Category: Family Culture

You Can Improve Your Parent-Child Relationships

What Is Really Important?

Here’s a true story. A father was painting the outside of his home. His five-year-old son wanted to help. So this good father gave his son an old shirt with the sleeves rolled up several times. They both went to work on the door, dad painting the top and son painting the bottom. It just happened to be the door to the main entrance.

Now because of his age and size, the young boy wasn’t able to spread the paint evenly and consequently, the paint was beading up. That certainly wasn’t how the father envisioned his front door. So each time the five-year-old bent down to get more paint the father would hastily smooth out the paint on the bottom panel. It couldn’t do any harm, the boy didn’t know what was happening and the door sure would look better.

Well, father and son painted in silence for a time, the boy doing his best and the father smoothing it out. As the father thought about the situation and his redoing of his son’s work he decided that working with his son trumped a first-class paint job. He realized that his son was doing a mighty fine job for a five-year-old. The relationship that was being forged over the painting of a door was more significant than the appearance of the door. He stopped smoothing out his son’s work.

Ever after that when the father approached the front door and saw its distinctive style of decoration he was reminded of what is really important.

The father of this five-year-old boy spoke about his experience, with his own father. His father had a workshop in which he made wonderful things. His son said, “I would wander into this workshop and watch him. Just to be in his presence was a thrill for me. He invited me to help him by passing a hammer, a screwdriver, or some other tool. I was convinced that my help was necessary and that without me he would not be able to complete his task.

As I look back and reflect upon those wonderful memories, I realize that my contribution was not necessary for my father to complete the work he was engaged in. I was the beneficiary, as through these experiences I came to know him and to love him. I came to know about a Fathers Role In Parenting .”  We All Have a Father in Whom We Can Trust, Ensign, May 1994, p. 30

Sometimes parents can care too much about the outcome and too little about the relationship. When we take time to be present with our children we give them the opportunity to know and love us. We give them a gift. And they, in turn, return that gift by loving us back. It is the best use of our time because the relationship that develops is the thing of greatest significance.

Why Does a Work Ethic Matter?

My grandpa Ted, hard worker, entrepreneur, and teacher

Learning The Value of Work

It was early in the 1960’s and I was seated in a red vinyl chair, the kind you would have seen in a 1940’s dinner. I was waiting for a customer and I knew one would come. One always came when my grandpa took a break and headed out the front door to the Golden Spur Café next door.

I was about 10 and my responsibility was to measure the feet of tall cowboys and grizzled farmers. Then I would show them fancy riding boots, a good working cowboy boot or maybe a steel-toed work boot.

I had been measuring men’s feet since I was about 8 years old, every time my grandpa took a break. I had never yet sold a boot but I had shown a good many cowboys a good many boots.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my grandpa was sending those cowboys and farmers over to give me experience. When I stayed at my grandparents during the summer this was my daily routine.

At night I would find myself behind the counter in my Grandma’s Sweet Shop. My grandma had only a

My grandma Roselia, hard worker, entrepreneur and teacher

fourth-grade education but she had taught herself what she needed to know to run a successful business for many years. It was right next to the theater and in those days there were no concessions inside the theater. You had to come to my grandma’s Sweet Shop to get them.

After a movie or the high school football game people come in for lime rickeys, an ice cream soda or a foot long hot dog with her famous and very secret sauce. I washed root beer mugs and ice cream dishes but occasionally I had the privilege of selling popcorn and candy. It was a delicious experience, no pun intended!

Verl and NaVon, my parents, hard workers, entrepreneurs and teachers

My dad was a hard worker and an entrepreneur too. He did many things and then went back to college when he had nine children. I learned the meaning of that word in high school but although I didn’t know the word till then I knew what one was. It was a person who owned their own business; who kept the books and hired people and paid the bills and sometimes got paid very little. I knew it was somebody who was always thinking up new ideas and putting them to work. It was a person who knew how to work hard and do it well. It was a person who could earn what they needed to care for themselves.

My mom was busy raising nine children but she was an entrepreneur too. She took in ironing from the neighbors. She used those meager funds to buy us Christmas, trips to the fair and the occasional pack of hot dogs for dinner. What a treat!

I learned about entrepreneurship and the value of work by being involved with my dad, mom, and

Me, learning the value of work, entrepreneurship and doing a job well

grandparents from my earliest days. This call to work and to do it well became part of my personal value system. It served me so well when I was putting myself through college and when I entered the workforce and on into my parenting days.

Learning to work paid off in many ways. I was able to do my chores well when properly motivated. : ) I got my homework done and I knew that doing it well mattered. No one ever bailed me out if I chose to do a poor job or to be late in getting an assignment done. I knew that if I needed something there was work I could to earn the money.

I became an entrepreneur myself despite being a stay at home mom raising seven children. I taught myself to make wedding cakes and did a fabulous job from my kitchen counter for fifty years. Many of our family perks came from those wedding cakes.

