Someone asked me the other day why we use the term caregiver instead of the more common term caretaker at TELL Our Children. He asked, “Aren’t they the same thing?”
Yes and no! Caregiver and caretaker may mean the same thing; however, I see a major distinction between the two.
The definitions provided by Merriam-Webster seem to indicate they are the same or very similar:
Caretaker: “a person who gives physical or emotional care to someone (such as a child, an old person, or someone who is sick)”
Caregiver: “a person who gives help and protection to someone (such as a child, an old person, or someone who is sick)”
By the definitions, caretaker gives physical or emotional care; caregiver gives help and protection. Very similar.
But here is how they are different and why TELL Our Children has decided to focus more on the care-giver.
Give or take? Care-giver or care-taker?
Because the mission of TELL Our Children is to mentor and inspire you and others to become aware of what you give a child daily, we focus on the care-giver. Do you give a child new ideas and ways to become better? Is what you give a child helpful or hurtful? Our central message is about helping you become aware of what you give the youth in your life. What and how do our words and actions teach, encourage, listen, and love?
We see too often children are expected to take what adults say and do to them. The care-taker may mean well; I’m sure the majority do. However, our emphasis is to recognize we must give care, that is, become care–givers to the children in our lives.
As we have been working on materials for our nonprofit, Tell Our Children, we’ve spent more time than usual thinking about what it means to teach, encourage, listen, and love. More specifically, we have been thinking about what it really means to teach a child, to encourage a child, to listen to a child, and to love a child. Our definitions for those words are listed below, as well as some questions that are meant to make you think more deeply about the words, but we also want to hear what YOUR definitions are. Send us an email, message us on Facebook, or send us a tweet! We will share some of your definitions in a later blog post. Thank you for reading and sharing!
TEACH | Fill your child’s mind with ideas as you interact: ideas about the current situation, your relationship, and how you speak to one another. Do you fill your child’s mind with better ideas?
What did you teach your child today? What did you teach yourself?
ENCOURAGE | Be more than a cheerleader. Use words and actions that help your child develop confidence and courage. Do you help your child move a step in a positive direction?
What did you do to encourage your child today? What did you do to encourage yourself?
LISTEN | It’s not what you say; it’s what your child hears. Understand your child before you ask him/her to understand you. Then you can respond appropriately and beneficially. Do you listen to your words AND your child’s?
What did you hear your child say today?
LOVE | Let love come alive as you interact. Be compassionate, patient, kind, and honest. Use loving words to support and make your child feel like he/she is not alone. Do your words and actions show “I love you”?
How did you love your child today? Did you remember to love yourself?
In the last post, I shared a story about having a desire to help a child but realizing I’m not always necessarily the best person to do that in the current moment. That’s when I tried instead to help a child identify someone who can be there for that child. You can read that post by clicking here.
In that post, the children needed guidance due to misbehavior or negative feelings; however, there are other times when it is often better to redirect a child to someone else. Here are just a few instances where it is better to help the child figure out who can help them better than you.
A child in my neighborhood recently shared how he was being picked on at school. “Who at your school do you think can help you with this? Is there a teacher close by when this boy is picking on you?”
My children would come home with a school paper or project assignment, and they would often ask for help. “Have you looked the information up online or in your school library? I bet your school librarian could be a good resource for you.”
Call a doctor when a health issue arises.
When I was a classroom teacher, students would share stories about pregnancy, drug use, etc. I did not have the training to have these serious conversations. “Can we set up a time for you to talk with a school counselor about this? Should we go see if there are any pamphlets down in the guidance area for you to get some good advice?”
Do you have any examples to share about how you may have helped a child find someone more appropriate in a specific moment to t.e.l.l. him or her better?
We all only know so much and can only do so much. The key is to lead children one step in a positive direction. Often that involves someone else who can do it better than you.
Not only do we help the child move bigger steps forward, but we also t.e.l.l. them to seek good advice. We broaden their mind to other possible resources. In time, possibly the child will begin to ask him or herself, “Who is a good resource for this problem I am facing?”
I was reminded recently that I am not always the person to t.e.l.l. a child in any given moment, simply because that child may be needing someone else at that moment. My tendency is to interact with any child I see feeling and/or acting negatively, either emotionally or in misbehavior. I want to give new thoughts, new skills, new empowering ideas to help a child feel and act better in the moment.
