Category: Better living and Parenting

We All Lean Into Love

There’s a tree in our back yard that is growing faster on one side than on the other. The other morning my daughter gave me her impression as to why this tree is so lopsided.

First, you need to know that it wasn’t lopsided two years ago when we moved into our new home. You also need to know that it was a very sad looking black walnut tree. The leaves weren’t thick and deep green. There were very few nuts that first year and not many more the second. However, this year the tree is loaded with nuts, the leaves are thick and deep green and it’s growing towards my patio.

Jodie said that she thinks it’s because the tree is reaching for our patio as if it wants to come right inside. She said that’s because it feels the love, the caring. Isn’t that an extraordinary thought!

I’m not one to talk to plants, but I love nature, outdoors, and gardening. I even love weeding. As soon as we could I built garden boxes for my patio and I’ve tended them with loving care. I feed them and I prune them. I deadhead the flowers every day, so they’ll keep blooming. I water. I am consistent.

Our patio is a shaded, blooming wildness that is irresistible. Yes, those are sweet pea plants in the flower beds, and we’ve enjoyed snacking from them for weeks.

It doesn’t really matter whether this thought about why the tree has become lopsided is true or not. It illustrates a very important, in fact crucial, fact about people, about families. We all lean into love. We want to be loved. We want to matter.

What I know from working with hundreds of families is that most parents want their children to know they matter. Why then do we unknowingly send messages that make our kids feel they’re in the way, that they’re bothering us, or that they aren’t as interesting as whatever else we’re doing, or that they aren’t good enough. It’s because we aren’t focused on being Present with our children. We check out.

It’s easy to check out in this busy world and often we don’t even realize that we have checked out. When we’ve checked out or are totally involved in what comes next on our list, it’s easy to be irritated and frustrated with our children, which leads to poor responses on our part. Children and youth don’t hear “I’m busy. I’ll help you later.” They don’t sense you’re overwhelmed or tired. They aren’t old enough or experienced enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. They hear, “You have no value.” “You don’t matter.” “This is more important than you.”

HOW TO SEND THE I LOVE YOU MESSAGE CONSISTENTLY

Here are some behaviors that we, as adults, can practice that will help us send a clear message to our children and youth that we love them, that they matter, regardless of whether they’re meeting our expectations or not, regardless of how busy we may be?

• STOP whatever you are doing. Turn away from the TV or your computer. Put down the cell phone. Saying “I’ll talk to you later” will not cut it. Say “I can’t talk right now but I will come and find you in ten minutes.”
• LOOK your child in the eye. When we take the opportunity to look another person in the eye, we send the message that we are present with them, want to hear them and find whatever they have to say important. This is especially important when we need to disciple or teach.
• TOUCH them on the shoulder, hand, back, etc. Touch sends the message that we like being with them even if we are upset with them. It connects us to them.
• RESPOND to what your child is feeling, not only what they’re saying. Are they feeling angry, disappointed, attacked, judged, sad? Focus on the feelings.
• LISTEN with patience and interest. Whatever you’re feeling, your child will know! They’re like energy magnets. If your energy is inwardly impatient, they’ll know. If you’re dying to get back to your stuff, they’ll feel it. If you’re bored out of your mind, it’s coming across loud and clear. It may all be on a subconscious level, but they know. Hold thoughts in your mind that will help you maintain interest and patience.
• ACTIVELY LISTEN Don’t check out looking for solutions or what you want to say next. Stay Present. Hear your child and respond to what they’re saying. If you feel the need to teach don’t. Wait until later. You can always teach but your children will not always come to you if they can’t trust that you hear them.
• CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WISELY – We must begin taking full responsibility for the words we say. If we want better outcomes, we need to watch our words. Say what you want, not what you don’t want. Words generate emotions. You’ll feel the way you speak. How you feel moves you to an action that gives you a result, either good or bad.

We want our children to lean into our family, to want to be home, to see our example, and to know that they matter, that they are loved. Children who feel loved have far better outcomes in life.

This leads to the final behavior:

• BE CONSISTENT – You won’t be perfect. You can’t be. But be as consistent in your efforts as possible. If you do, it will be enough, and your kids will know that they are loved and that they matter.

Share and comment. I love hearing what you have to say. : ) 

This Is the Most Fun Thing I Have Ever Done!

