Category: Better living and Parenting

Lifting The Burden of Work and Family

Judgment is NOT Helpful!

I have an older client whose wife has become unable to do many of the household tasks that she used to do. I was at his home one day, a few days after their family had gathered to celebrate the end of summer. There were about 27, many of them children. They had water fights and silly string fights. This made for a lot of towel use. As he came up the stairs, he let out a tired breath and said, “How do women do it. The laundry alone is overwhelming.” I asked him what their laundry room had looked like when they were raising their family. He replied that there was always a heap of dirty clothes on the floor and another of clean laundry. I then asked him, “What did you think about that back then?” He didn’t hesitate to answer but blurted out, “Why can’t she get this cleaned up!”
He looked a bit sheepish and told me that he realized now, years later, that he should have been kinder in his appraisal of the job his wife was doing. He could see that his judgment was harsh, and his help was too little.

Here’s the thing about my friend who was washing the family towels. He went to work every day. He had to juggle the needs of the boss, his teammates and his own. He had deadlines to meet. He dealt with situations and expectations over which he had no control. Then there was the commute. He may have felt that his days were far more challenging than his wife’s.

Life is a challenge. Being part of a family is a challenge. But there are a few things we can do to lift our own burden, as well as the burdens of those we live with.

Tips to Lifting Burdens

• Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best
of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively. We will be more willing to lend a helping hand.
• Regardless of how or what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in their place.
• Suspend judgment. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
• Choose kindness over frustration. We’re all learning. When we choose kindness, we increase our ability to problem-solve.

Running a family can be daunting. Supporting a family can be daunting. There are so many moving parts to family life. If we learn to reserve judgment and respond with kindness, we will have far better outcomes and our family relationships will feel stronger and safer.

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The Best Grandparents Are …

Recently, on a video app, my sisters and I were talking about what makes a great-grandma. The topic came up because one of my sisters has been accused of not being a good grandmother. It’s odd too because she is one of the coolest.

It’s Gotta Be Candy!

This sister has a candy drawer. Yea, a whole drawer. It is the lowest drawer so any kid can reach it. All the neighborhood kids and her class at church know about the drawer. They all come regularly and get stuff from the drawer. The drawer doesn’t have rules.

She is also a fun grandma. She jokes around with her grandkids all the time. Her word of endearment to them is DORK. I know, doesn’t seem like a great choice of words but the grands get it. It means “You are one of the BEST!”

And she is just plain silly. She laughs a lot and does and says goofy stuff to her grandkids. They seem to adore her. So why do her kids think she isn’t a great-grandma. Well, she doesn’t babysit. At least not very often. She makes feasts and invites everyone over. She visits the homes of her grandkids regularly, like weekly. She is there, with the candy drawer, whenever one of the grands needs a listening ear. Her grandkids think she is the BEST! But she doesn’t babysit!

Hence the conversation about what is a great grandma or grandpa for that matter. Let me tell you about my other sisters and their grandmotherly qualities.

No, It’s Babysitting, Right!

I have a sister who does babysit. She babysits whenever she isn’t working, and she works a lot. She is still young and so she has a fulltime job. But when she isn’t working, she is usually babysitting. Sometimes it’s at her child’s home but mostly it’s at her home. She keeps doing her stuff and the kids play. She kisses owies. She answers dozens of questions. She gives hugs. She makes good snacks. She carries on with her work and her grands carry on, noise and mess all over the place. Her grandkids think she is the BEST!

No, Really, Its Praise!

Another sister of mine has a brain injury. That has complicated her life a lot. However, some of her grandchildren live with her. Others are close by and they come and visit regularly. She does babysit now and then. She bakes treats. She hugs and kisses. But here is her greatest grandmother strength. She talks about her grandkids all the time. She talks about them in glowing terms. They are the brightest. They are beautiful. They are talented. They hear her do all this talking, and they know she means it and they know what she says is true. They think she is the BEST grandma!

Odds Are, It’s the Pool!

Another sister lives in sunny Arizona. She has a pool. Her grandkids love to come and swim. She will even get in with them now and then. She has three grandkids that live with her. She drives them to school and picks them up. She keeps her annoyance at bay which isn’t always easy. She answers tons of questions and teaches life lessons. For her other grands, she has great family events. She makes good food and decorates. She writes letters to the far away grands. They all think she is the BEST!

Gotta Be This – Build Your House for the Grands!

