How to help children maintain dignity



This past weekend found me taking care of a couple kids whose single mom had to work. I really don’t mind these cute little girls spending the day with me at my house. I’ve kind of adopted these elementary age girls as my grandchildren.

These girls have had a pretty rough time in their short lives. They were away from their mom for a full year. Life is now calm and even though the single mom is struggling to get on her feet financially this family is doing okay. Mom is active in our single parent class at church. She has a story to tell about her salvation, but we’ll save that for another post.

One of the girls is ADHD and if allowed her behavior can get a little antsy. So to help her overcome some of this anxiety I offer her a lot of choices when she is with me. As a matter of fact, almost everything becomes a choice.

I know when kids have been through what she has in her short life they feel everything is out of control. When they have no control and feel like they have no power, their behavior becomes their voice. Their behavior becomes their power. They lose any dignity they may have had because of their out of control challenging behaviors. To help them regain power, control and a chance to get some of their dignity back I offer choices – lots of choices. It starts the minute they walk in the door of my house, just like it can start the minute they enter your class at church.

Typical conversation
Me:  Hey good morning. I’m so glad to see you. (Hug, hug). Do you want to put your coats in this room or the living room? How about your shoes? Where do you want to put them? (The only thing I request is they not put them in the middle of the door as they might get smashed when we open the door.) So have you eaten breakfast yet?

An upbeat attitude, smiles and hugs or offer of hugs brings a sense of calmness to an exciting situation. Mom leaves and we are off and running at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.

The choices were only beginning.

Here are some examples

  • Want something to eat or drink?
  • Do you want a cup or a glass? (As I hold up a cup in one hand and a glass in the other)
  • Want a yellow or blue?
  • Orange juice or cranberry?
  • Sit or stand to drink it?

It really doesn’t make any difference to me whether one chooses a cup or a glass that’s blue or yellow or whether they sit or stand to drink the juice, etc. It would be foolish of me to insist they do something just to please me or my preconceived notion about what they drink something out of and whether they sit or stand. If we truly want to minister to the child, then we must think of the child, not what we want.

After a short breakfast, the girls decided they wanted to go outside. I have a porch swing and they both love swinging. Once outside they decided to water the plants.

More choices

  • Green watering picture or grey?
  • You want to get the water by yourself or do you need help?
  • Do want to water the plants on the porch, in the green house or both?

On and on and on the choices come. Everything becomes a choice so they feel empowered and in control. When your are a hurting child and in control of your behavior, you maintain your dignity.

When there is a discipline situation, the child feels like they can trust you because they have been in control of their choices all morning. They have been respected and they have been given their dignity to be who they are. They can now experiment with how they truly feel and what they think, not what someone tells them to think, feel or do.

This is a very small thing one can do for the stressed and unruly child of divorce and separated families. Instead of being in trouble all the time

  • They now have an opportunity to really grieve their losses within their hearts.
  • They have an opportunity to get to know who they really are.
  • The divorce or parent’s problems no long define them.

As a child heals and moves forward in their life, they learn there is dignity and joy in coming to know a risen Savior. They want a relationship with Christ because they truly know and understand hurts and losses. These kids will grow up to be strong Christian witnesses for the kingdom.


I wrote this blog three  yeas ago. I’m happy to report my little friends are doing well in their life now. Mom has married a wonderful Christian man. For the first time in their lives they have a Christian dad and a Christian man who is showing them how they should be treated, loved and adored. While there are struggles occasionally, as with every child, these girls are growing in the Lord. The oldest has entered her tween years and is developing into a confident young lady. They both have accepted Christ as their personal Savior. It is a joy and blessing to watch them grow in the Lord. It is a joy to see the dignity they have developed and to watch them standing so tall in the Lord.

The mom still offers them a lot of choices. For these girls they will always need to understand and feel they have some control in their lives. The wounds from their early childhood are healing but the scars will always be there. God is good though and the mom, stepdad, me and others in the church look forward in seeing what God does in and with their lives.


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3 thoughts on “How to help children maintain dignity

  1. Pingback: DC4K » Empowering the helpless and vulnerable child

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