Category: Family Culture

Do You Use Shame to Teach?

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

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

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

When Shame Cannot Survive

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to create a culture of empathy in your home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Free for a Month! WHAT?

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

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

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

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

HOW TO MAKE GOING SCREEN-FREE WORK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

Your shares are the best compliment!

Traditions Matter!

We all have traditions. Our family had many traditions. Some were built around holidays or special family days. Many were built around spiritual and religious beliefs.

I know that the traditions we had in our family were pivotal to keeping us all together when things got tough. It was our traditions which brought our children home when they were wandering in their own wildernesses. I know that it was our traditions which linked us to the past and have carried us into the future. It’s because of our traditions that we’re still connected and bonded in some very strong ways despite the differences in our individual lives.

Here are some important things to consider as you review your family traditions:

• Traditions are like glue in a family
• It’s wise to carefully think about traditions and then decide what you want to create as a family culture
• Choose traditions that will strengthen the family culture that you want
• Be truly consistent in your traditions
• Sometimes a tradition needs to be adjusted as children grow so that the tradition remains strong

May your children be blessed with a strong sense of family. May you carefully consider your traditions and then make adjustments so that when your children are grown, they will do the same for their families.

This last week was a special one for my family. It’s a time when we celebrate some significant religious traditions. They matter a great deal to me.

I have also spent this last week studying the traditions of a different religious group. I have enjoyed it immensely and have learned so much. I learned:

• Every religion has special music and events for their youth because passing traditions on matters
• We all value our traditions and feel more complete with them
• The traditions of a family or another group are worth our respect even if they are different from ours.
• Learning about other traditions can strengthen us in our own

May we value our own family traditions, and may we respect those of others. Have a wonderful coming week!

Process vs Outcome. Which brings joy?

Recently, I posted a photo on Facebook of my twelve-year-old granddaughter making cupcakes. She has cerebral palsy and so it requires some special accommodation to cook with her. We’ve been cooking together now, for many years.

It’s also coming up on April 2, which is my oldest daughter’s birthday. That recalled to my mind a memory which I wrote about and want to share because the message is timeless and priceless as it applies to creating a relationship with our children and in allowing us to enjoy working and playing with them. Enjoy!

3-18-2010
Three of my grandchildren live just a couple of blocks away. Maggie is almost four and Jack just turned two. Mary is brand new. Maggie has cerebral palsy. Working her arms and legs is a real challenge. These children belong to my oldest daughter, Jodie. Today is her birthday. I had planned to make her a cake and then decided to have Jack and Maggie help me.

My intention was to allow them to experience new things, really help make a cake, and have a lot of fun. I knew that there would be a huge mess, something unexpected might happen and I would be worn out when we were through. That knowledge has come from working with hundreds of children, of all ages.

Because of Maggie’s condition she has a special chair. It isn’t high enough to reach the table, so I put her and the chair on the table. Jack, of course, took his position on one of the kitchen chairs.

I opened the cake mix and allowed each one to pour half of the contents into the bowl. Some made its way to the table top and some to the floor. Next, I filled three measuring cups with liquid, 1 cup water, ¼ cup water, and 1/3 cup water. I helped Maggie get hold of the large cup and pour it into the bowl.

Because this isn’t the first time that I’ve cooked with them I wanted to see if Jack could pour the cup himself so I said, “Pour it in Jack.” He took hold of the 1/3 cup and gently tipped it to one side, onto the table. Ok…he still needs help. So, we tried again with my help.

Next came the eggs. I showed Jack and Maggie how to break one and get the contents out. Woohoo!! Whacking eggs suited Jack just fine. He gave it a whack and voila! egg all over the table. Not to worry. We just picked out the eggshells and scraped the egg into the bowl. Good thing we started with a clean table.

Next, I helped Maggie get hold of her egg and smack it against the cup edge. That was necessary to make it pliable enough for her to squeeze out the contents, and squeeze she did. Some was dripping down the front of her shirt, there was a small stream running down her knee and the rest was oozing out her fingers. We did get all the egg out of the shell, the shell pried out of her little fist and hands wiped clean. Whew!

