad, etc. As they’ve gotten older, we’ve transitioned to asking them to make one note for each sibling — sometimes requires a lot of coaching to come up with one thing you can offer a sib! (Best idea — “I’ll play chess with him. I never do that, because he always wins.”) This year we asked them to add Mama and Dad in as well. Kind of the opposite of the consistency idea, I know, to make kindness a special occasion, but we were looking for ways to make it “cool” (and to avoid the darn elf on the shelf…)

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 12, 2018

      Thank you for commenting, Bridget; I truly love hearing from my readers. These are great ideas; I love the way you’ve tied this to Advent. We have Lent and Easter coming before we know it. I wonder if I could create something during that season? Hmmm – you have me thinking.

      Reply
  7. Jenn
    January 14, 2018

    I broke kindness/respect into even smaller chunks of time and focused on one time for several day (really until I saw it consistently happening in that one time frame) and then added. So I did like only 10-15 minutes in the morning or dinner time. This was easier for me to be consistent with catching it and label praising ( I really like that you said “Please pass the _____.” or whatever kind thing he said) Then because it was a small time period the reward was immediate something like 10 minutes of a show on the iPad, a game of uno, 15 minutes of reading time with mom, something small and that he got to choose. Does this make sense?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 14, 2018

      That makes total sense – great ideas, Jenn. Thank you.

      Reply
  8. Elaine
    January 14, 2018

    I have biological twin girls, 15 years old, adopted from China at 1 years old. Great easy kids when little, but very rude, mean, negative, anxious to the point of sickness, and depressed, unseen, and unheard and isolated at school with no friends….. however get great grades! Of course in therapy, but how do you do a kindness chart with them? Telling them what to do only ignites rage!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 15, 2018

      Elaine, I wish I had answers. My only thought is to figure out what really motivates them and make the reward worth it. My hope is that in time the internal feelings of kindness, the relationships with family, and enjoying life more will become reward enough – until then, other rewards will have to suffice.

      Reply
  9. Lisa
    January 19, 2018

    Oh this is funny! My youngest has very little in the way of a filter. When she was 4 years old, we met Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks and she asked him if he was a boy or a girl? 😳
    We just had to laugh and thankfully he did too!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 20, 2018

      That is hilarious! How awesome to meet Marshawn Lynch; my boys would love that!

      Reply

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