Some years ago, we had a dirt pile in the corner of our yard. Then my daughter decided to create something beautiful in that space.

She measured and cut the wood and figured out how to hold it all together. She built a fence to keep the dogs out. She planted herbs, tomatoes, peas, a watermelon, and a pumpkin. She built trellises for them. As a final touch, she added a metal baby robin, a fairy statue, and a brick walkway. It was beautiful!

My daughter said, “It took me two weeks to do a one-day project”. That was because she had three small children, one with cerebral palsy. The fact that she couldn’t focus and get the job done more quickly was a bit frustrating. Yet, despite the frustration, she said, “While I was building the garden, it was exhilarating. It was so exciting and rejuvenating.” Building that garden gave my daughter a wonderful sense of “This is the most fun thing I have ever done!”

My daughter was startled by the absolute joy she experienced as she figured it out and then built the garden. She thought a lot about that and remembered that she had felt this overwhelming joy before when she was four.

On our porch, she found two pieces of wood. She decided to make a plane. She asked for her snow pants because every builder needs overalls. She wanted a hammer and nails. Then she proceeded to make a plane. It didn’t look like a plane, just two sticks nailed into a T which she painted. She thought it was grand!

My daughter loves to build things. She also knows that she doesn’t build often enough. She works on ways to add that element into her life. When she makes time to build, no matter how stressful life is, she manages better.

Satisfaction and Joy Make Us Better People

There’s value in determining what brings us a sense of satisfaction and joy. As we create opportunities where we experience these feelings, we’re better mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and people. These feelings enhance our ability to problem-solve instead of blowing up or becoming depressed. They ease the stress of modern life. They increase our patience and our ability to reach out to others, to forgive and to love.

The key is knowing what brings us these feelings and then finding ways to include them in our lives more often. We must make space for them. This isn’t always easy, but it is doable!

Do the work of figuring out simple things that feel exhilarating, satisfying and joyful to you. As you implement more of these activities into your life you fill your bucket. This enables you to give more to your family, friends, and community. Above all, it increases the quality of your life.

Let me leave you with an example from my own life. I love organizing things. Yup, work. I know it wouldn’t feel joyful and satisfying to everyone, but it is to me. So, I make plans on a regular basis to order something in my life, a drawer, a closet, a shelf in the garage, under my bed, etc. I organize something at least once or twice a month. I’m busy so I must plan it. I must get the support of my family to make space for it. But it’s worth it because it feels exhilarating, satisfying and brings me joy.

Someone once said that life is not a dress rehearsal. This is the real deal, so find ways to live a life of satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy no matter how busy life gets. Determine what generates these feelings for you and then find ways to incorporate them into your life.

Feel moved? Please comment.  Then share. : )

Add Presence to Your Summer!

I’m glad summer is here. I like summer. I like the freedom that comes with summer. BUT summer can be a very busy time. Sometimes the pace outstrips my ability to keep up.

For me the pace began to pick up in March as I worked on my garden. It was so rainy that I worried I might not have a garden this year but it’s coming along nicely now.

My poor patio garden really took a beating last year and through the winter with the free range chickens. Then totally covered over early spring until the chicken run was done and they were contained. I feel as if it’s a gift from God especially for me every time I look at it. There is no way that we could have this little piece of heaven after the chickens. But here it is and it’s so beautiful.

Putting up the pergola came next and since my husband has physical limitations I learned that I can do some pretty difficult things. Very cool!

I spent almost two weeks in Seattle with my youngest daughter’s family. New babies are so wonderful! I helped them landscape the front yard. Whew, that was a lot of work. They waited until I got there because they had this idea that I know a lot about plants, how they grow, how to design gardens, etc. Yikes! It was a real adventure at the greenhouse picking everything out. It was an even greater adventure designing and planting everything. However, it turned out great and we got some good together time in the bargain.

Don spent part of his time helping the kids create a fairy village in the crooks of the big tree by the front door. The kids LOVED that. I learned all about play dough and the wonderful things that kids can create. : ) Then we moved on to bubble snakes. We also built and exploded a volcano because Elliott like everything prehistoric.

This Friday I returned home after a three day service project at my sisters house. I and another sister and her husband were hanging sheet rock, mudding, and taping the basement. Whew, that is a lot of work and a lot of ladder time. They project that they may have it all done by the end of July and so I may have the opportunity to do another stint on the ladder.

