Category: Family Culture

Gratitude – Part 2, Ten Tools to Greater Gratitude

Gratitude begins with attitude.

Gratitude is a choice not based on what is happening to us, what we have or don’t have, but on how we choose to see what is happening to us. Regardless of our circumstances, we all have much to be grateful for if we pause and contemplate our blessings.

We can lift ourselves and others, as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude is one of the grave sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest virtues. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”

Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, and one of the leading scholars in the scientific study of gratitude, said the following: “It is possible that psychology has ignored gratitude because it appears, on the surface, to be a very obvious emotion, lacking in interesting complications: we receive a gift—from friends, from family, from God—and then we feel pleasurably grateful. But while the emotion seemed simplistic even to me as I began my research, I soon discovered that gratitude is a deeper, more complex phenomenon that plays a critical role in human happiness. Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

The other day after a church meeting, someone said to me, “I am so inspired.” In my heart, I responded, “Inspired to what end.” It isn’t enough to be inspired. We must be moved to action. I want to help you decide to move to a more significant place of gratitude. I recognize that we are all in different places in our lives, and so I have created a varied list of ten possible action steps that you can use to cultivate more gratitude and, as a result, greater happiness.

Your job is to be open to the action step that will work best for you right now. Don’t pick the one that you think sounds the most righteous or what you think other people will decide. Listen to your inner voice, which one will make the most difference right now, for you.

Ten Gratitude Exercises

1. Come up with some Happiness commandments – After I read Gretchen Rubin’s, The Happiness Project – I asked myself what makes me the most unhappy, and then I came up with three commandments for myself. I post them where I can see them and am reminded of what kind of thinking leads me to happiness.
• Be a Pollyanna
• Clean the ditch (remove garbage thinking)
• Let go of suffering (yes, suffering is a choice)

2. A Gratitude Journal – Dr. Emmons and his colleagues found scientific proof that people who practice gratitude through activities such as keeping a gratitude journal are more loving, forgiving, and optimistic about the future.

They exercise more frequently, report fewer illnesses, and generally feel better about their lives. In subsequent studies, Dr. Emmons also noted that people who regularly kept a gratitude journal and were in the habit of recognizing and expressing gratitude for their blessings reported feeling closer and more connected to people, had better relationships, were more likely to help others, felt less lonely, felt less depressed, slept better, and were more pleasant to be around.

In her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote, “The practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed.”

3. Journaling – This is like the gratitude journal, but in this case, detail in writing, one positive experience each day. Journaling will help you find meaning in the activities of the day, rather than just noticing the task itself.

4. Dedicate a few prayers a week to only Gratitude – Ask for nothing; be grateful for what you already have.
• If you can’t walk – do you have a wheelchair
• If you can’t see – can you hear
• If you feel you are too old – you are yet alive and can serve
• If you don’t feel accepted – you have the opportunity to reach out to others
• If you are single and alone, thank God for the family and friends you have
• If you’re having trouble with your spouse, thank God for the opportunity to develop more Christ-like       traits through forgiveness and taking personal responsibility
• Thank God for His goodness to you
• Express thanks for Jesus’s example, for His teachings, for His outreaching hand to lift and help, for His
infinite Atonement.
• Thank God for leaders and teachers
• Thank God for your family and children

5. Control negative thinking – Ray L. Huntington, a professor at BYU, said, “Studies have shown that focusing on the negative in times of adversity—using derogatory or critical words as we talk to ourselves or others—can darken our mood and, much like a virus, infect the moods of those we interact with. Consciously choosing to fill our minds with thoughts of our blessings and feeling appreciation for those blessings can change the way we feel and brighten our spirits during difficult times.”

6. Add More Thank-Yous to Your Vocabulary – Saying “thank you” to someone brightens your day by affirming your positive feelings. It also lifts the spirits of those who are deserving of your thankfulness. Use people’s names who check you out at the grocery store, people who help you on the phone, and anywhere else you happen to be and see a name tag. Tell them, ‘thank you.’ Thank your spouse and children for what they do, no matter how small.

7. Take Time to Write Thank-You Notes and Letters of Appreciation – John Kralik, an attorney with a struggling law practice and personal family problems, determined to reverse the cycle of negative thinking through writing and sending one thank-you note each day of the year—365 thank-you notes in total. His note-writing endeavor taught him a valuable lesson: blessings can be easily overlooked unless we are consciously thinking about them each day. To that end, note writing helps us identify, remember, and express our blessings.

8. Live in the Present Moment and Give Thanks for Small Blessings – I call it Being Present – It is easy to get caught up in tomorrow: what needs to be cleaned, shopping to do, the upcoming holidays. And while it’s healthy to plan and prepare for future events, if you are too consumed with tomorrow, there is a chance that you will miss something small and wonderful that is happening to you in the present moment.

9. Random Acts of Kindness – Return the shopping cart to the stall, smile at people, pick up something someone has dropped, tell someone how nice they look, even perfect strangers, move over, and let someone sit down by you.

10. Philanthropy – Learn to give no matter how much you have. Give a dollar or two. If you have more, give more. Do it outside of your tithing and church contributions. The act of being able to give helps you feel well off and increases feelings of gratitude.

For a time, I felt that I should have cards with a small amount of money in my car. I was impressed to write, “No matter what has brought you to where you are, I care about you, and so does God.” When I saw someone on the street and felt that I should, I would give them a card. I put $50 in a savings account every month so that I could provide these cards. Remember that these were directions to me, and if you ask, you will receive your own guidance on how to serve financially, and it will probably be different from mine.