My children couldn’t help but develop a strong work ethic themselves. I will never forget the summer my five-year-old Jodie set up a rock selling business. She collected rocks on the side of the road and went door to door selling them. She sold some too. Her next venture was a large cardboard box christened “Junky Jimbo’s” (don’t ask me where she got that name!!) on the corner of a busy street where she sold lemonade. And so it went with all of my children.

Understanding the value of work has been passed down to my grandchildren. They know that if they want something then there is a way to get it; come up with an idea and then go to work. My grandchildren have been babysitters, dog walkers, poop scoopers, pet sitters, vacation gardeners, tattoo sellers, magic boat sellers, cool bib sellers, creators of events for families, tickets 25 cents, lemonade sellers, newspaper deliverers, lawn cutters and now I have a granddaughter, just out of high school, who is working in a dental office. She’s saving to serve a mission for her church this summer.

WORK Develops Important Character Traits In Kids

Children reap many advantages when they learn to work. Work is key to developing important character traits.

  • self-motivation
  • integrity
  • determination
  • consistency
  • confidence
  • persistence
  • judgment
  • personal satisfaction
  • confidence
  • the ability to use and value self-denial

We don’t have to run our own business to help our children reap the advantages of having a strong work ethic. When we teach our children to work and do the very best job they can we give them gifts that will be of inestimable value when they become adults.

Next week we’ll take a look at some ways that we can encourage our children to work and do it well.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

Are You Withholding the Reward?

You have probably heard the saying ‘begin with the end in mind’. In other words, visualize how you want something to turn out. However, if we want more enjoyment when we do things as a family then we should begin with the WHY in mind.

I love this comment by the motivational speaker Dan Clark: “Begin with the why in mind rather than the end in mind. This allows us to reward effort rather than results.” I love his comment because when adults adopt this attitude we and our kids have more fun and satisfaction in just about everything we do together.

Remember why you’re going for a family drive, why you’re letting the kids help you paint, why you’re making cookies, why you’re folding socks together or why you’re preparing dinner. The purpose of just about everything we do in a family is to build relationships.

Stop worrying about how the cookies taste, how the painting looks, if all the socks got matched, if dinner tasted great, whether there’s a mess, or how long the project takes. Keep your mind focused on relationship building.

As adults, we have motives that can prevent us from rewarding our family’s efforts to work and play together, regardless of the outcome. These motives can make it more difficult to give ourselves a reward just for being together, for enjoying each other, for working on our relationships.

MOTIVE 1—We want the experience and the outcome to match our expectations

When we plan any activity, vacation, chore, etc. with our family it is almost impossible not to have an outcome in mind. However, if the family event doesn’t match that outcome then it’s easy to feel dissatisfied, even angry. It’s important to watch our expectations.

Keep expectations from getting in the way of enjoying your family. Avoid the trap of giving up because, well, what’s the use, what can they possibly be getting out of this? Keep the perfect from becoming the enemy of the good. The point is not what you teach, or how well it looks, but being together. There’s great value in linking your satisfaction to being with your family even when it falls short of your expectations.

MOTIVE 2—We want a reward

In our world, we get rewards for getting stuff done. If the job’s done right, we get bigger rewards. Rewards are what we’re used to.

In our families, the reward isn’t a paycheck but a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of happiness. Frequently, we withhold this reward from ourselves and other family members if what we’re doing doesn’t turn out right, in other words, if it didn’t meet our expectations. We don’t give ourselves the reward for simply engaging with our family and solidifying relationships.

It’s OK to reward ourselves with a sense of satisfaction and happiness even if we fall short of our expectations.

MOTIVE 3—We want others to think well of us

We want to look like the family we have in our mind – kids with clean hands and faces, no bickering, clean plates at dinner, clean rooms, happy conversation in the car…

That family doesn’t even exist but for some reason, we think it does and that if ours isn’t like that we have somehow failed. We want this imaginary family because sometimes our motive when being with our family is to look good to others – to look like that imaginary family. When we have this motive in mind it can suck the joy right out of any family activity with a REAL family

Success in any family endeavor can be measured by how people feel during and after an activity together. Is the family energized? Did you have fun? Did you feel happy being with one another? Was there a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment? Was individual esteem strengthened? Are relationships better? Is the family feeling still strong?

If we can answer yes to even one of those questions then we can reward ourselves because we will have succeeded in WHY we are together as a family – relationships!

When we remember why we do things as a family it’s easier to jettison these common motives and have greater enjoyment as we work and play together.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE –

Your family gathers at the table for dinner. You notice that one of your children’s hands are filthy and send them to wash. Another child complains that now you all have to wait to say grace because of so and so’s messy hands. The child with the messy hands comes back and gives their sibling a raspberry with their tongue. You intervene, remind them it’s time for grace and pick someone to pray.