I also made a big decision this spring, to spend the summer writing. So I sat down and set up a writing schedule because without a firm plan it wouldn’t happen right? Two days later I became ill for the first time in two years. Hmm, might be my bodies comment on the whole writing thing. : )

Then a week later my computer went down. That in itself wasn’t so bad but that is how I discovered that the backup system I have been paying for for two years wasn’t backing anything up. YIKES!!! Not the systems fault but mine. Didn’t know what I was doing. It was a miracle we were able to retrieve all the data from the dead computer. So grateful because many files are not replaceable and all my writing would have been lost.

Now the computer is in some faraway manufacturing site being repaired and I am working on a cobbled together computer system. I have been out of sorts over it and haven’t quite gotten my feet back under me so the writing has been going slow. Not to fear though because I am fairly resilient and Monday is a new week. Pressing forward.

Summer is a wonderful, as well as a challenging time. If you have kids added to the mix then it can be even more so. Despite the distractions and business of summer, make sure you spend some present time with your children. As each summer passes it can’t be reclaimed. So hang on to what you can of them and make some memories. You will treasurer them later. Happy Summer!

Do You Use Shame to Teach?

Here is the definition of shame – a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

When we are children, we find ourselves shamed by adults around us. We take that shame and learn, over time, to shame ourselves. Here is the sentence that accompanied the definition of the word shame – “I tried to shame her into sharing.” In this case, someone hoped that by making another feel like a bad person for not behaving in a specified way, they could get them to behave in a different way.

As a parent, have you ever found this to be truly helpful? I haven’t. Children who feel shamed may do what we want, in the way we want, but it doesn’t encourage them to make a change from a place of power but to succumb from a place of powerlessness.

When Shame Cannot Survive

When an adult shows empathy, then shame cannot survive, in fact, isn’t even born. Here is the definition of empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is the capacity to take another perspective, but more than that, it is truly caring about the person and how they feel.

I have a daughter who is very good at this. When her son, who is ten, is yelling and throwing a huge fit she remains calm. If his language is inappropriate, she reminds him firmly that he cannot talk to his mom like that. Then she asks questions and listens. She tries to find out why he is angry, frustrated or upset. She allows him to feel his feelings and then she works to help him navigate those feelings, all the while avoiding shaming him for behaving in a childish way, at ten.

Sometimes when I hear an exchange like this, I think in an old way in my brain – “Man, I would tell him to go to his room and when he’s in control then to come out and we can talk.” Yes, that is how I parented for many years. But today, I would hope that I could put that old thinking behind me and listen, empathize and then teach.

When a person knows deep inside of themselves that they are of value, that their feelings matter, that they are not broken or deficient in some way, that is a powerful place to be. When we feel shamed and believe there is something inherently wrong with us, that is a place of powerlessness.

It’s worth the effort to have empathy and empower our children rather than shame them. We won’t do this perfectly, but if we could do it even a portion of the time it would make a huge difference in how our children mature.

Tips to create a culture of empathy in your home

It’s much easier to teach children to be empathetic than to retrain adults. I know because I grew up in a time and home where empathy wasn’t considered the most valuable response – obedience was.

Here are some ways that you can increase the empathy that your children feel for others, as well as foster a more empathetic family culture in your home.

1. STOP what you’re doing and listen. Put the cell phone down, turn away from the screen, any screen.

2. LOOK your child in the eye while you’re listening and talking to them. If you can’t listen right then, tell them when you can. Later is not good enough. Say, “I will be free in fifteen minutes.”

3. Use ACTIVE listening. Listen to understand what they’re saying and feeling rather than trying to formulate a solution or response. Really care about what they’re saying. If you’re disinterested, frustrated with the interruption, or want to get to the next thing, trust me, your child will feel that.

4. Teach LATER. For now, listen. Ask good questions and mirror feelings. “How did that make you feel?” “That would have hurt my feelings too.”

4. Remember that every person is DIFFERENT. Your child is not you. They may respond to situations differently than you. Honor the differences. My husband thinks of people first. I think of projects first. That can cause us some issues unless we respect each other’s differences. When we do this, we avoid shaming one another for how we are.

5. MODEL empathy for your children. Practice empathy with your neighbors, the grumpy store clerk, the man who cuts you off in traffic, etc. I have a friend who, when someone does something stupid or rude in traffic, says out loud, “They must be having a bad day. Heavenly Father help them get where they’re going safely!” Her kids hear this on a regular basis, and it is informing them of how to care about others.