My sister had come to visit just as we began and was observing what we were doing. As I got a cloth to wipe up the egg mess, Maggie, who was just desperate to “do it herself”, reached down and plunged her arm into the batter. I turned around at that same moment. It was perfect. I took hold of the bowl and said, “Stir Maggie, stir.” She really had a tremendous time stirring that batter. It’s very difficult for her to hold a spoon and when she does, I have to help her. For a 4-year-old that’s so lame. But stirring on your own, now that’s living! I would never have come up with the solution she found. I glad my sister was there because she was able to video that small moment of magnificent success and joy for Maggie. You can see Maggie stir the cake here.

Of course, being unable to control her limbs, her hand and arm went in and out of the batter a couple of times, so we had cake mix on her, Jack and the table. Not to worry, there was enough left to bake!

I put the bowl on the mixer and turned it to stir. Watching them learn to cook was fun. Each time I accelerated the mixer the change in sound would make Maggie jump. She’s very sensitive to sound. I would pat her knee and say, “It’s OK Maggie.” After a few times, Jack reached over, patted her little knee with his smaller hand, and said, “It’s loud.”

Soon the cake was in the oven, all hands were wiped, and the table cleaned. Then I put on Winnie the Pooh and made the frosting myself.

When the cakes were cooled, I invited the kids back in and we got to work. Maggie, like any 4-year-old, wanted to lick the beater. I gave her the rubber spatula instead. She held it in place on her knee, bent her head down low (ah, the flexibility of children) and got busy. For the next half hour, we didn’t see her face once, but we heard lots of smacks and slurps. She cleaned that spatula.

While I was frosting the cake and Maggie was smacking her lips on the spatula, Jack was sucking frosting out of the decorating bag. It was a grand sight, grandma letting her little friends experience new and enjoyable things. There was no nagging about being neat, quiet or being patient. We just did our thing however it happened to happen.

The cake turned out great and I suspect, despite the fact that it didn’t get its full measure of egg, it will taste just fine. On the way home, Jack almost fell asleep. He was totally worn out from a fabulous day at grandma’s house. Maggie cried because she knew we were going home, and it’s so much fun at grandmas!

I shared this cake baking experience with you because there are some important things that I want to point out that will help many of you.

1. When you work with children, no matter the age, your intent, and your expectation really do matter.
This experience with my grandchildren would have been very different if I had worried about keeping my kitchen clean or making sure that everything was in order and done a certain way or trying to keep clothing clean. It wouldn’t have been as much fun if I had said, “Don’t be so messy”, “Don’t spill”, or “Look at your clothes”. You know what I mean. We all do it. That’s because our expectation is that it will be a well-run project, go smoothly, and the end product will be perfect.

2. As we begin to feel the tiredness that comes from working on a project with children, we can begin to feel impatient, frustrated, and possibly, even angry. That’s because we expected to have this perfect time with our kids and it wasn’t perfect, at least not in our eyes.

But let’s think about that. When we work with children whose eyes matter, whose interpretation of what should happen matters. I’ve learned that for most children it isn’t the result that they care about, it’s the process. They like doing. They like experimenting. Sometimes things don’t turn out, cookies are crumbly, plaster of paris is runny, paint is too thick, etc. It doesn’t matter to kids.

3. Is the project, chores or activity about me or the kids? For decades I would go to my children’s school and help children make gingerbread houses. I was VERY well organized, so it was a smooth project. I could help 25-30 kids by myself. But I’m going to be honest here. It went so smoothly because the project was about me and not about the children.

When I first started it mattered to me how the houses looked when they were done. I knew they were going home, and I wanted those parents to be amazed, to see what a great teacher I was. So, when the kids were doing their thing I would go around and make sure that the entire milk carton was covered and that candies were evenly spread on the house. In short, I meddled with everyone’s creation.

As I got older and wiser, I stopped doing that. I made it about the children! I learned that kids don’t always care if the milk carton shows. Sometimes all the candy will be on one side of the roof and nowhere else. I learned that not everyone wants icicles that look like icicles. Some kids would rather do it themselves even if they are just bumps on the side of the house. And you know what; I’ve never talked to a parent yet who didn’t think their child’s house was great, no matter what it looked like.

I suspect that is true for a lot of you if you’re honest. It’s your expectations you think about. It’s your outcome that matters. It isn’t about just being with your kids and letting them learn and enjoy. Be honest.

