thanks a lot, mom: teaching gratefulness to kids

teaching gratefulnessLet’s say I walk up to a stranger on the street and said, “Hey there. I see you’re hungry. Can I pack up a lunch for you and make sure it stays cold all day?” I’m just guessing that they might say, “Heck, yeah!”

What if I told my neighbor that I would wash their dirty underwear and deliver it fresh, clean and folded for them? I might get a resounding, “Why, thank you!”

Kids sometimes don’t give us the same sort of gratitude and feedback. But I have good news: They do eventually. Teaching gratefulness to kids is worth it. It’s a long payback period compared to the work and energy you put into them early in their little childhoods. Think of it as the 401K of child rearing.

What you put into it gets matched by them and given back to you with interest when they get older. They don’t even have to be that old to appreciate what you’ve taught them before dividends start rolling in. I have been amazed at how much my older sons appreciate the things I’ve done for them over the 20 plus years of their lives when they come home for visits.

“Wow. These eggs and toast just appeared out of nowhere. I didn’t have to go buy them, cook them or bring them to the table. They’re just HERE.” This was a quote from my oldest son who just weeks before would have been oblivious to the fact that I made him breakfast for the 45,698th time.

They just don’t know what they have until it’s gone or removed from them.

Isn’t it true of all things that we take for granted?

Being grateful is a state of understanding what it’s like to be without what you currently have or a thankful spirit that has matured over time.

Matured over time is the key part of that concept. A two-year-old who just wants their milk cup filled for the millionth time is clearly not grateful — but we can start by teaching them two words:

Thank you! 

That’s where we start teaching gratefulness to kids and that is where it’s finished as well. Today they will give you an automatic “Thank you,” tomorrow, they’ll be thank you for their college education. It’s just a long slow process.

Giving thanks is what we do in prayer, too. Thanking God for all that we have, and all that He will provide in the future is based on our faith in Him. Gratitude toward God is praise; it’s worship.

Our kids are learning gratefulness toward their earthly parents to understand that their heavenly Father  also deserves to be thanked as well. 

And that’s well worth it. Every time.

Kathy Helgemo



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parenting methods: traps or treasures?

parenting methodHere at Mothering From Scratch, we encourage you to find your own mothering style and parenting methods that work best for you and your family. Most moms, we’ve found, take bits and pieces of various advice and mix them into their own successful recipe. However, the process of deciding what to keep and what to throw away can be filled with feelings of guild and inadequacy.

Maybe you’ve heard some of these parenting methods along your journey:

1. Helicopter Parenting:

This one has been in the news a lot lately. Apparently, we are ruining our childrens’ ability to think for themselves and make decisions by doing all the hard work all their lives by swooping in to rescue them. Rescuing behavior can be everything from making sure they don’t fall down a flight of stairs to filling out their college applications for them. When should we swoop? Are we ever “permitted” to swoop?

I have to admit, I do like to swoop every now and then. I also have painfully watched as my kids have experienced normal life circumstances and navigated them on their own. Occasionally, my mothering instincts get the better of me and I just know they need help. I have set myself free from having guilt about real help and guidance. What’s a normal amount of swooping? I don’t know. I just know that I have to trust my gut, seek God’s direction, keep my helicopter blades greased while still figuring out when to pull the brake. It’s exhausting, if I may be honest.









2. Attachment Parenting:

I like to call this Velcro parenting, myself. Before this term was even coined, I was attached. It made more sense to me to hold and sleep with babies than it did to put them into seats, swings, cribs and any other device. My arms seemed like the best place. Sue me.

There were consequences, though. Where was this harmful? My housekeeping and work duties took major hits. I wasn’t really capable of doing all of this holding, wrapping and cuddling without ignoring other important tasks. Now that everyone is as big as me or getting there, I have no regrets about all of the holding I did. It doesn’t last that long in retrospect.

For those who prefer (and who’s child prefer!) a more “hands down” method of parenting, it’s important that everyone make the decision for what works for their particular child and personality. Onc way is not better than the other. We have to declare this to be true.

3. “God’s Way” of Parenting:

During the 90s there was a popular child rearing philosophy that centered around what a few people decided was “God’s Way” of parenting children. Some of the tenants involved the notion that parenting was mostly about control and authoritarianism and somehow that conveyed love.

This one put me into a tailspin. My instincts told me that I wanted to cooperate with my child’s natural “God given” personalities and do what I felt best, but this method instructed me to lead and control every single encounter with my child, from play to feeding. It exhausted me worrying about whether I was in control. It made me feel like a wimp when I fed my child when they seemed hungry. This was probably the lowest I felt about my capabilities as a mom. It didn’t fit. And certainly it was my fault.