6. Give your kids some RESPONSIBILITIES. Children who have the responsibility to feed the cat or walk the dog or who participate in service projects tend to be more empathetic to others. When children learn to be responsible, they think more about others.

7. When we WORK TOGETHER as a family, we have the opportunity to create a culture of empathy. When we have regular family meetings/nights it provides an opportunity to model empathy as we consider everyone’s thoughts and ideas. When we do projects together it provides opportunities to resolve conflicts in non-shaming ways.

8. STOP! If you’re not feeling empathetic or if you find yourself dealing in poor ways with your children, STOP. Ask yourself why. Are you stressed, overly tired, is a child pushing your button in a specific way?

Now do what you need to do to get a handle on the problem, sit down, close your eyes, take deep breathes, go for a walk, hide in the bathroom and shed a few tears, whatever is needed. Then you will be able to get back on track.

9. AVOID DISCOURAGEMENT! Finally, if empathy isn’t something that you grew up with, doesn’t come naturally or if you just haven’t made it a practice, is it too late? NO. Anything, we think deeply about and then practice can become part of who we are. I know this is true because I have had to practice being more empathetic. I can still find myself in an non empathetic place, but I am far better than when I was a new parent. Don’t feel discouraged when you behave in a non empathetic way or when you shame a child to get your way. Just remind yourself what it is you want, the family culture you want, and try, try again.

The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly of Parenting

Every parent is made up of a measure of good,
a portion of bad and
occasionally a dollop of ugly.

 

I don’t care how good a parent you are; this is true. The problem that we run into is focusing on any one part.

Many parents focus on the bad. They forget that there is a large portion of good. Others focus on the good and forget that they need to work on the bad. And occasionally, some see only the dollop of ugly. Each of these scenarios lessens our ability to parent well, long term.

Let me share three personal experiences.

1. I was on occasion, not nurturing. I can recall hearing a child gaging in the night and then pulling them out of bed, running them down the hall, all the while repeating in an urgent voice, “Hold it. Don’t throw up.”

2. My youngest daughter wanted to be a cheerleader. During the try-outs, she had to do a solo routine and fell. It seemed like an eternity until she looked up towards the bleachers where I was, although only seconds had passed. When she looked my way, she saw me standing in a sea of sitting parents. She saw me silently sending the message, I am proud of you. I want everyone to know I am your mom. Get up, you can do this. P.S. She made the squad!

3. We had six kids, were living in Montana, and money was tight. One night I found an open Tampon in the bathroom garbage. A child had been curious, opened it, and it was now no good. I had, on occasion, found myself without that needed necessity. I flipped.

I drug six kids out of bed, lined them up in the hall and went up and down the line shaking the Tampon in their noses, asking repeatedly, “WHO OPENED THIS!”

Story one is bad. A good mom sits on the side of the bed with a pan, soothing a fevered brow and speaking calm and loving words. They aren’t concerned with vomit and cleaning it up. Right?

Story two is so good. I mean, doesn’t it make you want to be that mom?

Story three is ugly, totally out of control.

And there it is. We all have our ugly moments. We all have moments when we shine. And we all have moments when it’s clear that although we aren’t the worst parent on the planet, we surely could be better.

It’s vital to remember that you are not just one part, you are all three. There is no perfection in parenting any more than there is perfection in friendship, relationships, or life.

We need to focus on the good. We need to improve the bad. And we need to forgive ourselves for the occasionally ugly. When we do this, we are better parents. There is power in seeing the good, acknowledging the bad and forgiving the ugly and that power helps us parent better.

Here are a few things I have learned

about kids that make it easier for you to improve and forgive yourself, to worry less and to know that it’s going to be OK in the end.

• Kids love their parents unconditionally
• Kids are quick to forgive
• Kids are resilient
• Kids have a way of moving on

Our goal is not perfection. There is always going to be something you don’t know, haven’t mastered yet or that is messy. In a family, in life, there is always work to do. Keep improving yourself. Do more good, improve the bad and you will lessen the ugly. And in the end, it will all be OK.

The greatest compliment is when you share
but the greatest joy is when you comment. : ) 

No Matter What, You Can!