Most children respond favorably to a comment like, “Hey, what’s going on here?” But there are children who may not want to open up and talk. Even though your intentions are for the child’s good and you genuinely wish to teach, encourage, listen, and love them in that moment, sometimes you must realize that it may not be you that child feels comfortable having that conversation with.
I was reminded of this while I was in schools this past week. There were three children in particular, between the ages of 9 and 11, who I wanted to teach, encourage, listen, and love. One was in tears because someone in the class was mean to her; two were out of class due to misbehavior. The opening, “Hey, what’s going on here?” was met with silence. They didn’t want to talk about the situation, which meant I was not the person who could teach, encourage, listen, and love them to feel and act better in this situation. One of them didn’t even want to look at me!
I believe children need care-givers to help lead the way in moments they feel or act less than favorably. If they didn’t want me to be that care-giver, then I should help them figure out who it was they needed in that moment.
The first child was in tears walking in the school hall. Her class was heading to lunch; she was last in line crying and covering her face with her shirt. Hearing her cry and seeing only the tops of her eyes led me to ask, “What’s going on here?” She didn’t respond. As she continued to cry, I asked, “Who do you want to go see?” She shared an administrator’s name, to which I replied, “Well, let me help you find her.”
Then later there was a young man sitting alone in a room, staring into space. My question, “What’s going on?” was met with shrugging shoulders. After another question, it was clear he did not want to talk with me or anyone at the school. A few minutes later, in an effort to redirect the conversation, I asked the young man who gave him the nice jacket he was wearing. It was his uncle. He opened up enough to let me know his uncle is someone close to him and someone he looks up to. This led me to ask, “Do you think you could talk to your uncle about what happened today to upset you? Do you think he could help you figure out what to do if this happens again?”
As much as we want to be the care-giver to help a child overcome a current struggle, at times we have to go to plan B and lead them to another care-giver who may be able to help them. This is also t.e.l.l.ing because by listening and caring, we teach and encourage the child to seek the help he or she needs from others.
Sometimes we see our interactions help the child, as in the previous two cases. Other times we are unsure.
A third interaction that day was with a boy who had been kicked out of class for misbehavior. Administrators were trying to get in touch with his parents. He sat waiting, looking down at the floor. The administrator asked if I could get something out of him. He would not say a word. “It’s so hard to help the child when he won’t talk to us.”
I asked the boy if he was interested in talking about how to make his situation better. “Can you give me a thumbs up or thumbs down?” Interestingly enough, after asking a few times, He gave a thumbs up; however, that’s the only response he gave. He would not look up nor speak a word. When asked to go in the conference room to figure this out, he did not move or speak. He just kept giving a thumbs up.
“I hope you know we are here to help make this better. Will you let one of us know when you are ready to do that?” Walking away, I spoke a silent prayer for the boy. I prayed that a care-giver would show up who could lighten his mind.
That day was a reminder that I am not always the one who can teach, encourage, listen, and love the child in a given moment. I may not be the one that he or she will respond to – as much as I may want to be.
We may not be able to help a child resolve his or her current situation. But, maybe we can direct them to someone who can. And, of course we can always say a simple prayer for a child and ourselves.
Home sweet home … Isn’t that the feeling we all want when we come home?
The past two posts have been about having a “safe at home” rule, or a “home sweet home” rule. In the second of these posts, I asked for suggestions about how to begin and enforce the “safe at home” rule. I wanted to get feedback since a subscriber posed this question. (For those interested in reading the two posts leading up to this one, the links are provided below.)
The question posed was: “How would you suggest beginning and enforcing the ‘safe at home’ rule?”
Here are suggestions from our community…
I feel I must practice the safe at home rule first. For now, I am trying to make it my personal rule that once I am home, I do not bring the woes from outside into our home. I feel I have to be consistent before I can ask my children and husband to join me.
Well said! It’s hard to follow a rule when the person who wants the rule and is supposed to enforce it can’t even do it him/herself! Seriously, haven’t we all experienced the double standard, where a rule is unfairly applied in different ways to different people? It probably is a good idea to apply the rule ourselves first. That is, make the ‘safe at home’ rule your habit before asking everyone else to join you.