During the prayer, the smallest child tips their milk. They should have had hands folded for prayer but they were reaching for a slice of bread. While the family finishes grace you head to the kitchen for a towel.

Both you and your spouse feel a bit frustrated but as you wipe up the milk your husband says, “Guess what I saw today?” One of the children responds with, “What?” “Well, I saw a sign for the circus, it’s coming to town.” There is a round of happy comments and someone says “Can we go?” “Well, we can talk about that at our family meeting. But do you know what my favorite thing was when I went to the circus as a kid, the Kaliope.” Someone responds with “The whatopee. I never heard of that.” And so the conversation goes for the next few minutes. Then your oldest child asks to be excused which starts an avalanche of request to be done.

Quickly you and your husband find yourselves sitting alone at the table. You realize that you are going to have to call those assigned to clean the table back and that you are going to have to argue with the ones assigned to wash and dry. But for now, in this brief moment, you and your husband look at each other and one of you says – “Well that was nice.”

And it was nice. You all sat down together. You ate together. You kept your cool and managed your responses. You had a full five minutes of conversation as a family. No one went away feeling less than. It was a success! Reward yourself with a sense of satisfaction and a happy feeling that you are managing just fine because you are!

COMMENTS? I’d love to hear them!

 

Your shares are the best compliment!

You Deserve a Reward!

You have probably heard the saying ‘begin with the end in mind’. In other words, visualize how you want something to turn out. However, if we want more enjoyment when we do things as a family then we should begin with the WHY in mind.

I love this comment by the motivational speaker Dan Clark: “Begin with the why in mind rather than the end in mind. This allows us to reward effort rather than results.” I love his comment because when adults adopt this attitude we and our kids have more fun and satisfaction in just about everything we do together.

Remember why you’re going for a family drive, why you’re letting the kids help you paint, why you’re making cookies, why you’re folding socks together or why you’re preparing dinner. The purpose of just about everything we do in a family is to build relationships.

Stop worrying about how the cookies taste, how the painting looks, if all the socks got matched, if dinner tasted great, whether there’s a mess, or how long the project takes. Keep your mind focused on relationship building.

As adults, we have motives that can prevent us from rewarding our family’s efforts to work and play together, regardless of the outcome. These motives can make it more difficult to give ourselves a reward just for being together, for enjoying each other, for working on our relationships.

MOTIVE 1—We want the experience and the outcome to match our expectations

When we plan any activity, vacation, chore, etc. with our family it’s almost impossible not to have an outcome in mind. However, if the family event doesn’t match that outcome then it’s easy to feel dissatisfied, even angry. It’s important to watch our expectations.

Keep expectations from getting in the way of enjoying your family. Avoid the trap of giving up because, well, what’s the use, what can they possibly be getting out of this? Keep the perfect from becoming the enemy of the good. The point is not what you teach, or how well it looks, but being together. There’s great value in linking your satisfaction to being with your family even when it falls short of your expectations.

MOTIVE 2—We want a reward

In our world, we get rewards for getting stuff done. If the job’s done right, we get bigger rewards. Rewards are what we’re used to.

In our families, the reward isn’t a paycheck but a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of happiness. Frequently, we withhold this reward from ourselves and other family members if what we’re doing doesn’t turn out right, in other words, if it didn’t meet our expectations. We don’t give ourselves the reward for simply engaging with our family and solidifying relationships.

It’s OK to reward ourselves with a sense of satisfaction and happiness even if we fall short of our expectations.

MOTIVE 3—We want others to think well of us

We want to look like the family we have in our mind – kids with clean hands and faces, no bickering, clean plates at dinner, clean rooms, happy conversation in the car…

That family doesn’t even exist but for some reason, we think it does and that if ours isn’t like that we have somehow failed. We want this imaginary family because sometimes our motive when being with our family is to look good to others – to look like that imaginary family. When we have this motive in mind it can suck the joy right out of any family activity with a REAL family

Success in any family endeavor can be measured by how people feel during and after an activity together. Is the family energized? Did you have fun? Did you feel happy being with one another? Was there a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment? Was individual esteem strengthened? Are relationships better? Is the family feeling still strong?

If we can answer yes to even one of those questions then we can reward ourselves because we will have succeeded in WHY we are together as a family – relationships!

When we remember why we do things as a family it’s easier to jettison these common motives and have greater enjoyment as we work and play together.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE –

Your family gathers at the table for dinner. You notice that one of your children’s hands are filthy and send them to wash. Another child complains that now you all have to wait to say grace because of so and so’s messy hands. The child with the messy hands comes back and gives their sibling a raspberry with their tongue. You intervene, remind them it’s time for grace and pick someone to pray.

During the prayer, the smallest child tips their milk. They should have had hands folded for prayer but they were reaching for a slice of bread. While the family finishes grace you head to the kitchen for a towel.