We Often Believe We Cannot Do Something Until We Do It

My husband bought a pergola for our patio. It was a necessity because the west sun is so hot that you can’t even turn the doorknob in mid-summer.

The problem is that it had to be anchored into the cement. It had already blown over three times. We didn’t have the know-how or the tools to do it. I reached out to a good friend who walked us through how it needed to be done and then lent us the tool – a huge rotary hammer drill.

Our friend drilled two holes and bolted them down. Then we were on our own. Don did one but with a replaced hip he knew he couldn’t do the other 13 holes and bolts.

I want to remind you that I’m 69 years old. I’m in good shape and healthy but my knees, hips, and back are also 69 years old, as is my strength level. But that pergola had to be anchored down! That’s where I came in.

It’s interesting that we often believe we cannot do something until we do it. Then all the impediments that we felt existed drop away. Let me give you a simple example.

I needed to begin taking a daily vitamin. I bought some but they were big. I knew that in order to get them down I would need to break them in half. I tried but my finger strength just didn’t seem to be enough. I got two small pliers and held the pill between them and snapped it in half. I did this daily for about a week.

One day the pliers turned up missing and I was impatient to move on with my day. I didn’t want to hunt for them. I grabbed a pill and gave it all I had and viola, it broke in two. I haven’t used pliers since, and it doesn’t seem to require nearly as much finger strength as the first time I broke one in half. I now know that I can break that pill on my own power. After all, I did it once. Before that, I felt sure I couldn’t. I mean, I had tried.

The day I needed to drill into cement and put in long screws and tighten them down I found myself in the same dilemma. But I remembered that pill experience which I had had only a few months earlier.

The outcome was that I drilled 13 holes, 3 inches deep, into the cement patio; I put in 3-inch screws and tightened them down. Twice I had to call on my husband to drill the last ½ inch because I hit a rock and even all my body weight on the drill wasn’t enough. But I did the job, for the most part, by myself.

Now the day before, when I knew what was required, I would have sworn that I could not manage a drill of the needed size and that there was no way I could find the strength to drill that deep into cement. But I did it.

This is the message I want to share

There will be many things in your parenting life that you are sure you cannot work out, fix, change or learn to do differently. However, it has been my experience that if we get good instructions/information, if we give it a consistent effort for as long as is needed, and if we believe we can, then we will find the solutions to anything. We are never too old to change how we are. We are never too old to learn something new. Strength to hold on consistently until change happens is always available. Our families are never too troubled to make positive and lasting change.

So, when you feel the job, issue, challenge, problem, is just too big then I want you to remember the vitamin. Once we try and have even the smallest success, we never again feel that we can’t. We know that we can!

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

Are You Sick of Mother’s Day?

 

When my youngest daughter was pregnant with her first baby, she began a blog titled “Countdown to Motherhood.” Each week she had a different mother from her circle of women write an article about their experience with mothering. I was one of the mom’s in that circle.

Today I’m sharing what I wrote on that long-ago Mother’s Day. (Link for the original article HERE)

Why Mothering Can Feel So Hard

I never thought much about being a mother. I mean you grew up, got married and had kids. Everyone did it; everyone that I knew anyway, and they didn’t seem to make a big deal about it. But it is a BIG deal. I had so much to learn about being a mother.

• It doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
• It isn’t always a piece of cake.
• Sometimes it’s overwhelming.
• You often don’t know what to do next.
• If you just keep at it, it will be the very best thing you ever do!!
• I would do it over again even though there were some very hard times.

At almost seventy I look back with fondness on those earlier days. I look at pictures of my sweet children and realize that I didn’t understand how wonderful they were. It’s so easy to get caught up in the work of mothering that you forget to pay attention to the joys of being a mother.

A Few Things That I Would Want to Understand If I Had It To Do Over

• Realize that the time will come when you will miss hearing your child say “mom.” It can be wearing now but you will miss it!
• Cherish every wet, sticky, sloppy kiss because no matter how many you get, they will never be enough! You will want more of them long after your child is grown.
• A clean house is not more important than a sweet relationship with your child. Messy bedrooms eventually disappear and so does the child – into adulthood – and then all you have left is a clean room and hopefully a child who wants to come home to visit.
• Conversations with a child are amazing if you take the time to listen. I know that right now you just want to hear quiet, but the day will come when you will miss that childish prattle.
• A child’s laughter and joy are contagious. Catch it because it renews your own energy and relieves stress.
• Being the caretaker of another person’s learning and personal growth is an amazing stewardship and is worth all the time and effort it takes to do it with kindness and gentleness.