4. When we’re honest we will approach projects and activities with a different set of expectations and a very different intent.

5. If being Present with our children is our ultimate goal, whether we’re playing, doing chores, homework, or any other activity, we will have a better result.

6. When we’re Present we’re better able to remember this huge difference in adults and children: adults are project driven and kids are process driven.

As we adjust our expectations to include these differences it will increase our enjoyment in working, playing and being with our children.

Your shares are the best compliment! : ) 

 

Want to Bond Your Family? READ!

March 4th was the birthday of Dr. Seuss. So of course, that got me thinking about family reading time. I’ve shared the idea that when we read to our children, we create a feeling that kids and teens need and want, that sense of family that feels warm and safe. BUT there are other reasons for reading with our children.

1. Reading as a family is a magnificent way to not only bond and enjoy each other’s company, it’s a way to teach core values without the lecture.

This is especially true when we read classics. And here’s another thing about reading the classics that I find fascinating – they’re worth reading more than once because we learn new things every time. They have some depth to them.

There are classics in each field from history, math, science, literature, the digital age, and even surfing, cycling, dancing, gardening, etc. There are classics for every age group.

One classic that my children loved was The Little Red Hen. Yup, it’s a classic. I know that we think of classics as dry and boring, but they aren’t. Here’s a link to a wonderful list of classic books I put together that kids and families will love.

Now back to the Little Red Hen. A family I know was reading The Little Red Hen together one morning. Then they all went grocery shopping. When they arrived home the car was full of groceries which needed to be carried into the house. Now, normally everyone would scatter off to do the next important thing but not on this day. The classic they had read just that morning had sunk into the hearts of the children. All the children began carrying in groceries without being asked. AMAZING, right!

A mother I attended a class with told this story. She and her boys were reading Little Britches. Set in the early 1900s this story is told from the point of view of a young boy who moves from New Hampshire to Colorado with his family because his father is ill and cannot work the coal mines any longer. Through the eyes of this young boy, we experience the perils and pleasures of ranching life from picnics to hay season, tornadoes to cattle roundups. Some of the main story themes are hard work, honesty, character, perseverance, and the simple life.

While they were reading this book the younger of the boys shared some information about his brother which he knew he shouldn’t share, and which caused his older brother some embarrassment. Later in a private moment, the younger boy said to his mom, “I guess I have taken some of the boards off of my house”, in reference to a comment by Ralph, the lead character in the book. Ralph was referring to doing something that was destroying his house of character.

Reading regularly as a family, from the classics, can be some of the most enduring and meaningful times we have with our kids. One of my daughters who is in her forty’s mentioned how wonderful it was, the way I read to them all the time. Amazing! I really didn’t read to them all the time. I read to them, but it wasn’t consistent. Even so, it had a powerful effect on her.

2. Another reason to read as a family is the shared memories that are forged.

I always anticipated being a grandparent and one of the things that I thought about was reading to my grandchildren. So, I made a plan. The whole experiment turned out pretty well. I had to explain to one family of grandkids, a couple of times, that this was a quiet time, but all in all, it was fun. We read a half dozen one-page stories from a big book that I had. I noticed that they went off to sleep with less noise and quarreling than usual.

When they came the next time, I had picked a couple of books that I thought were more interesting and livelier. Guess what? My 10-year-old granddaughter insisted that we read from the book we used our first time. That book held the memory of that first reading experience. They requested it every time. So, we always had to read at least one story from its pages.

3. Another perk that comes from reading as a family is the terrific conversations you can have together.

When Maggie was nine her school had an assembly and kicked off a month-long reading contest. Everyone wanted to win the contest. Maggie’s class had won the year before and wanted to win again. I was Maggie’s class aid at the time (she has cerebral palsy) and so I was able to observe how it went.

On one day they had five books read to them by participating adults. Some of the readers were very interesting and some read in a monotone and were soooooo boring. Some readers obviously liked what they were reading, and some felt uncomfortable. Some were good readers and some adults stumbled while reading all those rhymey words. The children enjoyed the books even if the readers weren’t comfortable or if they were a bit boring.