As explained by one of our subscribers:
If it’s a rule, then the goal is to apply all the time. I know in teaching some teachers say, for example, raise your hand to speak as one of their classroom rules, but that teacher wants the student to speak if he or she calls on them, too! If it’s not an all the time rule, then it’s an expectation relative to certain situations. Once I realized the difference between a rule and an expectation, I was better at following the rules!
So true! It’s easier to follow a rule if the expectation is all the time! This same subscriber goes on to say, “I think the ‘safe at home’ rule meets the criteria of always and not sometimes, which makes it easier for me to try and follow it!”
Another mom shared a story about how she tried to start the rule at her home (with two teenagers!)
I came home the other day and I was so irritated by something that happened at work. I just wanted to be left alone. My son (age 14) came in and said, “Mom?” My first thought was, “No, I can’t do anything for you!” Then the safe at home rule popped into my mind. Instead, I said, “Yes, I’m here what do you want?”
I’m glad I didn’t go with my first instinct and just shout, “What!” because my son said, “Nothing, just wondering where you were!”
Just that interaction made me realize how the rule may be hardest on me! The next day I decided to bring up the rule at dinner. I told my family about how I heard about a safe at home rule. I explained how it’s a house rule about how we talk to one another. We are supposed to be careful not to take things out on one another. Instead, we are to help each other.
At first, I got a bunch of blank stares, so I decided to bring up what happened the day before. “I’ve been wanting to talk with you about this rule, and I didn’t know how to bring it up. But then yesterday I had a bad day at work. I was tired and irritated. I was in a bad mood. (Name) came home and the only thing he said was “Mom?” and honestly my first reaction was “What now? What does he want from me now?” I thought about the rule, and instead asked him kindly what he wanted.
The safe at home rule made me rethink how to talk to all of you, and I’m bringing it up because I hope it will help all of us think about how we speak to each other here at home. I want us all to try and remember to be kind and help each other. Does that make sense?
From the rest of her story, it sounds like it turned into a really good family conversation.
Another note we received was from a mom wanting to instill the rule, and she added, “I actually went out and bought a ‘Home Sweet Home’ sign to place by our front door so whenever we walk in, it will be our reminder!” She also bought a personal reminder to place in her car so she would think about this as she pulled into the driveway.
Finally, one of our subscribers commented:
I love this rule. We have so much going on in our lives outside of the home, and there are so many things that often frustrate us, make us angry, make us sad, maybe even make us feel hateful. We must be aware of how those feelings have an affect on us and how they affect the youth in our lives!
Personally, I have noticed that if I am feeling upset or frustrated about something going on in my life outside of the home, this is when my child and I have a hard time communicating with one another. On days like this it is easy to just chalk it up to “a terrible day.”
But I realized our miscommunication is probably because I am the one not communicating well in the first place, and she is just picking up on what I’m putting out there! I’m the adult; I should know better!
To me, safe at home means we walk through a “love filter” when we walk through the door of our home; that is, we treat everyone inside of the home with love first, not with whatever negativity we encountered that day. Who knows, maybe if you get good enough at walking through the love filter INTO your home, you can walk through it when you go OUT of your home, too!
Well said! Changing our habits takes time and practice.
I hope these suggestions help anyone interested in beginning and enforcing the safe at home rule! I want to thank all subscribers for sharing ideas to establish a safe at home, or home sweet home rule!
Keep in mind if there are any other ideas you wish to get feedback, please send them our way. Also, if you want to continue the conversation about the safe at home rule, send them also! We are in this together. We all want to find ways to t.e.l.l. our children better!
Prayers for you, and your family, to feel safe and sound at home…
The last post about having a ‘safe at home’ rule caused some subscribers to reflect and send us questions and comments. For those who didn’t read the post, this rule is that no matter what negative things are happening outside the home, family members agree not to take it out on each other. At home, family members try and help one another with challenges. The family supports one another and helps each other handle the stress going on outside the home. As the mom who introduced the idea said, “We do not use each another as punching bags for what is happening outside the home.” Click here if you would like to read the whole post.
Some subscribers simply commented along the lines of, “I really like this!”
Another subscriber questioned, “How would you begin and enforce this rule?”
A few ideas come to mind, but I’m curious to hear from other subscribers. I’ll let you know what we hear in the next post. (I look forward to the day we can continue these conversations right here with the post!)
How would you introduce the safe at home rule? (OK, teachers, I know you can give some ideas about introducing rules!)
Stay tuned. Remember to enjoy the children in your life … t.e.l.l. them!