Proclaiming what God’s way of parenting is and should be is dangerous, dangerous territory. It attaches the relationship with have with God the Father as if we don’t want to disappoint him and do it “wrong”, as it were and therefore be in a state of sin. I would like to offer some other faith-filled statements regarding the privilege of raising children. Humanae Vitae and others illustrate what responsible parenting looks and acts like. From these, we can see a loving approach of the Church encouraging parents in loving their children well.

woman wagging finger

4. Strict Parenting:

“I had very strict parents, and it worked out well for me, so I’m going to do the same.”

“My parents were so strict and controlling. I would never do that to my child.”

These statements are all or nothing. They are the black and white thinking patterns we sometimes have when it comes to mothering. The truth is that our mothering style is very, very grey. It is such a mixture of our life’s experiences, our strengths and weaknesses and our gut.

Pigeon holing ourselves into either side of the “strict parenting” quandary mostly will lead us to feel inadequate. Strict values on a variety of topics and issues are really where I have seen myself. Certain things are non-negotiable. Others, I’m more flexible. Some to be honest, I just don’t care about at all.

Setting ourselves free from the constraints of parenting formulas is just a small part of surrendering to God’s design. If we were all the same, then these formulas would make sense to all of us. Finding what works best for you and your family is a constant recalibration of values and circumstances.

True freedom can only come when we realize that we EVEN HAVE THE FREEDOM AVAILABLE IN THE FIRST PLACE. If we feel constantly pulled and pushed into different directions, it’s time to reevaluate why.

I’d love to know your thoughts and feelings.

Where is God leading you to re-evaluate your mothering style? 

What parenting style worked for you and truly helped you lovingly parent your kids?

Is there a parenting style that fits better for you than others?

Kathy Helgemo


why my house will never be my kids’ home

kids' homeThis summer, for the first time ever, my family couldn’t go home.

Year after year, we’d travel from Florida to Iowa to visit my husband’s parents. We stayed in their home, of course — the one my husband grew up in. The one that held so many memories of his childhood, holidays with our kids and incredible home-cooked meals. It always held a comforting, loving familiarity.

Our recent visit was a whole new reality. Their home now belongs to a new owner. My mother-in-law, once a vibrant, active woman, is now severely mentally impaired as a result of a rare virus that suddenly and ruthlessly attacked her brain. My father-in-law requires supplemental oxygen and has difficulty walking.

Their home is now the local nursing care center. It’s a beautiful place. The staff is well-trained and caring. Yet, as I walked the halls, my heart was incredibly heavy. Everywhere I looked, there was sickness, confusion, pain and brokenness.

This was not what God had in mind when He created the world. As I walked the halls, I just kept thinking, This is not how it was supposed to be. This world is not my home. 

As moms, we put a tremendous amount of emphasis on home. Rightly so. It’s our job to make our homes a place of warmth, love and security for our children. They need that.

But we have to remember that our home is temporary. Our children will leave it one day. Like my in-laws house, it will one day be sold to another owner. No matter how much love fills it, it will never satisfy the ache and longing in their hearts for their true home — where all the brokenness of this world will be made right.

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:14


It’s so tempting to want to make our children’s worlds a comfortable place for them. We want to protect them from harm and woundedness. We want to save them from failure. We want them to be happy. It’s our human inclination to want to avoid pain for ourselves and for the ones we love.

Here’s the brutal truth: God never promised that we would be able to protect ourselves or our children from any of that in this broken world — no matter how hard we try.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Should we work very hard to make our homes safe and loving? Absolutely. But let’s use the fleeting time we have with our children in our earthly homes to keep them focused on their heavenly one. How can we give our kids an eternal perspective? Here are a few messages they need to hear:

Truth never changes. 

Every day, it seems like there is a new assault on Truth. Sin is increasingly celebrated, normalized and legalized. The whole idea of an absolute right and wrong is considered outdated and bigoted. More and more Christians have decided that because the culture has changed, biblical principles should evolve, too — or else we’ll be seen as hateful and unloving.

In reality, the most loving thing we can do for each other is speak the Truth of God’s Word. Truth is always for our guidance and protection. It’s not to restrict us, but to give us life, joy and peace! Sin — rebelling against God’s design and principles — always ends with pain and destruction. Maybe not immediately. But always.

Even when Truth is spoken in love, it usually offends. Jesus was crucified for speaking Truth! It challenges our sinful human inclinations. It calls us to humility and self-sacrifice. It reminds us that we answer to a Power that is greater than ourselves. It isn’t based on our human desires or our ever-changing, often misguided feelings.


The world is indoctrinating our children with lies. In a culture that is literally crumbling, let’s be models of living out Truth boldly! Let’s make teaching and helping our kids apply unchanging Truth a deliberate and passionate part of our daily interactions with them:

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Deuteronomy 6:5-8

Trials won’t last forever.