But here is what I noticed the most. There was virtually no interaction between the reader and the children, about the content of the books. A couple of the readers said something like this: isn’t that funny, wouldn’t you be scared, or what do you think of that. But these were rhetorical questions because time wasn’t given to the children to answer. If a child did try to answer they were asked to not interrupt so that the reading could go on. This is how most of us read to children. We are all about getting through the material. It’s so adult of us!

But there is a better way! And this better way is what creates that sense of family that can happen during family reading time. Talk about what you are reading. That’s why reading the Little Red Hen was so powerful for one family and why reading Little Britches was powerful for another. They talked about it.

If you need a tutorial on how it looks to have an enjoyable reading conversation with your family check out this article called Creating That Family Feeling

Take the time on a regular basis to gather your kids around you and read to them. You’ll be glad you did and so will your whole family!

Your Shares are the Best Compliment : ) 

Sharing=That Family Feeling!

That Family Feeling

Children long to feel connected in a special way to those they love most. You know what I’m talking about. Those moments when you and your spouse share a laugh and no one else knows what’s funny. When you and a friend have one of those conversations where you really feel heard.

Children and teens want the same opportunity to connect in intimate and special ways with their parents and siblings, they want that ‘family feeling’.

When we share what we’re learning and what we feel with our children we give them that opportunity to feel this intimacy. When they feel it, it opens a gate to trust and can help them process what is happening in their lives.

Mini-conversations are the perfect

way to share

 

Here’s a mini-conversation about the book Lord of the Flies, held during a family meal. There’s a lot in this book that makes you think. There’s plenty that’s ugly and possibly frightening. So, can you really talk to a four-year-old about it, an eight-year-old or even a twelve-year-old? My answer would be YES, you can and should. Mini-conversations are perfect for broaching hard or sensitive topics. If you recall the tips that make a mini-conversation work, you can tell why.

• Listen more than you talk
• Ask open-ended questions
• Listen with interest
• Listen without judgment or giving your opinion

Lord of the Flies Mini-Conversation

 

Dad: I’m reading a book Called Lord of the Flies. I don’t like the story very much. It’s sad.

Eight-year-old: What’s it about dad?

Dad: Well, it’s about some boys who are stranded alone on an island. They don’t have any grownups with them.

Twelve-year-old: What’s sad about that? I’d love to be on an island without any grownups. That would be awesome.

Dad: Well, being able to do whatever you want might be good for a while, but what if one of the boys talked a lot of the other boys into believing or acting in ways that were mean to some of the other kids.

Four-year-old: That’s bad, daddy.

Eight-year-old: What did the boy want them to do?

Dad: Well, they really teased one boy who was overweight.

Twelve-year-old: We have a girl in our class that gets teased a lot. I’m glad I’m not her.

Dad: Hmmm, I guess we don’t have to be on an island for people to make poor choices.

Four-year-old: I wouldn’t be mean to people dad.

And that conversation could go on for a while and take several twists and turns.

A Second Mini-Conversation

 

Now let’s jump to the next day and a second mini-conversation. Dad and his twelve-year-old son are weeding in the garden.

Twelve-year-old: Dad, tell me some more about that book.

So, dad gives a brief synopsis. There is a long silence as they weed.

Twelve-year-old: Dad, do you think that Piggy would have been killed if more of the boys had stood up and said what they really thought about it?

Dad makes a comment. There’s another long silence as they weed.

Twelve-year-old: Dad, did you ever have a situation when you didn’t know what to do?

Dad: Sure, everyone does. What’s up, John?

Twelve-year-old: Well, there’s this kid in school and he keeps asking me and Fred…………

And there you have it, the value of sharing what you’re learning with your children by having “mini-conversations”. John will read “Lord of the Flies” sometime when he’s older. It will mean a great deal more to him than if it had just been assigned, tested and graded.

That initial mini-conversation also enabled John to connect with and trust his dad. Their relationship was strengthened. And the information from the book his dad was reading is having a positive impact on his own personal decision making.

We as parents need to be learning, and then we need to engage our children, our families, in conversations. When we do we begin creating that intimate family feeling. And as we do this we’ll all learn a great deal more and we will bond in some wonderful and unexpected ways.

Your shares are the greatest compliment

Kids, Adults and Pie

Kids, Adults, and Pie

In honor of the Great American Pie Month, I want to share a story that illustrates the difference between kids and adults. Understanding this can make all the difference in how much you enjoy being and working with them and it can also impact your enjoyment whenever you learn something new.