Now that I’m a grandmother, I understand these things better. Moving at a slower and gentler pace is what grandparents do and so we see a bit more clearly and we enjoy a bit more deeply.

Any mother who is clear on the importance of being a mother and is willing to make it her number one priority for a short while can understand these things long before she is a grandmother.

Child-rearing lasts only a short time so, despite the challenges, weariness and redundant work, embrace every Mother’s Day while your kids are in your home. Once they leave it will never be the same!

Your Shares Are The Bst Compliment : ) 

Do You Want to be Perfect?

Strive for improvement, not obsessive perfectionism.

“No matter how consistent I am at something I just haven’t been able to be perfect!” The mom making this comment was feeling really stressed out and like a failure. Can you relate? As a mentor, I hear it all the time!

Where in the world did we ever get the idea that there would ever be a time in our lives when we would have everything all worked out.

Unfortunately, this is how I lived a great many years of my life. I felt that in order to be of value in the world I needed to be perfect. I tried, I really tried. As a child, I REALLY tried. But I couldn’t do it and so I grew up knowing that somehow there was just something not quite right about me. And then things got ugly because as an adult I wasn’t any better at perfect than I had been as a child. In fact, I was less perfect because now I was the mother of a family and I had to lead out, so I made a lot more mistakes.

Now for the important part.

Because I was so busy trying to be perfect it became VERY hard to really enjoy life, my kids, my husband, anything. That’s because life is messy, kids are messy, and relationships are messy. Trust me, our parenting was messy. And because it wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t perfect at it, I had a hard time enjoying it.

When I began teaching about family connections and having more fun as a family it was challenging for me because I had parented imperfectly. I worried that I didn’t have anything to offer or that even if I did no one would listen to me. That was a tough place to teach from.

After a few years I contemplated quitting because, in order to teach the very things that I really knew a lot about, I had to confess to the world that I wasn’t perfect. This was truly daunting for a person who had spent a huge portion of her life working for perfection.

Before I began teaching families how to connect, back in my Montana days,  I had a façade going that was amazing. People in my world thought I was perfect. In fact, I was slightly intimidating because I looked so perfect. But then our lives began to fall apart and it became evident to everyone that I wasn’t perfect and this made how I felt about myself worse.

Recently I read an article by Glennon Doyle Melton and was struck by what she said about this issue of perfection.

“So often, people’s lives are presented to us as before and after stories. It’s always: “Look! My mess is fine because I’m ALL BETTER NOW! Ten steps to FREEDOM! Look at me, I’m FREE!” Sometimes it feels like it’s only okay to talk about your Cinderella story when you’re at the ball. When the tough, ugly parts are over. When everything is shiny and happily ever after, promise!! …But there is no ball. There is no point in which you stop working and just brush your long pretty hair and flit around, untouchable. Done. All better. There is no before and after. Most honest folks…will tell you that it’s just the same %^$# thing, over and over. That you just fall down seven times and get back up eight…I’m not at the ball. I’m scrubbing floors: wondering why everyone else gets to dance and make it look so easy. I’m a little angry and confused that I’m almost forty years old and STILL DEALING WITH THIS %*&^#. Why I don’t have all of this figured out yet.  Glennon Doyle Melton

She was speaking specifically about body issues, weight, overeating, etc. but it’s all the same. It could be yelling, poor spending habits, not connecting with your kids or a thousand other issues. When you don’t have things worked out you feel bad. You feel that somehow you’re a failure, that if you were worth anything you would have it all worked out by now!

I have a couple of friends who are in their late 80’s, they’re twins. They have lived together for the last few years and they walk almost every day, arm in arm.

One day Marion was walking alone, and she was a bit tippy on her feet. I saw her and was worried so I went out and said, “Marion, can I walk with you.” As we walked, she talked about her life and her sister. They had been fighting and she was sad. Their relationship had been a mess for a few days. She began to cry.

I was flabbergasted!! I couldn’t help myself, and despite her tears, I blurted out, “Marion, I thought when I got to your age I would have it all worked out!”

Through her tears she began laughing – “Oh goodness honey, that will never happen. There is always something to work on!”