My youngest sister is quite different. She is so invested in the whole grandmother thing. She sends wonderful gifts. She gets her grands together regularly and they go camping. When she and her husband built their home, they built it with the grands in mind. There are nooks and crannies just for them. They celebrate all the holidays together. She bakes. She cooks. She cuddles and hugs and kisses. Her grands think she is the BEST grandma.

Wanna Be the Best – Just Have Everything!

And what about me? Well, I live with four of my grandkids. Don and I babysit a lot because one of them has severe cerebral palsy and we know what to do. We share all our stuff. It’s inevitable when you live with your grands because they come and borrow everything. Getting it back can be an issue. LOL

I hug and kiss but it not my main thing. My great claim to fame is having everything they need. You name it. An old toothbrush, a toilet paper tube, an old medicine bottle, crayons, new markers, white-out. Anything. I also make treats. I teach life lessons. I don’t yell much. That’s a biggie. I go to visit my other grands. I send them messages on a video app. I sing and tell stories on the app. I write letters. In fact, I am known as the gum grandma and every letter and card contains gum. Even if you’re over 18 there is gum. I have a candy jar. You can get in it once a day. This grandma has rules.

I am a strict grandma but loving. I have boundaries. My grandkids know where the lines are. But despite that, my grandkids think I am the BEST grandma.

Here are the stories of six grandmothers. We are all so different. Some are soft. Some are sharp. Some buy gifts. Some give gum. Some are close and some far away. Some hug and kiss a lot and some do it less often. Some take their grands on special outings and some spend most of the time with them at home. Some babysit and some don’t.

Finally, We Got It. BE THERE!!

But in every case, the grands think their brand of a grandmother is the best. Why. What is the common denominator among the six? It’s simple. They are THERE. The best grandmothers and grandfathers are there. They can be counted on to be present when it matters.

It isn’t what we do or where we take kids. It isn’t the candy jar or drawer. It’s not the gifts. It’s being there!

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Are You Like The White Rabbit?

Do you recall the White Rabbit in Lewis Carrols, Alice in Wonderland? You know the jumpy little guy who was always crying out, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.” He was so worried about being in the right place at the right time. He had so much on his plate.

I don’t know about you, but I have lived the life of that rabbit. I have spent time hopping from one thing to another always with the feeling that I am not quite where I should be; I am not measuring up. Busy-ness became a habit. I was mired in the thick of thin things.

Mothers and fathers find themselves here all the time. All the chores belong to parenting: cooking, cleaning, yard work, laundry, dishes, getting kids up, putting them to bed, running kids here and there.

And then there are all the good things that we can do for ourselves to feel successful. We do them to serve in our community. We do them because we want our kids to have a good example. You know the stuff: serving in church, PTA, community events, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth choirs, charity organizations.

It can all feel so exhausting. And yet aren’t these all good things. Yup. They are. But I try to remember what Stephen R. Covey explained. It is important not to sacrifice the best for the sake of the good.

So, what is best?

Our family, with its relationships, should be right at the top of the list.

It’s wonderful to drive your child to sports practices, to lessons and other worthy events. But it could be best to sit for 3 minutes on their bedside at night and listen to them.

It’s valuable to take your family to a movie or a water park or other fun venue. But it might be better to sit at the dinner table for 15 minutes engaged in a mini conversation.

Laundry, clean counters, and bedrooms all matter and must be done. That is good. But it might be better to learn how to engage during chores in a way that strengthens the relationship and doesn’t just get the work done.

It’s valuable to show our children how to serve by leading groups and organizing community events. It might just be better to send the same message by learning to be more Present at home: actively listening to them when they come home late in the evening or putting down your phone to look them in the eye when they need you.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t serve in our communities and church. I am not saying that we shouldn’t go places, do things as a family. I am not saying that lessons and organizations aren’t important.

Here is what I am saying. Time at home, serving each other and being Present just might be BEST.

If being home doesn’t feel nurturing or successful to you right now, then maybe you need a tweak in how you see the everyday events that happen there. If chores, bedtime, and meals are points of contention then maybe you need to learn how to use them for connection.

When we understand that connecting with our family members should be top on our list, when we know the difference between good and best, then we will feel more successful in our homes and we will have more satisfaction in our lives.

Unlike the White Rabbit, you can stop hopping from place to place wondering if you are in the right place. You are at home. You are with your family. You are in the best place!