I taught a class on pie making to a group of adults. One mother brought her 11-year-old daughter and they worked together.

When I teach someone how to make a pie, I know that their pie won’t look like mine. I’ve been making pies for over fifty years and when I roll out a pie crust it’s round and beautiful. When I put it into the pie pan it’s as smooth as butter; no cracking, no tearing. When I crimp the edges, they look so taste-tempting and are, in fact, delicious. It’s all because I’ve had so much practice.

People learning to make a pie for the first time, no matter their age, have had very little to no practice. Rolling a pie crust out so that its round is a skill that must be learned. Picking up a pie crust and fitting it into the pan without tears and cracks is a skill that must be learned. It’s a skill to make the crust just right, not to dry and not to wet.

I have taught many people to make pie and I want my new pie makers to go home feeling like they just accomplished something magnificent. So, I tell them “You’re just learning this new skill. It’s like riding a bike, it won’t be perfect right off the bat. Your crust might not fit the pan perfectly, it might even crack. Just piece it back together. You’re making this pie because you love your family and they’re going to be so blessed to have it. Remember that it’s going to taste wonderful and how it tastes is what’s going to count, not how it looks.”

11-year-old Ariel

Well, all my pie makers got to work, including the mother-daughter team. The pies were turning out just as you would expect beginner’s pies to look. Everyone had taken my counsel and was feeling successful except Rosemary, the older half of the mother-daughter team. She wanted it to be perfect, she wanted to be able to do it better on the first try, how it was turning out is what mattered to her.

She was fretting and stewing over the fact that it hadn’t been very round, the dough was dry, it broke into a couple of pieces and had to be pressed back together as they were putting it into the pan. Her daughter was just busy piecing away. Finally, Ariel looked at her mom and said: “Remember mom, it’s how it tastes that counts.” Her mother looked at her for a bit and then replied, “Oh yes, thanks for reminding me.”

Outcome vs Process

Teaching adults can be difficult. They worry about not knowing the material already or not having the skill. They are embarrassed that their results don’t look like yours.

Adults are outcome (product) driven while children are process driven. How it turns out can eclipse the joy of doing whatever it is. This difference can get in the way of enjoying working with your children

Teaching children is a joy. It always amazes me that my pie looks perfect and theirs is crumbling on the side and they don’t see the difference. They look at the pie and say, “Wow, look at my pie.” They’re proud and excited about what they have done. It is the process that they enjoy.

Why Children Enjoy The Process:

1. They are teachable because they aren’t intimidated by not already knowing how to do something. They are excited to learn.
2. They are not afraid to learn new things.
3. The process is more important than the outcome. They are willing to be less than perfect while they learn. In fact, they usually cannot even see the imperfections unless they are pointed out by an adult. That is why we need to be gentle when we are helping a child learn something new.
4. The mess or time it takes isn’t important to them. They don’t worry about the use of resources.
5. They are so easy to please.

As you look at this list can you see the things that make you crazy when you are letting your kids paint, cut, or are trying to teach them to clean or garden, etc?

The end result matters a lot to you. You don’t want a mess. You don’t want wasted paper, glue and tape. You are concerned with time. You can see all the uncleaned corners, the crooked edges, etc. You sometimes don’t appreciate the number of repetitions that are required to get good at something.

When you are working with your kids whether it’s a craft, cooking or doing chores together stay out of your children’s way a bit more. Give them space, time and the resources to do the job. Don’t micromanage so much. Let them learn and take pride in whatever they do. Don’t see the end result through your eyes. See it through theirs. The process is what counts for kids. Aren’t kids amazing!!!!

Your shares are the best compliment.

What’s a Mini-Conversation Anyway??

We’re all looking for simple ways to connect with our families despite how busy life has gotten. One technique I really enjoy is that of mini-conversations. Conversing with children and teens can be fun, relaxing, and energizing and sometimes we learn something new.

The purpose of a mini-conversation is to hear what your kids have to say and to make a connection that’s enjoyable. Sometimes you share cool stuff or ask an interesting question, sometimes they share cool stuff or ask a question, and through it all, you stay Present and listen, for the most part. Mini-conversations, done right, always feel enjoyable to both parties! They never feel like a lecture.

