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My daughters have always had a way of keeping me on my toes—especially in the fourth grade. Let me explain.

My husband and I have always made it clear to all of our daughters that we have academic expectations for all of them, and their best effort was certainly one of them. My middle daughter, Tiffany, had a great start to her educational life. She always made good grades in all of her classes, so imagine my surprise when we received her fourth grade progress report full of D’s and F’s. I was immediately concerned. I was about this age when my struggles in school led to a Dyslexia diagnosis and I had prayed tirelessly for my children to not have the same obstacles that I did. The next day, I arranged for her to be tested for a full range of learning disabilities and resolved to get her whatever help she needed.

Our prayers must have been answered because all of the tests showed that she was a perfectly capable and bright kid, which meant she had some explaining to do. My husband and I set up a meeting with her teacher to figure out what the problem was. Her teacher was quick to inform us that she had an idea what could be going on. She led us to Tiffany’s desk. It was a disaster. There were papers EVERYWHERE! School supplies were strewn about and homework assignments were wadded up to make room for textbooks that had been shoved in haphazardly.

She had been so concerned with playing with her friends, and participating in her extra-curricular activities that she didn’t concern herself with her schoolwork at all.

Fast-forward nine years to my youngest daughter, Destani’s fourth grade year. She was thriving academically. You know when your kids are blessed with a teacher they love and everything just clicks? She was there. She loved going to school and wanted to please her teacher so much she would not only do her homework quickly and without complaints, she started asking for extra credit assignments every day. She did this so much that I began to be concerned. All day, everyday, she didn’t want to do anything else besides school work.

She had been so concerned with her scholastic life that she didn’t concern herself with having friends or extra-curricular activities at all.

After raising three very different daughters, it’s clear to me that balance is a crucial part of developing confidence in our kids. We must teach them that learning to constantly find balance, and failing in the process, is a perfectly normal—and actually a very good thing.

It’s up to us to teach them that taking risks is part of the game in discovering the things they love and feel confident doing, but even in risk-taking, there is a balance between fear and safety.

It’s important to note that somewhere in this process our kids will get stressed. We as adults have a difficult time maintaining a work/life balance, finding time for self-care, and giving away more of ourselves than is healthy—and our kids are no different. Teaching our kids to live a balanced life and making a priority of their own self care is vital for them to grow into healthy leaders.

We must remember that children have not yet developed their ability to express stress or their feeling of being overwhelmed, let alone the origin of the stress. As their parents and mentors, we need to recognize all of the demands of school, homework, and at home responsibilities, as well as the peer pressure they’re learning to navigate through every day.

The best thing we can do to help our kids practice balance and self-care is to give them tools to communicate the state of their emotional well-being. Here are some tools we’ve used with our own kids and students over the past 30 years:

The Love Bank

Explain the general concept of a bank, with the money being love. We make “deposits” into their love bank by telling them all of the great things we see in them, encouraging them, and physically showing them love. We take withdraws by not spending time with them, being overly critical, or not showing interest in their lives. On a regular basis, ask them to show you with their hands how full their love bank is. Do they feel loved up to their ankles? To their knees? Shoulders? Reaching all the way up past their heads? If your kids are anything like mine, they may love to do the “cha-ching!” sound as they show you how full their love bank is.

Thumbs Up Scoreboard

Ask your child to rank each area of their lives with a “thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs in the middle,” and make adjustments accordingly.

Wheel of Life (ideal for older kids and teenagers)

This is a great way to “score” each area of their lives, and for them to recognize that while one aspect of their life may be lacking, it doesn’t mean their whole life is lacking. Draw a circle and divide it into eight equal parts and label each part: Home, School, Friends, Sports/Extra-Curriculars, Money, Spiritual, Mental, Emotional. The center of the circle is a 0 and the outside of the circle is a 10. Ask them to draw a line in each area of their lives and score it on a scale from 1-10. It should look something like this:

Let me leave you with a few final thoughts:

  • “The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.” -Anonymous

  • “Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” -Parker Palmer

Balance has always been a struggle for me. It’s tough—especially for parents. We’re teaming up with TiffanyRave to bring you an 8-part confidence series. Today, she’s sharing with us the tough lessons she’s learned in living a balanced life.

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