Take a few minutes right now and think about these ten tools to increase gratitude. Which one speaks to your heart? Choose one.

Now that you have chosen something that you will do this coming year to increase your gratitude, and ultimately your happiness, let me share two quotes.

First, from Melody Beattie, author of The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency, ” Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. . .Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

And from David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who penned these beautiful words: “The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

If these words have inspired you, I would ask, “To what end have you been inspired?” Commit to yourself that you will practice Gratitude and make it your way of being.

Gratitude – Part 1, Joy & Happiness Are Born of Gratitude

Some years ago, I decided to find out what I could do to improve my life the most.

I wasn’t happy with what I discovered – stop complaining. I am still working on this one thing! It has been a challenge.

Then, after a few years, I looked to see if I could find a way to make more progress. I wasn’t sure how I felt about what I found – gratitude. I began a gratitude journal. When I wrote a few things each day, I felt better, happier, more charitable to others. But I wasn’t consistent.

In the spring of 2019, I got serious. I bought a notebook and hastily wrote Gratitude Journal and the date I began on the front. I was consistent until the fall holiday season. Then it dropped off. Despite this lapse, I had that notebook with me in Seattle at the beginning of 2020, just before Covid closed the airports. It helped me remain optimistic, and I made it home.

I began writing my gratitude statements in earnest, and as the year progressed, I felt the need to express my gratitude increase. Focusing on what I was grateful for made a big difference in my ability to stay mentally on top of an extraordinarily negative and sometimes frightening year. For Christmas this year, a friend of mine sent me an actual Gratitude Journal. A pretty one. I have enjoyed writing in it. It is keeping my spirits up.

Did you know that joy and happiness are born of gratitude? This is a lesson I have had to learn the hard way, over time, because raising a home full of children can be challenging!! Over the years, I said, “How can I be so grateful and ungrateful at the same time?” I said it so often that I was afraid my children would have it carved on my headstone. I was grateful for my home but….it needed a new carpet. I was thankful for my kids, but…I wished they wouldn’t fight. I loved my husband dearly, but …. why couldn’t he pick up his socks.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you find yourself terribly grateful and ungrateful at the same time? This habit, and it is a habit, diminishes our joy and happiness. The truth is you cannot be grateful and ungrateful at the same time. If you are complaining, you are not grateful. I know, it hurts to hear!

Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude, said, “Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us —the wasteland of illusion falls away, and we experience heaven on earth.”

How are gratitude and happiness connected? Why does it matter whether we see the glass half-full or half-empty?

Let me refer to two stories found in the Christian Bible that are beautiful examples of a broader view of gratitude than just having a good feeling when things are going our way.

In the book of Luke, chapter 17, we read the story of Christ passing through Samaria and Galilee. In a village, he met ten lepers who cried out to him, “Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus sent them to the priest, and as they went, they were healed. One turned back and, with a loud voice, thanked Jesus. Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

Jesus didn’t need their thanks, but he knew that gratitude is an uplifting and exulting attitude. We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful. We choose to serve when we are grateful. Being grateful would help those nine healed men to live more joyously and generously. He wanted them to have that experience, and they, through their lack of gratitude, missed out.

In the book of Matthew, we have another account of gratitude, this time as an expression from Jesus. Jesus had traveled in the wilderness for three days, and more than 4,000 people followed Him. He took compassion on them and wanted to feed them. His disciples, however, questioned, “Whence, should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” Like many of us, the disciples saw only what was lacking.

“And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And said, Seven, and a few little fishes.

“And commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.

“And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”

Notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had—and a miracle followed: “And they did all eat and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.”

We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. These are the times when we find ourselves complaining either by word, action, inaction or in our hearts.

It isn’t always easy to be grateful. But if we commit to being grateful more often, seek the help we need to make it a practice, and then persevere for as long as it takes, it can become our way of being, not just a feeling. That path is what Jesus wanted for the nine healed men. He knew that if they practiced gratitude, they would be happier down the road when things got tough again. He also knew that the grateful energy we send out can create miracles in our lives.

Ten Gratitude Tools

If you feel overwhelmed, resentful of your spouse or children, blame others regularly, feel like a victim, or feel you are missing essential blessings, I encourage you to consider working seriously on your state of gratitude. Next week I will share ten GRATITUDE tools that can help anyone become more grateful. Choose just one and start.

If you feel that you are already grateful, I hope you will accept the challenge to practice one of the ten tools anyway. You may be as surprised as I was when I took the challenge to stop complaining and become more grateful. I wasn’t as appreciative as I thought, and I complained far more than I knew. See you next week.

Share your gratitude with someone this week. 

That’s how dad/mom did it, and that’s how I do it!

This season I have been thinking back to Christmases past and the traditions that my parents passed on to me. My parents were masters at making the holiday fantastic and I am in awe of their ability to make something special out of so little.

When I was eight, there were four of us kids and five more to come. But I recall Christmas as being an abundant time. I suspect that for most of those years, the gifts weren’t big or elaborate. I recall very few gifts that I received over the years. Those that were memorable were because they came with sacrifice, but that telling is for another day. The things I remember well were the traditions. From my first Christmas until the last one I spent at home, there were some things you could depend on no matter how tight the budget.

Oranges!