Learn how to STOP being the White Rabbit

If you want that tweak in how you see what you do at home, if you want to turn points of contention into points of connection, get your FREE copy of Chapter four from the book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with your children in five minutes or less HERE.

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The Greatest Empire is…Drum Roll Please!

Ok, so how do you do that – get control of yourself?

How do you get your mind to rule over your body? There are many books out there that give some wonderful advice, but I suggest just a few things that any harried mom or dad can do right now – no reading involved.

1. Pick one thing in your life you want to have control over. Make it simple. The harder self-control is for you the simpler the thing you begin with needs to be. The point here is to be successful in one small thing.

If you lack self-control then you must begin small and work up to larger, more important things. It’s like building a muscle. You don’t begin with a 300# weight. You begin with 3#’s. When you can lift that without trouble then you move to 5# and so on. This idea applies to mastering yourself.

Here are some examples of places to begin – putting your dirty clothes in the hamper when you take them off, hanging up your PJ’s every morning, making your bed before its time to get back in it, putting your plate in the dishwasher, and so forth.

It doesn’t need to be earth-shaking or even important. What is important is that you’re willing to commit to it.

2. Commit – There’s a difference in deciding you’re going to work on something and committing to it. When you work on a thing you may get tired and quit. When you commit nothing gets in the way. Nothing!

I know when I have committed and when I haven’t. The real work for me is committing. Once that’s done it’s a done deal! I can feel it in myself when I’m committed and when I’m not. You will feel it too.

To manage the next steps, you must be committed.

3. Be consistent. Do it every day. If it’s hanging up your PJ’s do it every day. Make the effort to never miss a day no matter what it takes! If you do miss a day begin again immediately. Don’t take breaks. Consistency is key to taking control of yourself!

4. Stay the course. You have to do this for as long as it takes for it to become part of your way of being, whether it’s putting dirty clothes in a hamper, running a mile every day, saving $100 per paycheck, always saying thank you, walking away rather than yelling, or not eating after 7 pm. Some things may become part of your way of being after only a few weeks and others may take much longer. For many people tracking on a chart is very helpful.

Remember that it took me ten years to overcome raging. Ten years. But I never quit. I just kept doing the steps that I had determined would help me gain control over my responses. So, stay the course!

5. Only focus on one or two things at a time. Overloading yourself with to-do’s leads to failure. When you work on too much at one time it becomes overwhelming. You don’t do well on any of them and then you quit. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. You go to a class or read a book and have a list of stuff that you feel you need to work on right now. You begin but in a month you’re right back where you began. It is called the 1% principle and you can’t dodge a principle.

6. Forgive yourself for being human. If you miss a day don’t throw in the towel. Forgive yourself and begin again immediately. Beating yourself up is counterproductive. Thinking that you’re a failure is counterproductive. Picking yourself up and beginning again is the mark of success!

Making decisions is challenging and energy draining. It’s where most people fall short. The purpose of the above steps is to stop having to make so many decisions. Once you’ve done something long enough it becomes a habit and you never have to decide to do it again. You have mastered that one thing.

When you gain control over one small thing, you’re moving in the direction of controlling your empire.

Controlling your entire empire is a lifetime’s work and will be worth the effort.

 

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What is most worth doing must be done at home

Did you know that happiness begins at home?

 

In a study of thirteen to twenty-four-year-olds conducted by the Associated Press and MTV, more than 100 questions were asked of 1,280 young people. The questions were all centered on determining what made these youth happy. Can you guess the number one answer? Spending time with family! Yup, that’s right, spending time with family. (Associated Press, “Youth Happiness Study,” 2).

And even better, in the AP-MTV study, nearly three-quarters of those youth and young adults said that their relationship with their parents made them happy (Associated Press, “Youth Happiness Study”). What kids and youth want are you and a close relationship with their family! They long for that connected ‘family feeling’.

So, what goes into creating that connected family feeling that kids and youth want, that makes them happy?

1. T-I-M-E spent with those they love and trust. We can best serve our children if we practice being present with them. When kids know they are seen and heard they are more trusting and will come to us when they’re in trouble and need help. Being present takes giving minutes of your time consistently. It doesn’t have to an hour or even thirty minutes. Three minutes, a few times a day is a great place to start.

2. Learn to listen. It takes effort to clear your mind and hear another person. It’s called active listening. We aren’t looking for answers to their stuff or formulating a rebuttal. We’re just hearing to understand. Teaching and problem solving can come later.