Let me give you an example. When my youngest daughter was twenty, she was reading Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet A. Jacobs. She asked me to read the book because she wanted to talk about it. Over the few weeks that it took her to read the book we had conversations about the character of different people in the book, why people act the way they do and believe the things they do, and how to be better people ourselves.

I happened to mention the book to my ten-year-old granddaughter in a letter. She wrote back commenting about freedom and the fact that I had recently attended a caucus. We had a mini-conversation via mail about what a caucus is and who can go and why they would go. That led to a conversation back and forth about Fredrick Douglas, who he was and how he worked for freedom for slaves, women and other minority groups. With the advent of technology, we can have these types of mini-conversations face to face no matter what distance we must traverse.

Jack, my grandson, who was two at the time, had a dear friend who turned 90. He gave Jack a bunch of helium-filled balloons from his party. Jack and I took one balloon to the front yard and let it go. As it floated upward, we had a mini-conversation. It went like this:

Jack: “Look at the balloon go up!”
Me: “Pretty isn’t it. Do all balloons float up like these?”
Jack: “No.”
Me: “Do you know why this balloon floats up into the air?”
Jack: “No”.
Me: “Well, they have gas inside called Helium. It makes the balloon go up.”
Jack: “Cool!”

That’s it; that’s all there was to the conversation. We stood and watched the balloon until it was out of sight. We held hands. It was a pleasurable moment. We felt connected as we did something we enjoyed together.

Having mini-conversations with our children can happen in the car, at a meal, when tucking them in for the night, after a teen comes home from a date or party, when you’re doing chores together and while engaging in a host of other everyday happenings.

Mini-conversations accomplish several things:

• They get a parent and child in a position to look eye to eye, listen to each other and share feelings, as well as information.
• This generates that ‘family feeling’ I’ve mentioned before.
• When they happen consistently over time, they build trust. This can pay you dividends when your kids are teens and young adults.

If this isn’t something you have done before or if you haven’t been very consistent in your efforts it really is worth a try. As you practice you will get better and better because it’s a skill and skills can be learned and mastered.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

A. Desire the conversation—I’m a great conversationalist with kids of all ages because I want to talk to them. I want to know them. I want to know what they think. I want to know how they feel. Do you want to know more about your children? Do you want to hear what they have to say? This is the number one key to having successful mini-conversations.

B. Listen more than you talk. You may have to ask a question or make a statement to get a mini-conversation going but then listen as much as you can. Pose the question or make the statement and wait to see what happens. If there’s no response, the conversation is over. You wait a while and try again with a different question or comment. As your child or family begins to respond, keep asking questions with an occasional comment. If you spend most of the time being quiet or asking questions, you’ll avoid giving a mini-lecture.

C. Listen without judgment or giving your opinion. A conversation goes much further with a child when we withhold our judgments and opinions. There’s great value in focusing on a child’s feelings or reactions in any given situation rather than sharing what we think or feel. When we can listen without judgment, it helps children process their emotions. We can teach later.

D. Listen with interest. Listening with deep interest shows that you care about what your child is saying, in contrast, to simply listening because it’s what parents do. If you question whether your kids can tell the difference, don’t. They can, and it matters.

E. Ask open-ended questions. How did that work out? How do you feel about that? What do you think you can do? Why don’t you like that? Would you go there again? Are you considering that?

F. Believe that kids like talking with adults. Occasionally adults feel that kids wouldn’t enjoy conversing with them, but that’s not true. Most kids enjoy speaking with adults because, for some, it gives them a sense of maturity. For others, it feels connecting and kids like that. For all children and youth, it helps them feel that what they have to say is important.

G. Take advantage of wait times. There are wait times often in a family: at the doctor’s or other appointments, waiting for the school bus to come, while Dad runs into the store leaving the family in the car, when waiting for cookies to bake, when the light’s red, and so on. These wait times are perfect for having mini-conversations.

H. Have mini-conversations at the most important touchpoints in your family: mealtime, car time, and bedtime. Have dinner mini-conversations no matter who spills milk, slurps their soup, or tips over their chair. You can get it going by saying, “Guess what I saw today,” or “Do you know what my boss did?” or “Hey, did anyone have anything fun happen today?”

