The Best Parenting Advice This Week

This notion that restarts are always available, that second chances are never out of supply? It is revolutionary.

A friend of mine (details changed for privacy) adopted a young boy from Eastern Europe, and he arrived in the United States, wrapped in institutionalized ideas. Chestnut hair framed serious eyes, and tremulous smiles broke out like timid prisoners on parole in his first months home. He had been raised in silent rooms, with televisions blaring, and orphanage nannies forcing order in harsh strictness. Medicines had been doled out to active kids, lulling them quiet, and infractions resulted in lingering shame and punishment. Impulsive disobedience labeled and followed you for the rest of the day.

But in the United States here, amid rolling corn fields and winding rivers, his adoptive family are teaching him new habits and realities. “There are always second chances,” his mom says. In rooms off to the side, quiet peace talks and reconcilitory missions take place surrounded by green walls and children’s toys. He said/she said sibling play-by-plays are rehashed and resolved, and they emerge, wiping tears and smiling. After a quick hug, the children race away, eager to resume imaginative play.

This young man from Eastern Europe just picked up a brand new kitten. Three or four lines of text outlined his family contract. “I will feed my kitty, care for my kitty, clean up after my kitty…” topped the page, with room for a child’s laboriously-printed signature and date. He painted the cat’s home, chose soft towels for its bed, and meticulously painted the kitten’s name outside the wooden cat house. Tiny wet paw prints dotted his sweatshirt the first few days after the kitten’s arrival, and he was with the kitten all day. Occasionally wandering into an off-limits area of the home, the kitten had to be rescued and redirected, but the hugs and caresses never stopped.

And the cat? It knew it was home, even by that first evening.

Watching this family– and this brave, compassionate young man with a husky Eastern European accent still– I am reminded. These restarts, these second chances? They are never out of supply. I’m thankful for an Abba God who models that to me daily, and for families around me who practice that with their children. It is revolutionary.

Hi, you. 🙂 Sorry for my delay in posting. What’s the best parenting advice you have been convinced of lately? (Those in email can click here to join the conversation. I love hearing from you.)

Photo credit #1: Copyright to the World Bank. Photographer Scott Wallace.
Photo Credit #2:  Copyright to the World Bank. Photographer Yuri Metchitov.

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  1. Wise Hearted on August 9, 2013 at 2:27 am

    Jennifer what a sweet story that the young man will tell over and over no matter his age. Love does that, it stays with a young child, carries them through the years and into their own children lives.
    My daughter and family are home for a year from Papua New Guinea after being gone four years. It was hard to keep a cat in the bush as the village people like to eat them. So when our family got to their home for this year a caring friend brought our four year grand daughter a cat. Almost ever picture we get now is of Ava Jo holding her cat, in fact she has two now. the only she has to worry about is bear and cougars up in northern Mn. Thanks for sharing this, sweet story.

  2. Floyd on August 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    It's heart breaking to know all the children that won't get to experience the love from God through real parents like your friends.

    It is all about forgiveness… what a beautiful and heart warming reminder.

    The only advice I can give and am reminding myself is that they need personal attention and interaction… even when it's hard due to their age.

  3. Southern Gal on August 10, 2013 at 12:06 am

    That's so sweet. I'm so glad he's in a family that is teaching him about second chances and forgiveness.

  4. Unknown on August 10, 2013 at 12:31 am

    I am so grateful for second chances, every day. Thanking God that this young man's second chance came in the form of family. I think the best parenting advice I have read was to not ignore name-calling and rudeness among siblings. Of course children are going to fight, even the closest siblings, but we have worked very hard to teach our children that the things the say and do now, as children, could affect their adult relationships. We have taught them to ask forgiveness, and to be generous with grace. We've seen unbridled bitterness eat our own extended families up and are hopeful that this won't be a trait our own children carry out.

  5. Jennifer Dougan on August 13, 2013 at 2:33 am

    I laughed at the cat situation in PNG because that was familiar to Africa too. My dad tells a story of that… Aiye. Our cats were always safe thankfully.

    You have family in northern MN? I'm in central MN, in the cities.

    Have a great day,

  6. Jennifer Dougan on August 13, 2013 at 2:35 am


    That personal attention and interaction no matter their age? Good advice, friend. Thanks.


  7. Jennifer Dougan on August 13, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Southern Gal,

    Yes, me too! 🙂 Have a great week.


  8. Jennifer Dougan on August 13, 2013 at 2:43 am

    Hi Kara,

    Not to ignore name-calling and rude sibling behavior? I agree. Hmm! And your wisdom in seeing patterns in others that you want to avoid? Yes, I get that too. Have you ever seen Lisa Whelchel's nail and fence post parenting example from her book Creative Correction? Phenomenal.


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