3. Utilize bedtimes. This is true even for youth. Spending just 3 minutes sitting on our child’s bed, touching an arm, allowing them to talk if they want to is huge in creating connected relationships.

4. Work together. Yup, chores, when done right, are magically bonding. It takes a bit of work on our part and we may get a bit less done, but it says volumes to our children about their place in the home and their value in our eyes.

5. Manage technology. Being home is only connecting if we’re doing things to connect. Recently I visited a friend on a Sunday afternoon. Both Mom and Dad had been using their computers before I arrived, one in the study and one at the kitchen table. Their older son was in the family room playing a video game on the TV. Two young children were lying on their stomachs on the floor, each with an iPad. Their older daughter was in her room talking and texting on her cell phone. Now, this is a normal, ordinary family, but these Sunday afternoon activities were isolating, lonely, and de-energizing.

This wouldn’t be a problem if it happened one afternoon, but it is a problem for families if it occurs three or more days a week. We begin to lose our sense of family, the connectedness that gives a child a feeling of stability and support, a sense of belonging and safety. What if I’d found them reading together or playing soccer in the backyard or watching a movie together? Even if no one spoke a word during the movie, at least they would have been together; possibly sitting on the couch by one another, cuddled in a parent’s lap or sitting by a sibling. There would have at least been a sense that this was a family, that they liked each other and enjoyed being together.

6. Eat together. The dinner table can be a place of unification. It can give your family a sense of belonging to something that matters. During the years, when some of our children were making poor choices, the time at the dinner table held us together. If we couldn’t agree on the best way to live, we could at least eat together. It kept us face-to-face and heart-to-heart. We didn’t try to teach or reprimand during these meals. We stayed out of management and worked on the relationships. This effort didn’t stop our children from making choices we didn’t agree with, but it kept our children bonded to us until they were ready to make changes. It kept us unified as a family.

Even when mealtimes feel hectic or disorganized, they have long-term benefits for children because if parents remain calm, kids aren’t stressed by dinnertime chaos.

Anne Fishel, Ph.D., said, “Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members” (Fishel 2016).

7. Read together – From Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, we learn only 17 percent of parents of kids aged 9–11 read aloud to their children. Yet 83 percent of kids aged 6–17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot (Scholastic Inc. and YouGov 2014).
What are some of the benefits of reading as a family?

  • Reading aloud allows you and your children to achieve physical closeness. You are all in the same space at the same time.
  • Gathering together as a family and reading creates a sense of security and safety—a feeling that all is right with the world
  • There’s a sense of belonging which comes from everyone being in the same room, snuggling and listening to the same story, having a shared experience. This can be especially helpful as our children begin to mature. They’re trying to figure themselves out as well as figure out where they fit in the world. This process of personal growth can bring a sense of isolation. Reading as a family is one of the ways parents can create a sense of belonging.

Spending money doesn’t build relationships. Giving your kids’ stuff doesn’t build relationships. Leagues and classes, lessons and even educating a child at home don’t necessarily build relationships. These things may help your child as they grow. They may better equip them to succeed in the world financially. There isn’t anything wrong with providing these things.

However, relationships are built when we learn to be Present with another human being, when we spend time together, listen to each other, and show that they matter to us. In the final analysis, a good relationship with trusted adults is one of the key elements of happy children and youth.

What is most worth doing must be done at home. Kids want to spend time at home with their family. They want and need that ‘family feeling’. They want to feel connected. They want to matter!

Want to know how you can make bedtime, meals, and chores work with your teens? Get more information FREE by downloading Chapter 4 of my book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with your Children in Five Minutes or Less. For information on many aspects of creating a more connected home buy the book on Amazon or in any good bookstore.

Your Shares Are The Best Compliment

People Over Projects – Is That Even Possible?

One of my sisters decided to finish her basement and hired another sister and her husband to do the job. It’s important to know that they aren’t contractors but thought they could do the job. My sister, Nanette, went to Google to learn how it was done. She estimated that it would take them about two weeks.

While her husband hung the sheetrock, she mudded and tapped. They worked six days a week, 12 to 14-hour days. It went on and on. They experienced a fair amount of discouragement, but they had said they would do the job and they couldn’t quit. It was challenging because they don’t live in the town with the basement and so they had to abandon comfort and home and move in with the other sister.

After they had been at it for over a month, I spent some time helping them out. We put in long hot days, slept in less than perfect spaces and then got up and did it again.