And there it is. We aren’t ever going to be perfect. We will get good at some things. There may even be one or two things that we do fairly perfectly but, we are never going to be perfect. We are never going to have everything worked out. There is always going to be something you don’t know, haven’t mastered yet or that is messy.

So, what can you do about it?

Do what I’m doing.

  • Keep working on yourself, your attitude, your relationships, your systems, etc. 
  • Know that your value isn’t in perfection but in the fact that you are here, trying.
  • Know that your efforts to be better will matter and that even if you aren’t perfect you have something to share with your spouse, your children, your neighborhood, maybe the world.

Keep working on things. There really isn’t a before and after in life, a place you get to where you have it all worked out and life is happily ever after. Remember what Marion said, “Oh goodness honey, that will never happen, there is always something to work out!” And at 80+ she ought to know!

Your Shares Are the Best Compliment

Screen Free for a Month! WHAT?

What if you went Screen-Free, as a family, for a WHOLE MONTH!! Do you think you could do it? Would your family go nuts? Would everyone crack up? Would the fighting increase? Yikes!! A whole month!!

One of the main tips I give to help families connect better and more often, is to manage technology better. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology free moments every day. For example, you could have a TV, computer and no phone hour just before bed. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time you will be surprised at how much time you can open up for your family. Finding a few moments each day to turn technology off is a good idea.

A few years ago, I met a family that goes screen-free for a whole month, once a year. I got all the details from the mom, Courtney, and I want to share them with you because I think you will be so impressed that you might consider making this a tradition in your home.

So, what is screen-free you ask? No TV, no movies on TV, no computer time, no games on the phone or TV, no screens!

HOW TO MAKE GOING SCREEN-FREE WORK

Here is how the Smith family makes it work:
1. Prepare your kids ahead of time. This family goes screen free in June, every year. However, one year they didn’t begin talking about it early enough. They usually begin talking about it and making plans about a month in advance. So, for the sake of having a successful Screen-Free Month, they moved it to July that year.

2. Presentation is everything. That’s my phrase and you’ve probably heard me say it before, but it is what they do. They talk it up. They talk about all the great things they’re going to be able to do as a family, how much fun they’re going to have together, and the family reward at the end of the month.

3. Get everyone to buy in. As Courtney was telling me how they get their kids to cooperate I said, “Oh you get them to buy in.” She smiled and said, “Well I didn’t have a term for it but yup, that’s what we do.” They get their kids to buy in by allowing them to pick a reward they would like to have at the end of the month. It could be swimming, camping, eating out, going to the movie theater, visiting grandparents, a road trip, whatever the parents want to throw out there. When the kids pick it, plan it and talk about it – they are IN.

Here is their families one caveat concerning rewards – They don’t use screen time as the reward. They don’t want to reward ‘no screen’ time with ‘screen’ time. : )

4. Parent’s have to be honest! It isn’t the kids who struggle the most, it’s the parents. They really do have to commit. Courtney told me that the hard part for her is at lunch. She usually has lunch when the big kids are at school and her little one is taking a nap. She likes to read Facebook, watch a show, catch up on the news, whatever, as she eats lunch. It’s a challenge to read instead or call a friend.

It is also challenging for her and her husband in the evening when everyone is in bed. They usually veg out a bit in front of the TV, just the two of them but – YIKES – it’s their screen-free month. She told me that they have learned to play games together or read to each other. It’s become really fun.

The one adult caveat – They do occasionally check email, pay bills online or prepare church lessons. Just no screens for entertainment purposes.

5. Plan ahead. Get the games out. Check some great books out of the library. Stock up on popcorn. Know in your mind what you’re going to say to your kids, how are you going to direct them when they come and ask to watch a movie or use technology. Get mentally and physically prepared.

This family goes screen free in the summer months because they feel that in the winter you’re shut in and it’s more difficult to disengage from TV, videos, games, etc. In the summer you can get out, walk, go swimming, go to the mountains, etc.

THE RESULTS

Courtney said that it’s challenging the first few days because it’s a serious transition, but then they settle right in. They have a lot of fun. They play together, they talk, and they laugh. She said that it’s something they all really look forward to each year.

They feel more connected at the end of their Screen-Free Month. It takes a while for screen time to become important to them again. The break feels good – after the first few days. : )

In fact, Courtney shared this with me, “Last time we did it our kids wanted to continue for more than a month! And they hardly ever asked when it would be over.”