Both you and your spouse feel a bit frustrated but as you wipe up the milk your husband says, “Guess what I saw today?” One of the children responds with, “What?” “Well, I saw a sign for the circus, it’s coming to town.” There is a round of happy comments and someone says “Can we go?” “Well, we can talk about that at our family meeting. But do you know what my favorite thing was when I went to the circus as a kid, the Kaliope.” Someone responds with “The whatopee. I never heard of that.” And so the conversation goes for the next few minutes. Then your oldest child asks to be excused which starts an avalanche of request to be done.

Quickly you and your husband find yourselves sitting alone at the table. You realize that you are going to have to call those assigned to clean the table back and that you are going to have to argue with the ones assigned to wash and dry. But for now, in this brief moment, you and your husband look at each other and one of you says – “Well that was nice.”

And it was nice. You all sat down together. You ate together. You kept your cool and managed your responses. You had a full five minutes of conversation as a family. No one went away feeling less than. It was a success! Reward yourself with a sense of satisfaction and a happy feeling that you are managing just fine.

Of Hens and Families

                                                   A Very Bright Chicken!

We have chickens, free-range chickens. That means they are never locked in the coop. That has its advantages and disadvantages!

•It feels like country even in the city
•They poop on your patio and steps
•Breakfast can always include eggs
•It takes a hunt to get those breakfast eggs
•There are fewer bugs everywhere
•Ripe garden tomatoes might not make it into the house!

You see the last thing on the list- Ripe garden tomatoes might not make it into the house! That has been happening to me all summer. In fact, I have been picking my tomatoes when they are still slightly orange with a bit of green. It’s annoying because the reason to plant tomatoes is that you want ripe from the vine tomatoes.

I’ve been watching for the culprit who’s getting into the garden. Today I found her out! She is the mangiest chicken in the flock. She’s missing feathers on her neck and on her behind. She’s skinny and scraggly. You wouldn’t think much of her. However, you would be wrong! She is smarter than the average chicken despite her looks.

This morning I discovered her in my garden and I shooed her out. Then, because I can’t figure out how she gets in I watched her. Within minutes I saw her scoot under the fence at the corner where it connects to our neighbor’s fence. I shooed her back out. Then I placed a large rock in front of the low spot.

These low spots are actually created by the chickens themselves. They love taking dirt baths. Over time they can create quite an indention.

That’s what has happened around the perimeter of my garden. When I discovered this I placed cinder blocks in every indention I knew about. That’s why I couldn’t figure out how Scraggy Hen got in this morning.

After I blocked her newest entrance I watched her pace from one end of the garden to the other looking for a way in. I could feel her frustration as she paced back and forth trying this and that.

Although I felt for her plight what I felt, even more, was the desire for a ripe red tomato out of my own garden so I turned my gaze away and I went back to my cleaning. The next time I looked her way she was in the garden! How did she do that!!

I shooed her out and then I watched some more. For just a few minutes she went back to pacing the fence line, then she veered to the left towards the pasture fence. The fence at the back of the garden is also the fence to the back pasture. It’s made of far different wire than our chicken wire garden fence.

This fencing is meant to keep out cows and sheep, not chickens. Scraggy Hen looked along that piece of fence line until she found a place where the wires were just a bit more open and through them she went. Now she was in the pasture and she headed for the section that is at the back of the garden, where she searched until she found a larger opening. Voila, in the garden again!

What Do Chickens Have To Do With Families?

Now, this post isn’t about hens and gardens or even ripe tomatoes. It’s about the challenge we have to work out a solution when something that used to work stops working for our family or family relationships.

Scraggy Hen had been getting into my garden the same way all summer, under the fence. She had a routine going. Get in, eat all the tomato you can and get out before Mean Lady shoos you out. Then today it stopped working. Scraggy Hen paced up and down along the fence line for a long time. She would finally wander away and then eventually come back and pace some more. It was frustrating to watch and if chickens feel then Scraggy Hen was frustrated. She just kept checking the same old spots but they were blocked and she couldn’t get through anymore.

That can happen in family relationships and family systems; what used to work stops working and then we mentally pace. We keep trying to do it the old way. We feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, sad, victimized and any number of other human responses.

Back to Scraggy Hen. She got tired of pacing that fence line. She wanted ripe, red tomatoes for breakfast. She had had them before and wanted them again. So she checked out a new fence line and got through. Back into ripe, red tomato heaven!

For Better Solutions Get Out of The Box

What Scraggy Hen did was get out of the box. She stopped thinking in the same old familiar pattern and tried something different. She stopped being frustrated and feeling victimized. She took control of her response and began to think outside of the box. When nothing was going right she went left, literally.

Scraggy Hen was used to getting into the garden a specific way. When that way stopped working she had to find a new way. She had to leave the comfort zone of what she knew and try something else.

There are books written about how to become an out of the box thinker, to find better solutions. But here are some simple steps to begin practicing now.
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•Stop accepting victimhood and begin taking control of your responses.