If you’re having a strained relationship with any of your children, if you feel overwhelmed and just can’t find time to connect or if you just want more of that ‘family feeling’ then give mini-conversations a try. It will surprise you how it can melt hearts, soothe feelings and teach you more about your child.

Creating that ‘Family Feeling’

How Do Kids Feel About Reading As A Family?

The number one reason to read to your children until they leave your home and go out on their own is to establish an intimate experience filled warmth and belonging, that ‘family feeling.’

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.

One of my warmest memories is of my mother reading poetry to us. She didn’t read to us often, but when she did it was magical for me! As I think back on those reading moments with my mom, I know what made them so special. I felt my mom loved us and it created that ‘family feeling’ for me.

There are many ways to read together but if we really want to create that ‘family feeling’ then we can take a lesson from a mother I observed.

A Better Way To Read

Jodie was reading the book Charlott’s Web to her children. Frequently she would stop and ask a question. “What does manure mean?” “What does loft mean?” What does slop mean”? “What is a manure pile?” When the term manure pile came up again, later in the story, Jodie emphasized the term as she read. Then she asked, “Do you remember what manure pile means?” I heard, “Eweee, a pile of poop.” Then laughter.

In the story, the cows were described as patient. Jodie had been working on helping her children learn to be patient. When she read that word she stopped and said, “Patient means to wait quietly till you get what you need.” She got knowing looks from the kids.

At one point something happened that wasn’t right and one of the characters in the book said, “You’re going to catch it.” Jodie asked the kids what that phrase meant. They weren’t sure so she replied, “It means you’re going to be in trouble.” Then she said, “You’re going to catch it, Jack. You’re going to catch it, Maggie. You’re going to catch it, Mary.” Big smiles all around! Jack said in a loud, happy voice, “You’re going to catch it, mom!”

Later she asked, “Do you know what asparagus is?” A chorus of “No.” “Well, it’s like a great big piece of grass that people eat. It’s yummy. We could buy some, eat it and pretend that we are cows. Should we do it?” An excited chorus of yeses! “It sort of looks like a spear”, Jack said.

Next, there was a discussion about slop. Jodie told her kids, “If some people don’t like something, they say it tastes like slop. But the better thing to say is, I don’t like this.” Then there was a discussion about manners.

Then a conversation about freedom ensued. The animals in the story were glad they weren’t tied up or penned in. Jodie said, “Isn’t it interesting that everyone wants a little freedom, to be able to choose what they want to do.” The kids had a lot to say about that! They all talked about freedom and choice and responsibility.

At one point in the story, the goose was telling another animal to twist, turn, skip, slide and run. Jodie said, “She isn’t helping him. Why isn’t it helpful?” Jack replied, “She’s teaching him to run away. She is getting him in trouble.”

Eventually, they read something in the book that was unfamiliar, and Jack said, “That part isn’t in the movie”. Then they discussed why things in books aren’t always in the movie. They decided it was good to read the book first and get the whole story before seeing a movie about the book.

This family reading time took about 30 minutes. The ages of the children were 7, 5, and 3. They were totally engaged and involved. They got through one, maybe two chapters. It’s going to take some time to get the whole book read. But getting the book finished isn’t what this mother is trying to accomplish. She’s connecting with her kids. She’s taking 30 minutes to be Present. She was intent on creating that ‘family feeling.’

What did they share:

• The meanings to many words that were unfamiliar and that are important to understanding the story.
• They learned about some character traits such as patience and responsibility.
• They talked about freedom and why it is important and why people like it.
• They learned the meaning of a new phrase; you’re going to catch it.
• They planned the next family activity – to buy, cook and eat asparagus and act like cows.
• They talked about manners and what to do if you are eating and you don’t like something.
• They talked about the difference in written stories and movies and why they might not be the same.

This is a delightful way to read a book to children. It’s fun, it’s interactive, it holds attention, it’s learning at its best. I’ve seen this same type of success with older children and youth. Reading time as a family is not about getting through a book. It is about bonding, laughter, happy feelings and learning together.

For Success Remeber The Difference in Adults and Kids

Remember that adults are product driven, for the most part, and kids are process driven. We want to read, move along at a reasonable pace and get it done, then on to the next book. Kids want to experience something while they’re reading. They want to experience that ‘family feeling’.