There was always a case of oranges. Fruit was scarce in my home. It was pricy and other than apples we didn’t have a lot. So, a case of oranges was like a case of gold and is one reason I eat oranges in the strange way that I do. My husband always teases me about it. You peel the orange. Then you chew all the white coating off the peel. Then you eat the sections one at a time by nibbling them. Even a case of oranges doesn’t add up to many for each person when you have a big family.

Nuts!

There were always nuts, huge bowls of nuts. Nuts were inexpensive back in the day. There would be a bowl of walnuts and another bowl of mixed nuts. I recall my frustration in trying to crack them. The walnuts were the easiest to manage, but they weren’t my favorite. I LOVED the brazil nuts, and they were the hardest to crack. I got better at it as I aged. I still love brazil nuts.

Pomegranates!

These were harder to come by, but I think most years, my parents managed it. There might be one in your sock. But some years, there would be a bowl full. We learned to love them in our short stint in Red Bluff, CA. Our neighbor had a tree, and it hung over our fence. She would let us pick a few. We loved her and her pomegranates. I was in my sixties before I learned how to peel them, so it wasn’t such a pain. But pain or not, I loved pomegranates.

You could find these same items on my counter every Christmas for the last fifty Christmases. Traditions matter. The good ones and the bad, and every family has both. We need to pay attention to what we are passing down to our kids because, like it or not, they will most likely pass it down to theirs.

I am reading and implementing the book A Complaint Free World: The 21 Day challenge that will change your life. In it, Will Bowen said, “I can remember my dad in the kitchen. Whenever he cooked, he took a dishtowel and draped it over his left shoulder; he called it his ‘left shoulder cooking towel’… Today whenever I am in the kitchen, you will always find me with my own ‘left shoulder cooking towel.’ And it’s never on the right shoulder, always the left. That’s how dad did it, and that’s how I do it. Perhaps my dad had seen his father do this and was following after him – who knows?

All I know is that I picked it up from him. He never sought to instill this idiosyncrasy in me, but his behavior did so. And I know that, whether I intend to or not, I’m passing along things to all the time.”

How we ‘are’ and how we ‘respond’ can become traditions and habits for our children. We want to pass on what will be remembered with fondness, and that will improve our children’s lives. The beginning of a new year is a good time to check in on our ‘way of being’ and determine if there is ONE thing we may want to change before it becomes a tradition or a habit for our kids. Remember only work on ONE thing at a time.

You can find four steps to making permanent changes in your way of being HERE.

Share your family traditions. We would all love to hear them. Then share this article with those you love and care about. : )

Be Wary of Comparison

I have a friend, Audrey Rindlisbacher, and recently I was listening to an early morning Facebook Live she did. The topic was ‘comparison.’ Audrey is an exceptional woman who has been speaking and teaching for years on great books. I have sat with rapt attention in her classes. She inspires me with her knowledge of natural law and principles.

Not too long before she did this Facebook Live, she spoke with another woman that she considered exceptional. This mom had been the Young Mother of the Year, had multiple degrees, and currently lives in a foreign country where she has been for the last ten years with her family doing full-time work with refugees. Audrey admitted that during her conversation, she had thoughts like these – “You have always wanted to take your kids and do some humanitarian work. Why haven’t you? If you had, your family would be so much better off. You are so lame!”

I had to smile inwardly because when I first heard Audrey speak, I had similar thoughts – “Man, you should have read more great books than you have. Why haven’t you gotten as much out of them as Audrey has? How come you don’t understand natural law and principles as she does. Reading isn’t enough; you needed to think as she has. You are so lame.” When we begin comparing ourselves to others, our self-talk plummets! When our self-talk dives, then our life-results also dive. We must speak kindly about and to ourselves.

Another reason to speak well of ourselves is that how we are and what we do, speaks volumes to our children. We want to model a way of being to our family that will help them as they tackle hard things in life and as they begin seeing that where they are and how they are doing is different from someone else.

Tools to Derail Comparison

When I find myself treating myself poorly or comparing myself to others, I have a couple of tools I use to get myself back on track.

1. Focus on gratitude. When I shift from seeing what I am not or what I don’t have and focus on who I am and what I have, my self-talk improves. My result improves. There are many ways to stay in gratitude, but one that I use is a gratitude journal. Each evening before bed, I take a moment and write at least three things I am grateful for. No matter how terrible the day has been, I have yet to be stumped. I can always find at least three and usually more. Keeping my eye on what I have that is good keeps my mind on a higher plane, so I don’t spiral into negative thinking and self-talk.

2. Limit social media. As much good as social media has provided, it is a hotbed of comparison and envy. Currently, three of my daughters have taken breaks from social media. No Facebook, no Instagram. They have found that they feel better about themselves when they cannot compare their worst to someone else’s best. I spend less than 1 hour on social media each day, and on days when I don’t need to be on it for work, I spend none at all.

You don’t have to give up social media. Just limit the time you spend there. If you have a hard time, then turn off your notifications. Give yourself set times during the day to participate. When we compare ourselves to others, it creates unrest within us. It sucks the joy out of our accomplishments. It diminishes us in our own eyes.

We each have strengths and weaknesses. We all do well at times and at others do poorly. We all are in the process of becoming. Accept that you are still learning, growing, evolving. Be kind to yourself. Speak and think with generosity, and it will improve your pace. It will also give your children a better example of what to do when you are not perfect. It will do your family good.

Take the time to let a friend know about these simple tools to derail comparison. 