When things aren’t going well it’s easy to feel like a victim of other people, even our kids. However, we are always in control of our response and when we believe and live as if that is true, it goes a long way in helping us manage even unmanageable situations and come up with better or new solutions

Repeat to yourself every time you feel that someone is doing something to you – I am not a victim!

•Leave your comfort zone

We all have ways that we have always done things or think that they should be done. It’s easier to follow the status quo but families who thrive keep changing whatever needs to be changed. They aren’t afraid to try doing something in a new way. In every family, everything is an experiment. Some work and some don’t and it’s OK. Try another experiment!

•Challenge your assumptions (stories)

Often when things stop working or go awry we assume it’s the other person’s fault. However, as we remain in control of our response to what doesn’t feel right we can also begin looking at our own motives, desires, and stories. What is fueling our feelings and our actions?

•Ask yourself searching questions

For example – instead of blaming your kids for not doing their chores ask yourself questions about how you are when you’re attempting to get them to do their chores. Are you present? Are your boundaries good? How do you feel about chores and what energy are you bringing? How is your consistency? Are you allowing yourself to feel like a victim? Why? When we ask ourselves searching questions about what is happening or not happening we can often make slight changes in our own behavior that can right a sinking ship or help us find a new ship altogether.

• Step out of your shoes and step into that of your spouse and children

It’s easy to get stuck in our own heads and in our own feelings. But when we step out of our shoes and into someone else’s we get a better idea of what’s driving another person’s behavior. For example, I had a friend who’s 13-year-old would not talk to her. It made her feel like a bad mom, that her daughter was mad at her or that she didn’t love her. She kept trying to get her daughter to talk to her. It only widened the gap.

Finally, this mom stepped out of her shoes and into those of her daughter. She decided that being 13 was probably a tough place to be and that what her daughter might need was a consistent connection, not words. She spent 3-5 minutes sitting on the edge of her daughter’s bed each night in the dark, in silence. She gently laid her hand on the bed next to her daughter’s arm. After a few weeks, her daughter began opening up. This mom stepped out of the box in her thinking.

•Don’t Take The Need for New Solutions Personally

Life is full of ups and downs. We can ride these waves of change better when we’re open to exploring different options and trying new experiments. Don’t take the need to change personally. Don’t make it about how you are doing as a parent. Just try a new experiment.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

A Tip To Improve Parent-Child Relationships

Here’s a true story.

A father was painting the outside of his home. His five-year-old son wanted to help. So this good father gave his son an old shirt with the sleeves rolled up several times. They both went to work on the door, dad painting the top and son painting the bottom. It just happened to be the main entrance.

Now because of his age and size, the young boy wasn’t able to spread the paint evenly and consequently, the paint was beading up. That certainly wasn’t how the father envisioned his front door. So each time the five-year-old bent down to get more paint the father would hastily smooth out the paint on the bottom panel. It couldn’t do any harm, the boy didn’t know what was happening and the door sure would look better.

Well, father and son painted in silence for a time, the boy doing his best and the father smoothing it out. As the father thought about the situation and his redoing of his son’s work he decided that working with his son trumped a first-class paint job. He realized that his son was doing a mighty fine job for a five-year-old. The relationship that was being forged over the painting of a door was more significant to the father than the appearance of the door. He stopped smoothing out his son’s work.

Ever after that when the father approached the front door and saw its distinctive style of decoration he was reminded of what is really important.

The father of this five-year-old boy spoke about his own experiences with his father. His father had a workshop in which he made wonderful things. The son said, “I would wander into this workshop and watch him. Just to be in his presence was a thrill for me. He invited me to help him by passing a hammer, a screwdriver, or some other tool. I was convinced that my help was necessary and that without me he would not be able to complete his task.

As I look back and reflect upon those wonderful memories, I realize that my contribution was not necessary for my father to complete the work he was engaged in. I was the beneficiary, as through these experiences I came to know him and to love him. I came to know about a Fathers Role In Parenting .” We All Have a Father in Whom We Can Trust”, Ensign, May 1994, 30

Relationship vs Outcome

Sometimes parents care too much about the outcome and too little about the relationship. When we take time to be present with our children we give them the opportunity to know and love us. We give them a gift. And they return that gift by loving us back. It’s the best use of our time because the relationship that develops is the thing of greatest significance.

When you are older and they have gone from home, you will be glad that you spent the bulk of your time on forging relationships rather than on the outcome of the myriad projects parents need to do.

Work-Presence Balance – Is it doable?

It’s helpful to know and understand that moments of connection can happen during the daily activities we engage in already. It needn’t be out of the ordinary, planned ahead or take extra time.