At almost two months in, one day when we had been at work for only a few hours, my sister got a call from one of her married sons. He and his wife and four-year-old were going to do some shopping at Costco. He wanted to know if his mom would come and go with them.

It’s important to know that this son and his family, although they don’t live in the same town as my sister, don’t live very far away. The week before they had spent three days together at our family reunion and they get to see each other throughout the year.

As I listened to my sister and her son talk, I thought, “What’s he thinking. He was just here helping last week. He knows what’s left. It’s a BIG job.” But Emmett, the four-year-old, really wanted to have his grandma with them. I wondered what my sister would say.

She said, “I’ll meet you there.” She changed her clothes; told us she wouldn’t stay for the whole shopping trip and would see us later. Then off she went. I knew from some of her comments that this was a challenge for her.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!

But this is a mom with her priorities straight. It’s not a question of whether the son should have asked or whether my sister should have said yes. It’s more a question of what my sister wanted.

It’s important to know how my sister was able to make this challenging decision to put her son over an important and time-constrained project. She had been thinking for some time how she could strengthen the relationship with this married son. As she said later, “I knew this would say volumes to my son. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.” She knew what she wanted.

When we know what we want, then we’ll be better able to put people before projects. Whether the project is as large as sheetrocking a basement or as small as getting dinner on the table, people trump projects.

ANOTHER VALUABLE EXAMPLE

Let me give you another example that illustrates how important it is to know what we want because it helps us determine how to respond.

I have a friend who had nine children living with her, all under the age of 11. She was distracted, interrupted, and overly busy one day. As the day wore on, the children became awful; they were fighting, noisy, and making messes. It was constant chaos. My friend felt she was going to explode at any minute. However, she had been working diligently on becoming more present with her family so that they could have stronger relationships. She knew what she wanted.

Finally, as she was cooking dinner and things were escalating in the living room, she stopped. She turned dinner off and gathered them together and began to read. Eventually, they calmed down and listened. It got relatively quiet and as peaceful as it can get with ten people in the same space. She didn’t give it a significant amount of time—about thirty minutes. She said it made a difference in the rest of the evening. Things were more peaceful. They enjoyed eating together and being with each other. The feeling of chaos was significantly reduced. She didn’t explode and she didn’t dole out consequences. Relationships were strengthened.

Get clear on what you want in your family relationships. Then it will be easier to make your family members a priority over all the projects that it takes to run a home. It’s worth the effort and thought.

Your Shares Are The Best Compliment

At War With Your Family?

Many years ago, I had a friend ask me if it made me mad that someone would undo what I had just cleaned up. I must admit that is exactly how I lived many years of my parenting life. I was at war with dirt, disorder, laundry, and frankly, my family. But all that changed the day that I had an epiphany. I realized that I wasn’t at war at all. I had signed up to serve, to minister to my husband and my children. That small shift in the story that I had been telling myself changed everything. It didn’t change the workload. It didn’t change the messes or the frustrations. What it did change was my ability to deal with the load, the messes, and the frustrations.

What Is Ministering and What Does It Look Like

Ministering is being aware of and attending to the needs of another person. When we minister, we watch over, lift, and strengthen those around us. Doesn’t a family seem like the perfect place to minister most effectively?

I’ve never forgotten a short video I saw as I was beginning to make this mental shift from war to ministering. It was of a very influential man who was hurrying to get to a meeting that he would be leading. As he headed down the staircase his one-year-old daughter was climbing up. He stopped to pick her up and hug her.

He discovered that she had a messy diaper. He knew that his wife was in the kitchen with their other children trying to get them fed and off to school. He faced a dilemma. After all, he was going to a meeting and he was in charge. But here was his sweet daughter in need and his wife was occupied. He could have engaged in a mental battle. He could have felt irritated that his daughter was messy, that his wife wasn’t taking care of it; that he, in his suit, probably should. But he didn’t go to war. As he realized the need his face softened, he gave his daughter a smile and a squeeze and he headed back up the stairs. He diapered his daughter, washed his hands and then headed out to his meeting.

In a family the ways we can love and minister to one another are limitless. I find that I need the help of a power beyond myself to keep my thoughts on ministering and not at war. I need help to know what’s needed because what is needed by one may not work for another. It’s been my experience that as we commit to being flexible, as we ponder real needs, as we make the effort to know another person, as we consider how best to love and serve, we can know how to minister better.