The power of a table

I have always had a dining room or kitchen table. Even in our first home, which was small, we had a table. I loved having a table. It was good to rest my elbows when I was reading or studying.

As our kids came, we sat around our table for meals and talked. It was a gathering place, a homework place, my sewing space when the need arose. We used our table a lot.

Then ten years ago, when our daughter’s family and we decided to share space, I gave up my table. We lived in a basement apartment of our daughter’s home with lovely big windows. We had a kitchen and living room. However, there wasn’t a dining area. The kitchen was narrow and had a bar. I thought the bar would be enough.

But it was high and required stools. Don and I were in our sixties, and so we never used it. No resting elbows while reading. Fewer conversations. That’s because we used TV trays. They work but don’t lend themselves to the same intimacy one feels at a table.

Then we moved again. We have the south side of this beautiful home with lots of sunshine. We have a new kitchen which we built. We have a nice sized living room. But again, no place for a table. We have been in this space for three years, and my need for a table has grown.

This spring inside, I was screaming, “I NEED a table.” I couldn’t put into words why I felt such a need for a table. We had our TV trays, and since the space is not large, it seemed the thing to do. BUT something was missing, and I knew it in my heart.

Finally, I decided I HAD to have a table. I bought one for $40, used. But it was too large and felt overbearing in the room. I thought about it a lot. I NEEDED a table. So, I did what I do. I prayed, and within a couple of days, someone gave me the perfect table. It was the right color and size. It came with chairs, and I was ecstatic.

We have had the table for a few months now. Has it made a difference? YES! And here is how. I can finally explain, in words, what was missing. There is something ‘connecting’ about sitting face to face around a table. There is something ‘family’ about it. Many times, over the last few months, my husband has said, “I like sitting here and looking at your face.” That doesn’t happen when you’re seated at TV trays. My mother talks more while we eat. Because she has Alzheimer’s, I guess she felt a bit isolated in her chair in front of her tray unless asked a direct question.

Our conversations are better, more intimate, more interesting. Frankly, the temptation to turn on the TV is less. Last night we played music while we ate. It was awesome!!

And when we aren’t all sitting at the table, I study there. I rest my elbows, and I read. I am aware of the life going on around me, and I like feeling my family’s pulse. A table, well used, creates a sense of ‘family.’

You probably have a table. My questions to you are:

  • Do know what a gift it is?
  • Do you use it?
  • Are you taking the opportunity to connect your family at least once a day?
  • Are you developing that ‘family’ feeling?

Reasons to gather at your table at least once a day:

A. It will help you get what you want—Eating together goes a long way in helping you create the family culture you see in your mind or have written down.

B. It will unify your family—During the years 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 gather once a day and eat together. It kept us face-to-face and heart-to-heart. We didn’t 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 disagreed with, but it kept our children bonded to us. It kept us unified as a family.

C. You can de-stress—If you determine that spilled milk and children falling off chairs are not interruptions and catastrophes but significant family life moments, then the dinner hour will bring you joy. 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. Remember, they think and see like kids and not as adults. And you, as you watch and listen to them, can breathe. You can let down your guard. You can relax. There is research that supports this. : )

D. You can build close relationships—Family meals are opportunities to develop more intimate family relationships. Although families live together, we each go about our business of living independently of one another. We aren’t all doing the same things each day. When we eat together, we have a few moments to reconnect, talk, laugh, and enjoy one another. Meals are a prime time for communication and understanding as we each live our individual lives.

E. You’ll have an improved sense of well-being—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).

F. You can practice Being Present—Eating together allows you to implement Present strategies. You can discuss a book the family’s reading together. You can memorize scripture or quotes you like. You can tell jokes and laugh. You can share what happened in the community or thoughts you had during the day. When having a conversation, include everyone. Keep it positive. Avoid nagging, complaining, or controlling the discussion. Listen more than you talk.

What If No One Talks?

If up until now, dinner hasn’t been a productive time to connect and build relationships with your kids, try playing the Conversation Game. This game can get the flow going. Go around the table and have each person share a high point of the day and a low point. Eventually, when done consistently over time, it will begin to feel safe, and your family members will open up more. This game is fun, and you can practice seeing and hearing your children.

Dinner’s the perfect time to turn away from your technology. Turn off cell phones while at the table—mute your landline. Even the ringing can be a significant distraction. Turn off the TV! Having the TV on negates many of the benefits of a family meal and prevents you and your family from being Present with each other. The comfort of the food will make practicing this less painful. : )

Eating together is an opportunity to empty your mind of your endless to-do list and focus on your children. What are they saying? How do they look? What’s their body language? What did you miss during the rush to get out the door in the morning? Mealtime is a perfect time to practice being Present.

G. If you need one more reason to eat together as a family, ponder this: in a nationally representative Internet-based survey of 1,037 teens (ages 12 to 17), 71 percent said that they consider talking/catching up and spending time with family members as the best part of family dinners. These comments come from kids, just like your kids. They want and need time with you. They want your Presence, and one of the easiest ways to give it to the whole family at once is at the dinner table (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, “The Importance of Family Dinners”)!

I have loved finally having a table again. I enjoy looking at my mom and my husband. I savor the conversations and laughter. It has felt whole!

One time I asked my kids about their favorite memories. I’ll never forget Kates. It wasn’t about sitting at the table together but under it.