What great book have you read with your family recently? I’d love to know. : )

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

The Big Epidemic

The idea that we should be careful to keep our priorities right in terms of not letting lesser concerns get in the way of greater ones so that we find ourselves “in the thick of thin things,” is good advice.

The Big Epidemic

However, getting stuck in the thick of thin things seems to be epidemic in today’s world. It can be a challenge to discern what the thin things are and sidestep them. This is a problem for every parent. There are so many things we need to do to manage our home, make a living, and frankly, get some time to ourselves. And then there are the expectations of the world; what parents are supposed to do to really give their kids a good life, to be great parents.

Let me give you two very different examples of the difficulty of staying out of thin things from two very different moms. One is middle aged and is schooling her children at home and one is older with five grown children. And just for fun, I’ll share how the issue was solved.

Phones, Screens, Frustration!

I was working with a mom who happened to be homeschooling. She really wanted to be Present with her kids during the time they were learning together but she kept getting sucked into thin things.

If the phone rang it had to be answered – it might be important. The computer and other screens were also a siren’s song. Just glancing at the screen for a few minutes couldn’t be harmful, right!

As this mom put it to me, “during our learning time are a tool of Satan!” Pretty strong words! That tells you the level of frustration this mom felt at her willingness to let the unimportant intrude on the important.

This mom, like all the parents I work with, really does want her children to know that they come first, that she loves being with them, and values her time with them. But she was struggling to not walk away from being present with her kids to take care of what was coming in from the world. It was making her feel terrible.

Wisely, she pondered the situation, did a bit of knee time and came up with a solution. She decided to turn off the screens when she wanted to be present with her kids during their learning time. She turned the computer off at night, so it wouldn’t be a temptation in the morning and then when she got down to business with her children, she put her phone on silent.

The outcome is that she’s been able to be truer to her family and herself. She can be present for small amounts of time and accomplish her goal of teaching her kids, but more importantly of sending the message that they matter to her and are at the top of her list.

Expectations, Stuff, and Guilt!

I have another friend who has raised five children. In a recent conversation, she mentioned her dismay at all the stuff that she still had from when her kids were living at home. You know the kind of stuff we save – school photos, childhood drawings, old school papers, awards, etc. She felt that somehow, she had let her kids down because they didn’t have all this stuff in beautiful scrapbooks. I mean, all her friends had made beautiful scrapbooks for their kids, she was sure of it. She felt guilty. It weighed on her mind.

This is what she said to me “I guess I was too busy helping kids with lessons, sitting through games, playing, supporting plays,” … her voice trailed off.”

When I called her on this she smiled and said, “Your right. All that stuff I did with my kids was really more important, wasn’t it?”

Seth and his treasures : )

Now there isn’t anything wrong with a beautiful scrapbook or looking at a screen if they don’t take us away from time we should be connecting with our family. I made a few scrapbooks for some of my older kids, but they didn’t have any fancy pages. I just paper punched the sheets and put them in the binders. My son, Seth, who is on the downside of forty, still has his and thinks it’s the best. He never missed beautifully crafted pages. Andrew doesn’t even have a scrapbook, he was farther down the line but he loved the box of his stuff.

And if you feel pressed about all that stuff you seem to be collecting for

Andrew and his box of ‘stuff’.

your kids here is a thought. A couple of Christmases ago I bought some pretty storage boxes. Then I sorted all the stuff, and after seven kids there was a bunch of it! I put each child’s treasures in a separate box and that’s what Don and I gave them for Christmas.

How did that go? They LOVED them. It was so fun to watch them sorting through the contents. You could hear, “Do you remember this.” “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that.” They sat and reminisced for a couple of hours. Since then they have discarded most of what I thought needed to be saved all those years ago.

Funny how we downplay the time we spend with our family, connecting with one another. We rarely give it the kudos it deserves. Funny how we sometimes elevate the value of things that matter far less.

As the world gets busier and noisier and the expectations increase, it becomes critical for us to carve out time for those things that are of greatest importance, our children, our family, our time together.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things?’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Pres. Thomas S Monson, Oct. 2009)

Being present doesn’t require a lot of time. It does require letting go of outside influences and focusing on those who matter most. When we look someone in the eye and listen, we send a very clear message: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

Your shares are the best compliment. : )