Six simple ways to minister to your children

•Don’t criticize – Listen, support, ask questions and teach gently. We all make mistakes. We all have moments of poor judgment.
•Don’t talk poorly about each other. Words are powerful in moving us to emotion. We want to feel good about our children, so we need to refrain from using words that are negative even when we’re frustrated or stressed.
•Refrain from judging – We can’t always know why a person behaves as they do, chooses one action over another or disappoints us. Rather than jumping to a judgment listen, ask questions, choose to think the best.
•Smile more – It’s amazing to me that we must be reminded of this, but we do.
•Listen, Listen, Listen – Those who are the most influential in this world listen more than they talk. They’re interested in others’ ideas and thoughts. They feel they can learn from anyone and so they do. When we listen it’s easier to think the best, criticize less, refrain from judging and so on.
•Touch – I am a champion of random touch. We shouldn’t need to be reminded of the power of a touch, but we do. I work on reaching out and patting a shoulder or giving a hug. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Maybe it doesn’t to you. But with practice, we can do better.

All those years ago, when I changed my story from war to ministering, I made a short video. I hope you’ll watch it. You will find it helpful.

Here’s to families and the opportunity to minister.

Share some of the ways that you keep from going to war with your family.

Welcome To My Morning

Recently I was taken back in time as I listened to a soundtrack by John Denver. He was a singer-songwriter from the1960s through the 1990s. I was a young teen when he began his career and I enjoyed his music.

One song, that I listened to on this day was particularly meaningful – Welcome to My Morning. Look at the opening stanza.

Welcome to my morning
Welcome to my day
I’m the one responsible
I made it just this way

Many years ago, I finally understood and came to believe that I was truly responsible for how my days look. That belief can be a bit intimidating because if it is true then we must take 100% responsibility. Yikes! We must give up blame. Double yikes! We must stop being victims. Triple yikes!!!

But it’s true. And here is why. We cannot control other people or their actions. We cannot always control the circumstances that we find ourselves in. But we can always control our response to them. That is the key to the tenor of our days – our response.

Make Controlling Your Response a Daily Practice

It isn’t always easy to stay in control of our response but there are a few things that we can practice daily that will help us get better at it.

• Pay attention to your thoughts – Thoughts generate emotions and emotions move us to action. Our action will trigger a result, either positive or negative. So, it’s important to monitor your thoughts. Make the effort to keep them positive. Don’t let your mind make stuff up which it will try to do. Our mind wants to make sense out of things and sometimes we put our own spin on the facts.
• Think the best of others – It is easy to have negative thoughts about others and their motives, but if we make it a practice to think the best rather than the worst it goes a long way to helping us control our response. When someone cuts us off in traffic we can think, “That dumb jerk.” Or we can think, “She must be in a real hurry. I hope she gets there safely.” We get to decide how we will view the actions of others. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts better
• Give up blame. Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening. Taking responsibility for how we perceive what’s happening can and does make a difference in our outcomes.
• Practice gratitude. It’s remarkable how thought shifting gratitude can be. For many, it doesn’t come naturally because life is hard. People are rude and inconsiderate. Bad things do happen to good people. But gratitude is something we can cultivate and when we do, it goes a long way to helping us have more positive thoughts. That leads us to better responses, and we have better outcomes.

I love this example from my friend April Hiatt, who had attended a class I taught on this topic. She was practicing giving up blame, thinking the best of others, and being grateful.

“I opened the dryer door to discover wet clothes. Jonathan (my 14-year-old) didn’t press the start button when he transferred loads. I was three words into my grumble when I heard myself say out loud “Oh, I’m so glad I checked the dryer.” The next words were of understanding, with a deep feeling of love . “I’ve done this same thing before .” This whole cycle took under 3 seconds, and it happened without me really thinking about it. Wow, I’m amazed.”

We need to make setting our intention for the day a practice. We will have to do this our whole lives. Eventually, it does become easier, but it is a life-long work. We must decide that we’re going to have a good day. We must decide that people are basically kind. We must decide that life is good. These daily decisions help us respond better.

When you wake up and have a headache you can roll over and think, “This is going to be a lousy day.” Or you can close your eyes and think, “I’m glad I have something I can take for this.”

I know, it feels irritating to even think about it. That’s exactly how I felt when I first learned this principle, that I am responsible for how my life feels. But I want you to know that as I embraced this truth it changed my world. It gave me all the power!

You can listen to John Denver’s beautiful song HERE. Enjoy.

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. : )