Kate—”I remember you and me sitting under the table reading a chapter of Katie John together. She painted her face with lipstick on picture day, and it wouldn’t come off. We laughed and laughed together.
Whatever works right. Being around or under your table, unifies families! Use yours!

This ‘table message’ is for all your friends who have families.

Let them know about it : ) 

No One Can Take Away What You Put In Your Mind

I recently finished reading The Choice. The author, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, spent part of her teen years in Auschwitz. She shares things she learned while there, after she left, and while working as a psychiatrist with other trauma victims. It was gut-wrenching and not a pretty read. I had to endure a bit of foul language. It went with the territory.

I could relate to many things she shared, as I have also experienced trauma. I could affirm many of the healing tools she spoke about because I have used them.

One that has made ALL the difference for me in the latter part of my life is encompassed in a phrase Edith’s mother shared all the time and which Edith carried into the concentration camp – “No one can take away from you what you put in your mind.”

I know from my own experience that this is true. We can choose our story no matter what is happening. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to love. We can decide how to respond. We can think negative thoughts or positive. We can choose. Our ability to choose what goes into our minds is the greatest gift we have been given on this earth. It makes ALL the difference.

We don’t need to be dealing with trauma for this to be true. It is true every day, in every situation. It is true as we deal with friends, family, and even enemies. It is true in abundance and scarcity. It is true in sickness and health. It is always true. What we think about and how we frame it determines our lives, whether we are growing or dying, whether we are happy or dissatisfied, whether we are contributing or not.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your narrative. When you do this, you take more positive actions, and you get better results.

Tips for Better Thought Management

Here are some tips to begin to master your thoughts and hence, your responses. I have been using these tools for the last fifteen years, and I can promise that it will change your life if you use them.

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
Blame is an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening, or in other words, our thoughts.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
The key to overcoming the natural man’s tendency to assume the worst about others’ motives is not to polish our apology skills nor learn to control our anger and frustration. Rather, the key to overcoming this destructive behavior is to question our story. Examining the negative story we tell ourselves . . . causes us to consider alternate explanations for their apparently hurtful behavior. To accomplish this, ask yourself one question: “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?” Or, if this is too unwieldy, ask, “Why would a decent person act this way?” (McMillan, “Master Your Stories and You Master Your Life”)

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
Dr. Wayne Dyer has said, “What’s in you is what comes out” (“Why the Inside Matters”). It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.

TIP 4—Keep practicing
Managing your thoughts and putting good things in your mind is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it. Negative thoughts will come, and they’ll need to be managed.

Dr. Eger was able to survive the concentration camp because she controlled her thoughts. She held on to the good and let go of the bad. She remembered the joy and dismissed the pain. It all took time. Some took a lot of time, but as she persisted, she was able to heal.

Thoughts and the resulting stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. When my granddaughter, Mary, was six, she loved 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!” Like all of us, Mary gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as valid as mine.

You can find more tips and some amazing true stories in Chapter Five of my book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. It is worth the read!

Want What You Teach Your Kids to Sink In?

Since the schools closed, I have been helping my grandchildren with their schoolwork. Their work is online. A learning curve for me! : ) My eight-year-old grandson is a competent student. When he isn’t doing actual schoolwork, he is busy teaching himself about aerodynamics, science, and math. He is a smart little guy. However, each day that I have been called upon to help him, when I say, “Ben, let’s get your schoolwork done,” he replies, “I don’t know what to do.” That statement isn’t true. He knows how to log on. He knows where to find the modules, and his teacher has made a video for walking him through. I realized what he means is, “I need some direction. Get me going.”

Right after this conversation, we had a second conversation. I said, “Get your iPad, entry code, and paperwork and meet me at my house.” He replied, “I don’t know where they are.” I said, “Ben, you do know what to do. What I think you need is direction. So, I don’t want you to say that you don’t know what to do anymore. Say, Grandma, I need direction. And Ben, it’s your responsibility to know where your stuff is. Let’s find a spot for you to put it in my house, and then you’ll always know where it is.”

Although it will probably resolve these two issues eventually, there was a big problem with this morning’s exchange, and I should know better!

Mini Conversations Vs Mini Lectures

When talking to kids, mini conversations are far more effective than mini-lectures. What Ben got this morning was a mini-lecture. It took all of three minutes, but it was still a lecture.

When he finished his work, he put his book in the spot we decided upon and took his papers to his house. When I called him back and reminded him to put his papers in the same place so that he would know where they were, he said, “Oh, I didn’t know you meant the papers.” My best-educated guess is that tomorrow he will say, “I don’t know what to do” and need reminding that he does know and needs some direction. Mini lectures rarely sink in on the first go-around. Mini conversations, however, are far more effective when teaching. So, what is the difference?

The Purpose of a Mini Conversation

The purpose of a mini conversation is to listen and then teach, if you need to teach. Sometimes you share cool stuff, sometimes kids share cool stuff, and you stay present and listen through it all. Mini conversations always feel agreeable to both parties! They never feel like a lecture. A mini conversation will go miles in helping your lessons sink in. What would it have looked like if Ben and I had had a mini conversation this morning rather than a mini-lecture?

“Ben, it’s time to do your schoolwork.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“That’s interesting. Didn’t you figure it out yesterday?” “Yea, but today I’m not sure what to do.”
“What would help?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s open your tablet and look at the modules and see if we can figure it out. OK?”
We would do what we do every day, and then I could say, “Ben, see, you do know what to do. Now you won’t have ever to say “I don’t know” again. High Five buddy.”