This world is full of unbearable tragedy. It’s all around us. It makes my heart heavy. But I’m not without hope. I know without a shadow of a doubt that one day God will make all things right. Does that always bring tremendous comfort when my son’s disease rears its ugly head? When I’m crying in pain from my own chronic health issues?

Honestly, no. Sometimes it just stinks. Period. I’ve fought anger and despair more times than I can count. But gradually, I remind myself that it will not always be this way. That God is good all the time. Even when He doesn’t heal me or my son. Even when I don’t understand His ways. Our trials — our children’s struggles — remind all of us of our need for a Savior. He promised that our battles are never fought alone:

The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7

Time on earth is a blip on the screen.

Just like our trials won’t last forever, worldly success and pleasure won’t either. Spending our lives chasing after others’ approval, the world’s definition of achievement and short-term gratification is foolish and short-sighted. A chasing after the wind. Even Solomon, the richest man who ever lived, agreed:

I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

A few months ago, my Pastor gave a great illustration. He brought out a long piece of rope with a tiny piece of red tape wrapped around one end. And he said something like this: This piece of red tape is your life here on earth. The rope represents eternity. What are you living for? Where are your spending your time and energy — for the red tape or the rope?


In a world gone crazy, one of the most important things I can do for my kids is to give them eternal perspective and keep pointing them toward home. 

Not my in-laws home, not even the home that holds my family — the home our heavenly Father is preparing for all of us who know Him.

Where all things will finally be made right.

Melinda Means

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traveling with kids made easy

traveling with kids

Can traveling with kids be easy? Read here about the tips that can transform stress into fun.

Did that title get your attention? I hoped it would. I want you to know it can be done. We can travel with children and relax at the same time.

Most of the responsibility rests on us, I know. But hear me out. We have to make some EXPECTATION adjustments. All of these can be made WAY, WAY in advance. Planning takes on a whole new meaning when traveling with children. In fact, I would say it quadruples. But the payoffs are also quadruple!

Here’s my top 5 Expectation Adjustments for making travel easy:

1. Time:

Time either runs slower or faster than you anticipate when traveling. The plane ride you thought would be a quick, easy flight turns out to be, well — not. Plan for the worse case scenario. Sickness, boredom, spills, screaming baby (hello, earplugs! If the other people on the plane didn’t plan for this, it isn’t your fault. Any reasonable traveling adult knows that there might be a crying baby aboard. It would be like going to a rock concert and expecting a nap).

2. Behavior:

Having the same basic ground rules that you have at home helps. However, some kids don’t adjust well to new surroundings and act out accordingly. Ask yourself, “Is this deliberate? Or is this a by product of being somewhere different?” The three year old who decides to prostrate in the middle of the airport in protest could be both. Can you give them a time-out? Sure, if you want to be late for your flight. Desperate times call for desperate measures and that means that you scoop that wailing tot up and get moving. They’ll get the picture pretty quickly.

3. Activity Level:

A basic rule of thumb when traveling with children is that there is an inverse relationship between what the expected activity level is for the activity to what they actually display. Want them to sit still and watch a cultured live play? Expect ants in their pants. Want them to join in on the loud Conga line around a party? They will surely want to sit still and stare into space. Most of this has to do with their own method of adjusting the stimulation level around them to suit their needs at the time. This is when knowing your child’s personality and being flexible is KEY.

4. Possessions:

A good rule of thumb when packing for ANY trip is this: lay out everything you think you need and divide it at least by 2. Keeping track of too many things is the most likely activity to drive you crazy. If you are especially gifted in organization, assign a color to each kid — and to the parent. All of the purple stuff in my house is my husband’s; all of mine is red. So when you ask them, “Can you hand me Mommy’s ________ ? Even a two year old can quickly come to the rescue!

5. Accoutrements:

When packing for a trip with kids, it’s important to know that you cannot recreate home somewhere else. The key items of familiarity are important for making them feel secure (blankets, stuffed animals and such) but trying to bring every home convenience with you is exhausting. It’s a chance for them and you to try new things, new ideas, new ways of doing things. Parents discover quickly that they don’t need 6 pieces of baby equipment while traveling. Nor do you need the same types of entertainment. Kids are natural fun-finders. Let them discover on their own that it’s better to wash their hair outside with the pool shower and jammie up in the room.

Will traveling be easy with children? Honestly, not completely. But these are tips that have helped me over the years with my four that have helped ease the traveling experience into more fun and less stress.

What are your best tricks and tips for traveling with kids?

How have you adjusted your expectations when you are traveling with kids?

Kathy Helgemo



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