“In the intervals of the game, while Uncle Henry was pondering over his moves, the little girl looked down at her pets and listened absently to the keen autumnal wind that swept around the old house, shaking the shutters and rattling the windows. A stick of wood in the stove burned in two and fell together with a soft, whispering sound. The lamp cast a steady radiance on Uncle Henry bent seriously over the checker-board, on Molly’s blooming, round cheeks and bright hair, on Aunt Abigail’s rosy, cheerful, wrinkled old face, and on Cousin Ann’s quiet, clear, dark eyes. . . .That room was full to the brim of something beautiful, and Betsy knew what it was. Its name was Happiness.”

These are the final words of a book I enjoy so much, Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield. I liked it as a young girl and I reread it as an adult. Then I read it to my grandchildren.

Presence, What it is and What it Isn’t

One thing I enjoy about this old classic is that it’s all about being Present, what it is and what it isn’t.

Betsy unexpectedly found herself an orphan and went to live with her Aunt Harriet and Aunt Frances. These two dear old ladies were obsessed with taking care of Betsy. If you asked them they would say they were really Present. But they weren’t. They had confused being Present with taking care of all that’s required when you have children. They were stuck in what I like to call management vs. relationship.

Then Betsy goes to live in Vermont, with her mother’s family, the Putney’s. They often seem un-present. But they aren’t. They get Presence – It’s the gift of our full attention, our whole self, nothing held back, and it can take as little as five minutes or less.

Being Present isn’t as much about time as it is about our understanding of how to find moments to be Present when we’re busy, when we’re living our regular everyday lives.

I will never forget the father with teary eyes, at the end of a live event, who said he had always wanted to connect with his children consistently but hadn’t known how. He was short on time!

This father was gone each day working eight or more hours. When he came home it was difficult to connect with each child in a meaningful way. There was so much competing for his time in the few hours they had before bed. There was the deluge of homework, mealtime, and the chaos of getting kids to sleep. Not to mention his need for downtime to unwind from a busy day.

What brought tears to this father’s eyes was the comfort of knowing he could connect in meaningful ways with the time he had. He felt the information was life-changing. Frankly, understanding how to connect in everyday ways is family changing.

A TED Talk on Being Present, Sorta

Nigel Marsh tackled the thorny issue of work-life balance in a TED talk. It addresses head on what that teary-eyed father was feeling. As you listen, change the words work-life balance to work-presence balance. Stick with it to the last 2 ½ minutes and you’ll be glad you did.

That’s the problem that we face the most isn’t it; too busy to really be Present with those we love, hence we feel unbalanced. The corporate executive isn’t the only one who gets caught in this web. It happens to stay at home moms and dads, as well as those who leave home and go to work. It happened to Betsy’s aging aunts.

But with just a tweak in the way we think about what we’re already doing every day we can get a clear vision of what Presence at home, with our children, is really all about.

Today take the time to get the FREE chapter Touchpoints from my book Becoming a Present Parent and begin making this family altering change in your own life. Learn how to be a more Present parent. Then take the time to read this beautiful and cheery little book to your children or grandchildren.

Your ‘shares’ are the best compliment. Thank you!

Flying By The Seat of Your Pants Is Uncomfortable!

Being a mother of seven busy children was a BIG job. One of the difficulties I ran into was managing all the mess and work that comes with a family. Believe me, you don’t have to have seven kids to figure out that a family takes work.

I do a lot of mentoring with mom’s and dads who feel a bit over the top with managing all that they have on their plates and still finding time to enjoy being in their homes with their families. One thing that we always take a good look at, as we analyze feelings of frustration or anger, are family systems.

I had a mom tell me that one thing that really got her down was that after dinner everyone scattered and she was faced with cleaning up the mess by herself. She felt she was in this bad place because she didn’t have a system.

Here was the real problem – she had a system that didn’t work well for her. The system that she and her family were using was that after dinner everyone scattered and mom was left to clean up. Yup, that was their system. It was a system by default but a system none the less. Flying by the seat of your pants is uncomfortable!

When looking at family systems I have a parent make a list of the top three things that happen in a day that cause them to feel like leaving home, you know, those times when they feel most frustrated or angry at their children or family. Then we take a look at what system is being used. We take an honest look! Once we know what has been happening over and over we can design an experiment to determine what might feel and work better.

I LOVE experiments! When a scientist wants to see if they can get a certain outcome they design an experiment. If they don’t get the outcome they want then they try something else. The scientist doesn’t berate him or herself at the end of a failed experiment. They just try another experiment. But moms and dads can be pretty hard on themselves if something doesn’t work out well the first time. Maybe that’s why we fly by the seat of our pants so often and have systems by default. We don’t want to fail. But as I said, you can’t fail with an experiment because, that what it is, an experiment. So, begin taking a hard look at your family systems.

As I help someone design an experiment we take into account their desires, energy level, family personalities, etc and come up with something that has a chance to work in their family. Over the years I have seen many successes.

I devised some very successful systems over the years to manage my own life and family. They worked for me but they may not work for your family. But I want to get you thinking about your own systems.