And what about the second part, not knowing where his school supplies are.
“Ben, get your tablet and papers and meet me in my house.”
“Grandma, I don’t know where they are.”
“That seems to be a problem every day, Ben. What can we do about it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Hmmm, let’s see. What if you had a spot in my house to keep them. Do you think that would help?”
“Yea, that would help me.”
“I think I have the perfect spot. See this basket on the stairs. I keep the book I read to grandpa and great-grandma here, so I always know where it is. Would that work.”
“Yea, that will work.”
“Ben, what do you think you need to put in here when you finish your schoolwork?”
“My reading book.”
“What else.”
“Oh, I could put my papers and my code in there.”
“Yea, that’s good. Then you won’t ever have to say I don’t know where my stuff is again. High five. We are Rockin this, Ben.”

Mini Conversations Are Powerful In Connecting With Kids

Can you see the difference? It not only sounds different; it feels different. There isn’t any recrimination. No shame. No judgment. Just solutions. And here’s another thing. Ben would have bought in. When kids buy into something new, a system or way of being, they take more ownership, and they remember to do it more often.

I’ll bet you also noticed that this mini conversation would probably have taken more than 3 minutes. Yup, it would have taken at least five or six. But if it relieved you of hearing lame responses and having to remind over and over, wouldn’t it be worth the three extra minutes.

Mini- conversations are powerful in connecting with our kids, and they are powerful when we want to teach.

Help someone else learn about the power of mini conversations. Spread the word. 

INSPIRATION – Sample Mission Statements

When children are young

they learn more by what their parents are and the environment and feelings that surround them than through the explicit teachings or activities families provide. If this is true, ask yourself, “how do we, as a family, consciously develop who we are and the environment and feelings that make up our home? What are we doing to consciously articulate the values of our family?”

A family mission statement helps with this articulation. A family mission statement becomes part of your efforts to help your children understand where you are going as a family and is the inspiration for your family culture. In other words, it is what helps you consciously design the environment and feelings in your home.

Here are some samples for those that need inspiration

I. Habits of Our Home
We obey the Lord Jesus Christ.
We love, honor, and pray for each other.
We tell the truth.
We consider one another’s interest ahead of our own.
We do not hurt each other with unkind words or deeds.
We speak quietly and respectfully to one another.
When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
When someone is sad, we comfort him.
When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
When we have something nice to share, we share it.
We take good care of everything God has given us.
We do not create unnecessary work for others.
When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
When we open something, we close it.
When we turn something on, we turn it off.
When we don’t know what to do, we ask.
When we take something out, we put it away.
When we make a mess, we clean it up.
We arrive on time.
We do what we say.
We finish what we start.
We say please and thank you.
When we go out, we act as if we are in this house.
When necessary, we accept discipline and instruction.

II. Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships,
healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

III. The Olsen Family Mission Statement
We love and obey God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
We celebrate our family’s faith, heritage, and traditions.
We show our love for one another in word and deed; we pray for each other; we are
courteous, caring, positive, supportive, and considerate.
We live a healthy lifestyle, and maintain order and cleanliness in the home.
We raise up children in the way they should go; making learning together an integral
part of daily life with books and enriching experiences.
We optimize the competing forces in our lives for good: health, wealth, aesthetics, rest,
exercise, recreation, work, skills, and knowledge.
We enjoy life today and live it fully; we accept the wonderful gifts from God:
forgiveness of sins and eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son.
We are wise in the way we use our time, talents, and money; we establish good habits,
help others, and teach them the truth of God’s salvation.
We contribute something of worth to the community; maintain the environment, mankind’s institutions, and religious, political, cultural, social, and individual freedoms, all to glorify God

IV. The Palmer Family Mission Statement
The Joyful Palmers are a Team! Yeah!
We love, create, and protect family time, both one-one and everyone together.
We talk about our needs, thoughts, and feelings, and we carefully listen to each other.
We treat each other with respect, patience, and kindness.
We speak and act in a way that allows the spirit to be with us.
We nurture, support, and celebrate each other’s ambitions, dreams, and missions.
We are always honest and do the right thing even when no one is looking.
We courageously commit to public virtue.
We know that God loves us and we are wonderful and amazing!
We build our knowledge, skills, and attitudes of self-reliance and freedom.
We make everything around us better and more beautiful.
We build others up through service, sharing, and love.
We protect our home and the Spirit dwells here.
We learn, live, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Love is our compass and our anchor.

V. Family Mission Statement
We, the , believe that our purpose as a family is to . We will accomplish this by:
• valuing and as our main guiding principals
• making our home a place of , , and
• prioritizing above lesser values
• interacting with each other in a spirit of

VI. ’s Family Mission Statement
We are compassionate and kind.
We are committed to family.
We will be caring in our relationships with our family and friends.
We want to be role models and guides for our children.
We will encourage creative expression in each other.
We will lovingly support each other as we strive to reach our individual potentials.
We will grow old and wise together.
Our home will be filled with love and laughter.
Our sanctuary will inspire and renew us, enabling us to contribute our best to the world.
Our home will be a haven for our family and friends to gather and share life’s ups and downs.
Our home will be a nurturing place for children and animals.
Our home will be a safe and comfortable place for self-expression.
We enjoy helping others in our daily lives.
We strive to work with passion and discipline.
We want to bring the love and positive energy from our relationship into our careers and the world around us.
We will live our lives in a manner that is free from harm to other living beings.
We want to bring the peace within our home, to our world community.