So why not consider it and give it a try. You just might find out how much your family likes to read, play games, hike or swim.

Who else out there goes screen free for a day, a week, a month? What is your experience?

Your shares are the best compliment!

We ALL Play the Embellishment Game

I got a fabulous call recently from a dear friend. She wanted to tell me about her three grandchildren, twins, aged 8 and one, aged 5. They have been playing a game with their grandma when she takes them to school 3 times a week. It’s called, Embellish the Story. One of them begins the story and then they each take a turn adding to it. In other words, they embellish it.

My friend said the best thing is watching their faces when the person ahead of them takes the story in a direction they didn’t want or didn’t anticipate. She sees their face go from annoyed or mad to thoughtful and then illuminated as they figure out where they can take the story, so it fits what they want better.

Recently, in school, the older girl’s teacher said that they were going to have an embellishment project. The twins were so excited because they knew what the word meant. They were the only kids in class who knew what it meant. So, what does the word mean to them? That is a very interesting thing – In their words you get to tell your story and sometimes you make stuff up.

Our Stories Matter!

Isn’t that the truth. In every situation, we get to tell ourselves the story and sometimes we make stuff up. And it all affects the results that we get. I’ve learned through almost seven decades of life that we do have control over the story that we tell ourselves in any situation and that the story we tell impacts our response to whatever is happening and the outcome that we get.

One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He said, “When we’re no longer able to change a situation—we’re challenged to change ourselves.” He reminded us in his book Man’s Search for Meaning the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond (Frankl)

This can be tough because it means that, just like these little girls, we have to figure out how to tell a better story, one that leads us to the destination we want.

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true. If you say, “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say, “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, and so on,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on.

I worked with a self-employed mother who was telling herself a negative story about her son’s actions. She felt he was whiney and needy. He was a bother when she was trying to work. Her responses to her son were causing a strained relationship between them. She was having difficulty figuring out how to fix the situation. When I asked her to tell me more about her son, she replied that he was bright, loving, and responsible.

We talked about the importance of our story, how they affect our response and ultimately the result we get. Her result was painful. She determined to change the story even if the situation wasn’t changing. She decided to remind herself of her sons’ positive qualities each time she began to experience annoyance or frustration.

When I talked with her next, I asked her how it was going. She replied she and her son were no longer at odds. She enjoyed his company. She could see that he was just interested in what she was doing, and they had had opportunities to connect on and off during the day. She was able to respond positively to him more often.

This mom got better results because her feelings were positive. Her feelings were positive because she changed her story about her son.

Now back to my friend and her grandchildren. She made the call because she wanted to thank me for all that she has learned about taking control of our stories and how impactful and life-changing that has been.

She wanted me to know that because I have made an impact in her life, she has been able to make an impact in the lives of her granddaughters. This morning as she dropped them off to school she asked, “Now when you get in school you get to tell your story. So, what will you do if someone gets your story going in a different direction that you don’t want it to go or that wasn’t what you expected? They knew – “We get to take it in the direction we want it to go!”

As my friend said goodbye and thanked me for sharing with her through the years, she had tears in her voice because as she said, “It’s wonderful when you can see it used in real life, and when you can help the rising generation learn it so much earlier. I know this is going to have an impact on how their lives will go.”

Here are a few tips to help you have better stories.

• Take responsibility and stop blaming
• Decide to think the best of others
• Choose your words wisely
• Keep practicing

Take responsibility for your thoughts, the stories, and emotions they create, and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your stories in concrete form. You’re in control of the stories you tell—stories about yourself, your family, your children, the world, the past, the present, and the future. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Our Stories Determine Our Happiness Level

Stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. My granddaughter, Mary, is six. She loves to watch the fish in our tank. We have a very sleek, silver catfish that swims fast and erratically whenever anyone stands in front of the tank. I believe the fish does this out of fear or because it has been disturbed. One day Mary asked me, “Do you know why this fish swims so fast when I’m looking at him?” I replied, “No, why?” She responded with, “Because he likes me!”

Mary, like all of us, gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as true as mine.

Want to Know More?

If you want an in-depth understanding of how to control your responses in tough situations, how telling a better story can open up your internal resources, and an in-depth look at the tips above as well as a few more, then read my book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can purchase it on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Here’s to better stories and better outcomes.

Your Shares Are The Best Compliment : )