THREE SYSTEM EXAMPLES

A. Laundry
With seven kids clothes and towels can become a chaotic mess. I was doing piles and piles of laundry every week. I couldn’t keep up and realized that I need to upgrade whatever system it was that we were using. My experiment had three prongs to it and although parts were certainly not what most people would choose, it worked for our family.

1. One of the items of clothing that became problematic was pajamas. We had a really terrible system. You wore them, took them off, dropped them wherever, and then the next night you got clean ones. Yup, that was our laundry clogging system.

So I put hooks on the kids’ walls. I didn’t feel that we needed clean pajamas every day. So in the morning they hung them up and put the same ones on at night. If they ended up on the floor then you had to wear them anyway. PJ’s were good for at least 3 days. It really helped cut down on laundry.

2. Towels were another issue. Often towels ended up on the floor, and remember I had seven children. By morning, especially in the summer, the towel was sour and headed for the laundry. Uggggggh I hated that because 4-7 towels a day was excruciating.

So I added another hook for their towel. I gave each child a towel and it was the only one they got for a week. If hung up it was good for a week because it was used to dry a clean body. I didn’t give in to cries of, “But my towel stinks.” If your towel was on the floor and got stinky you had to earn another towel. It wasn’t a very popular system but it worked and the kids soon learned to hang up their towels.

3. Here was the third prong to the new system – when you were 12 you did your own laundry. I took the time over a number of weeks to help a new twelve-year-old learn how to do their laundry. Then they were on their own. I didn’t monitor their laundry. There were a few times that someone had to borrow underwear from a sibling or wear a dirty uniform to gym class but it was a great learning experience and everyone got better at it.

B. Cleaning rooms

I had different systems for getting kids to clean their rooms over the years. As their ages changed so did our systems. At one time I had five kids over 12 and under 18. Their rooms were horrible and we didn’t have a system at that time that was working and I was weary of talking and cajoling to get older children to manage the mess.

So I told my older children that I wasn’t going to remind them to clean their rooms anymore. But we did have some rules:

•Your mess cannot spill out into the hallway.
•If you choose a mess you have to keep your door closed.
•If it smells you will have to take an evening or afternoon off and clean your room. No activities until the smell is gone.
•Every bedroom has to be put in order once a month. You can do it or I can do it. If I do it then I get to decide what stays and what goes.

I know lots of moms are gasping right now but I love cleaning and I loved getting my hands on those kid’s rooms. : ) This was very workable for me.

I had two sons who couldn’t care less about their stuff so, often as not, I picked up their rooms once a month and I chucked a lot of junk. It felt fabulous.

I had a third son who cared about all of his stuff and I rarely had to go into his room. Two of my daughters fell into this over 12 under 18 category and for the most part, managed their own rooms because they didn’t want me messing with their stuff.

Sometimes, as I began a room a horrified teen would come running in and say, “I got this mom.” You may think this was a terrible system but it worked for us.

THAT IS THE POINT!

And that is the point, do you have systems that are working for you and your family? If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and angry at your family or children then take a look at your systems.

DESIGN AN EXPERIMENT, CREATE A NEW SYSTEM

•Write down the top three things that make you most upset with your family or children.
•Stick with three items because what you want is movement, not overwhelm.
Narrow your list to the one that you want to change most.
•Honestly look at your current system. Acknowledge those that are systems by default.
•Design and experiment with a new system based on your desires, energy, family personality, etc.
•If it works great, and if not, go back to the drawing board. Design another experiment.
•Remember, whatever you can get your family to ‘buy into’ they will take more ownership of and it will work better and longer.
•Be clear that very few systems work forever and be open to new experiments every now and then.

When we take responsibility for how we feel and stop blaming our family or kids, then we can come up with solutions that help us feel better. We will be able to look at our current systems honestly and design something that works.

Create A Culture of Togetherness

Tightly knit families with good relationships don’t just happen. We have to have some idea of what we want and then take one small step towards that bigger picture.

Every family has a culture. They’re all different. In my family’s culture kids and adults didn’t play or work together. Even at family reunions that theme played out. There were activities for kids and different ones for adults.

My mom and dad did a lot of stuff for us but not with us. My dad loved to garden but he did it alone. If we needed to weed or water we were sent out to do it. He did his part and we did our part. My mom planned fabulous birthday parties. She did it all and they were great. We attended. We didn’t plan together or organize them together.

I know that there are lots of families with a culture like this. Kids learn and work separately from parents and families spend many hours each day away from one another.

When I was a young mother I had a beautiful garden in our backyard. I usually gardened by myself. I liked the solitude. I would send the kids out to weed. But at some point, I realized that I wanted a different family culture. I wanted a different bond with my children.

So each weekday when I got up at 6:30 I woke a different child up to help me in the garden. I did this all summer. They were not happy about it. But soon we started talking about all kinds of things. They shared what they were feeling with me and I was able to share with them. It was a remarkable summer. The fruits from the garden that year seemed sweeter than ever before.