Having a family mission statement can make all the difference in the feeling and atmosphere in your home. If you haven’t already read the four-part series on how to involve your family in creating a mission statement. You will be glad you did.

Part I,   Part II,    Part III,    Part IV

If you know a family that would benefit from having a Family Mission Statement let them know help is here. : ) 

Family Mission Statements Rock – Part 4

Congratulations on creating your family mission statement! However, for it to translate into a family culture, you must now use it. Here are some ideas to engage with your family mission statement in meaningful ways.

Ideas to Engage with Your Family Mission Statement

1. Recite it daily. Determine a time when your family is generally together consistently. Our family says our mission statement just before bed because that’s when daddy is almost always there with us. When your mission statement is memorized and reviewed daily, it will begin to come to mind when you need it most, for example, during a teaching or a disciplining moment. Lines of our family mission statement often come when I feel tempted to speak or act in ways that are contrary to the specific culture we’re trying to nurture in our home.

2. Use it to help make big decisions. Is your choice in line with the objectives of your mission statement?

3. Use it to help regain focus and realignment with the things that matter most to your family.

4. Use it to guide your family’s educational plan. The specific values that your mission statement mentions, such as money management, entrepreneurialism, freedom, honesty, or service, can all inform your educational opportunities, ideas, and materials.

5. Have fun with it. Have your children create artwork or collages that reflect your final mission statement. Display this art in a prominent place in your home. Develop a family cheer, motto, flag, or t-shirt inspired by your mission statement.

6. Develop a family VISION. A family Vision is essentially the why of your family mission in story form. Your family Vision is what motivates each family member to care about doing the things that the family mission statement describes. Mary Ann Johnson beautifully illustrates the power of a family Vision and how to use it most effectively in her fabulous book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your Children in Five Minutes or Less.

To create your family Vision, start with the backdrop of a family tradition, like Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or something that holds a powerful sense of connection and meaning for your family. Close your eyes and, in your mind, see your family engaging in that tradition 20 years from now. What will it smell like, sound like, what will the tastes be? Who will be there, and what will they be doing? How will it feel to be together, and how will people be treating each other? Develop a story with as many details as possible, just as if you were creating a bedtime story for a child. Develop this story so that it describes why the accomplishment of the family mission statement is so significant; it will be what allows this story to come to pass 20 years from now.

Share this story with your family and allow them to add more details that are meaningful to them. Then let this story to become part of your family story. Tell it often; driving in the car, at bedtime when someone is sad or struggling, etc. The more you tell the story, the more they will care about the mission statement, and the more the words of the mission statement will be written on the hearts of your children.

Using your mission statement and telling its story is what turns words on paper into your home culture. Doing this will help you lay the foundation for a great life.

  • You can access Part 1 and Assignment 1 HERE
  • You can access Part 2 and Assignment 2 HERE 
  • You can access Part 3 and Assignment 3 HERE

Do you know someone with kids? They need this!

Family Mission Statement – Part 3

 

In preparation for writing your family mission statement:

• You’ve considered what’s been holding you back
• You’ve let excuses go or come up with strategies to overcome any real roadblocks
• You’ve been doing creative work on your own – “What do I want my family to do or know” list.

Now it’s time for everyone else to get involved. The next steps will likely be more effective if you take the time to do them over a few days or weeks. Don’t try to do it all at once. The idea is to keep the “fun” flowing.

I. Getting Creative Together
Start your family mission statement experience by getting the creative juices flowing. Before you jump into the writing portion, spend some time getting your family engaged with the idea of what a family mission statement is and what it contains. Use activities that allow everyone to privately consider what they think should be part of the family culture, and how they want it to feel in their family. Here are some ideas to get ideas flowing and help everyone feel involved.

A. The Core Values Box
Core values are simply people, activities, beliefs, skills, or things that matter most to us. Core values range from concepts like love and acceptance to material things like a home. Other examples are things like caring for animals, honesty, entrepreneurialism, freedom, wise money management, or education, etc.

As a family, decorate a Core Values box and put it in a prominent location in your home, like your dining table. You could design it like a collage with pictures that identify things your family values, or everyone can take a side to decorate however they wish. The idea is to get everyone engaged with the Core Values box.

During your activity and throughout the week, everyone will put core value ideas in the box as the ideas come to them. Then during your mission statement development activity, you will open this box and use the ideas inside to create your first draft.

B. Core Values Collages
Gather magazines and other materials to be used to create collages. Pictures could be printed from the internet. Each person will make their own collage. Use words and images which depict how they want the family to feel and the core values that should become part of the family’s culture. Hang the pictures up in a prominent area so you can ponder them through the week.

During your mission statement development activity, give everyone some time to describe the meaning of the items on their collage. Have someone writing down all of the ideas that are shared which will help you create your first draft.

C. Core Values Artwork
If you have younger children, it might be more useful to create drawings or paintings that help your children describe their feelings about their family. Again, put these pictures in an area that will allow them to be seen, and ask your children often to explain the things they have drawn.

II. Getting Deeper Together
You’ve taken the time to get some creativity flowing. Your family members have begun to engage with the idea of how they want their family to feel. You have considered the elements of family culture that are important to your family. Now it’s time to start asking the right questions to help deepen the articulation of the things that your family values.

Gather your family together for a question and answer activity. You can have each member write down their answers or have an open discussion with someone assigned as a scribe to capture each person’s ideas.

Below is a list of various questions. Choose the ones that best fit your family or make up your own. If you have very young children, make sure your questions are age-appropriate.

Questions to consider when developing a family mission statement

1. What makes you happy? What are those things in life that put a smile on your face and get you through your difficult days?
2. What makes us fulfilled? What are those things in life that bring us the most satisfaction and leave us with a feeling of completeness?
3. What do we want for ourselves and our family? What are our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, not only for our family but for ourselves as well?
4. What is most important to you about your family?
5. What are your collective goals?
6. When do you feel most connected?
7. How would you like to relate to one another?
8. Describe your family’s strengths.
9. Describe your family in 5 years, 10 years, or 15 years.
10. What do you value? (For example, relationships, faith, independence, wealth, hard work, generosity)

Want more question examples?

1. We are at our best when _______?
2. We are at our worst when________?
3. What do we love to do together?
4. As a family, what can we better do to help each other?
5. As a family, what can we contribute to others, or how can we help others outside our family?
6. Are there things we should be doing or changing as a family, even though we’ve dismissed such thoughts many times? What are these things?
7. Imagine a party celebrating our family 20 years from now. What do we want people to say about our family honestly? People view our family as:
8. What one emotion would we like most to fill our home?
9. What are the principles that operate in our family? (Such as trust, honesty, kindness, service, etc.)
10. Let’s think of balance as a state of fulfillment and renewal in each of the four dimensions: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. What are the most important things we can do, in each of these areas, to have the most significant positive impact and help us achieve a sense of balance?
Physical:
Spiritual:
Mental:
Social/Emotional:
11. Imagine its ten years in the future. Envision where we want each member of our family to be. What have we accomplished; how do we see ourselves? Who will you be in 10 years?

III. Getting it Down Together
Finally, it’s time to start organizing your ideas into a concrete form. Don’t allow this family activity to breakdown over “word-smithing” details. Later you will assign someone, usually mom or dad, the job of designing the final draft to bring back to the family for approval.

The easiest way to begin getting your family mission statement down is to choose a design formula that feels right for your family. Mom and dad should choose the formula before this activity begins. Although there are many different forms that mission statements can take, here are three basic forms you could choose from.

FORMULA #1
Gather together all of the core values you’ve identified as a family. Decrease these by two, then decrease by two again until you have one final core value. Keep track of your last 4-6 subsequent core values and then insert them into the formula below.

To (insert Central Core Value here) by (insert three to five Subsequent Core Values here).

EXAMPLE
Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships,
healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

FORMULA #2
To…. (Do something)
In such a way that….. (Quality of action)
So that…. (We gain these results or benefits)

EXAMPLE
Our Family Mission
To realize our dreams, goals, and aspirations as a family and as individuals in a way that stretches our intellect, enriches our Christian faith, strengthens our character, and enriches our family life. So that we are fulfilled, happy, confident, and always close.

FORMULA #3
Just create a big list of the things that matter to you. Use words such as “are” and “is” rather than terms that suggest “will be.”

EXAMPLE
The Olsen Family Mission Statement
· We love and obey God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
· We celebrate our family’s faith, heritage, and traditions.
· We show our love for one another in word and deed; we pray for each other; we are courteous, caring,    positive, supportive, and considerate.
· We live a healthy lifestyle and maintain order and cleanliness in the home.
· We raise up children in the way they should go, making learning together an integral part of daily life with books and enriching experiences.
· We optimize the competing forces in our lives for good: health, wealth, aesthetics, rest, exercise,                recreation, work, skills, and knowledge.
· We enjoy life today and live it fully; we accept the wonderful gifts from God: forgiveness of sins and eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son.
· We are wise in the way we use our time, talents, and money; we establish good habits, help others, and teach them the truth of God’s salvation.
· We contribute something of worth to the community; maintain the environment, mankind’s institutions,  and religious, political, cultural, social, and individual freedoms, all to glorify God.

Our family felt most connected to the Big List. 

Here is our family mission statement.

The Palmer Family Mission Statement
The Joyful Palmers are a Team! Yeah!
We love, create, and protect family time, both one-one and everyone together.
We talk about our needs, thoughts, and feelings, and we carefully listen to each other.
We treat each other with respect, patience, and kindness.
We speak and act in a way that allows the Spirit to be with us.
We nurture, support, and celebrate each other’s ambitions, dreams, and missions.
We are always honest and do the right thing even when no one is looking.
We courageously commit to public virtue.
We know that God loves us, and we are wonderful and amazing!
We build our knowledge, skills, and attitudes of self-reliance and freedom.
We make everything around us better and more beautiful.
We build others up through service, sharing, and love.
We protect our home, and the Spirit dwells here.
We learn, live, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Love is our compass and our anchor.

IV. The Final Draft
Don’t try to make the final draft as a family. It has the potential of creating too much contention. Once you’ve got the core ideas down, give someone the task of editing and making it sound good. Then it can be brought back to the family for the final unveiling.

Assignment #3: Decide which activities to use to prime your family’s creativity, which questions you will ask, and the form that you want your mission statement to take. Then determine your timeline. As you develop your plan, give special attention to making these activities fun and memorable. Include food, or outings, or whatever will make the events unique for your family.

You can find Part 1 of the series HERE. You can find part 2 of the series HERE.

Please share your family’s mission statement here in the comments section of this blog post. Your example will help other families as they work to create their own family mission statements.