The Advantages of a Culture of Togetherness

What are the advantages of parents who are present with their children, who foster a culture of togetherness? Learning and working with a child tells them you are concerned about them and that you like them, that they matter. It strengthens self-esteem. It allows children to model what you are doing and to ask questions. They learn more. Deep and thoughtful conversations can come out of casual activity with a mom or dad. Relationships are stronger.

Ways to Create a Culture of Togetherness

But connecting as a family can be a challenge if that wasn’t part of your family culture growing up or if you have gotten used to doing your work and learning while your kids do theirs.

A family culture that fosters healthy, connected relationships don’t just happen. It takes some work. If we want to have a culture of togetherness we have to do something new. We have to take a small step and then be consistent. Simple/small things done consistently over time bring big results.

Take a look at your current family culture. Is it as connected as you would like? If not, figure out one thing that would make a difference in the feeling of togetherness in your home and then implement it.

Do you need to give up using technology when you’re working with or listening to your kids? Do you need to listen more, yell less, play with your children, have more mini-conversations, or tuck them in at night? What is it for you?

You might decide to have your family participate in fewer clubs and classes and allow your children to spend more time at home while you involve them in life’s activities: cooking, repairing something, learning a new skill, or playing.

Maybe a morning devotional would benefit your family. How many mornings will you commit to – one, two?

You could try reading together. Reading as a family and then talking about what you are reading creates a feeling of safety and warmth.

You might consider one evening a week doing something as a family. Keep it simple. Take a walk, play a board game, or serve someone.

For some families just sitting down at the table and eating would be a big accomplishment. If eating together is not something you have been doing regularly why not set a goal to do it once or twice a week. Then be consistent.

Whatever you choose, make a commitment to it. Be consistent and be present. Don’t talk on the phone, fold laundry or watch TV out of the corner of your eye. When you are doing that one thing consistently then choose another and go to work again.

And finally, remember being consistent is not the same as being perfect. Perfect isn’t what we need as families. What we need is connection and togetherness consistently.

Touchpoints For Summer PRESENCE

Maggie doing her chores.

As much as we love summer and our kids both can challenge our patience and our energy. My new book – Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your children in five minutes or less teaches you how to use touchpoints to connect with your kids. What is a touchpoint – the point at which one person feels seen and heard by another person; when they know they matter. Most touchpoints, there are eight of them,  happen daily and many require five minutes or less. Let me share one touchpoint that will really sweeten the summer pie!

TOUCHPOINT 4 – Chores and Family Work

Thinking about the word WORK can make a parent groan inside because work is often a point of contention in a family. But work can be a place where we create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention if building relationships are our ultimate goal.

CHORES

Often we get so involved in the management portion of family life that it’s difficult to address the relationship portion. But when we’re Present things work out better.

Everyone wants support when facing a tough job. No one wants to be isolated in a mess. We sometimes forget our kids feel the same way we do.

Moms have had the experience of walking into a disaster of a kitchen after a long day. Your family’s watching TV, and here you are, in this messy kitchen. Where do you start?
How does it feel when your husband abandons his show, comes in and begins helping you pick up? And how does it feel when he also asks you how your day went? It’s amazing!

This happens to dads in garages and backyards. How does it feel when your seventeen-year-old volunteers to help get the backyard in order? How about when your thirteen-year-old offers to spend time helping you organize the garage? It feels better, doesn’t it?

When a child is faced with what seems like a daunting task, check on them. Put your hand on their back or rub a shoulder and say, “Let me give you a hand.” Help them for 2-3 minutes while having a mini-conversation. Then head off to the next child or to your own work. It makes all the difference in how chores feel and in how well they get done. It solidifies relationships. It allows you to be Present with your child for a few minutes.

Chores can be a touchpoint!

You can get more details on how to make chores a touchpoint rather than a point of contention in your home in Chapter four of the book and you can read it for FREE.

FAMILY WORK

Family work is another time when you can create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention. When working as a family we need to keep in mind the objective isn’t just to get another item off the to-do list – we’re creating relationships and bonding our family.
I love gardening alone. I love the quiet and feeling the dirt in my fingers. But I understand it’s an opportunity for me to teach and connect with my grandchildren. Gardening can be transformed into an enduring memory for us all when I remember the garden isn’t what’s important, the relationship is.

Add fun to any work you do as a family – sing, dance as you clean, play great music, tell jokes, laugh, have mini-conversations and lots of random touches.

Things aren’t going to work out all of the time. You’ll have family work that turns into chaos or contention. We’re all imperfect, we get tired, and we have grouchy moments. It’s inevitable. But what if you could make family work more pleasant even one-quarter of the time?

If you can be Present as you work together even one-quarter of the time, your family members will feel supported and relationships will be built. You’ll experience GREAT results in the happiness level of your family.

Learn about the other seven family touchpoints. Read chapter four, Touchpoints, FREE

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann