Category: Fathers

How To Be a Great Stepfather – Nine Tips

This article was written in 2011 but it covers a topic that many must grapple with, how to be a great stepparent.

I appreciated Kash’s insight and how wonderful he has been to his stepkids. His thoughts come from his real-life experience. Eleven years have passed, he is still doing a great job and they love him. His story is worth the read. You will also find nine tips from another stepparent, Dr. Phil. : )

“My kids are great! They are energetic, imaginative, loving, and occasionally ornery. I have three girls and one boy, whose ages range from three to eleven, and they have been my kids for exactly four months.

Being a “step-dad” is not something I expected a year ago, but it was not an idea that scared me either. I have five siblings that have 13 kids between them, and I have always enjoyed spending time with their children. Now that I have four kids to call my own, I have a different perspective on the relationships that I have with my nieces and nephews. The responsibility one has as a parent is enormous. An uncle can feed his nephews a bunch of sugar and then send them back to their parents; a stepfather does not have that luxury.

The important thing for a stepparent to remember is that you are an adult, and the kids are…kids. They have lost a parent, whether through a divorce or otherwise. Someone who has been there consistently for most of their lives is now only there occasionally. It is not your job to replace that parent. It is, however, your job to be a new parent, one that is patient, loving, and willing to teach the same qualities to your new kids.

Like all parents, a stepparent’s patience is tested on a daily basis. My philosophy, when faced with a new problem, is “Yield to the expert”. My wife knows her children better than anyone. So, I ask her opinion on almost everything. She is very patient and very willing to teach me how to be a good dad. I am very blessed to have the family that I do and love them very much.”

I did some research and Kash was on top of it and has been a great stepfather.

Nine tips on being a great stepfather

1. Don’t Plan to be the disciplinarian. There are boundaries to your authority. Be reasonable, and as much as possible show them that what you have to say is sensible. The stepparent, although not actively initiating direct discipline, should certainly work to maintain the normal boundaries that exist between an adult and a child. Support the decisions that are made by your wife. A stepfather is not simply one’s mother’s husband. He is in fact, an adult and an authority figure in the home.

2. Don’t ask them to call you “Dad”. Don’t be selfish and demand it.

3. Don’t ever bad mouth their dad, no matter what kind of person he is. Usually, they’ll side with dad, but even if they don’t, you have no right to interfere in that relationship.

4. Act responsibly, be there for the kids when they need you, share their joys and sorrows with them, build them up as much as you can, help them with their homework, offer advice, explain how things work, organize their day, and so on — all the things you’d do if you were their actual father, remembering that relationships take time to build.

5. Listen to the children.

6. Take cues from mom. Deal with major disagreements out of earshot of the kids; in everything else, follow mom’s lead.

7. Don’t try to win them over with gifts, trips to the amusement park, or whatever.

8. Share. Be open about your life, career, likes, dislikes, and interests — and make an effort to learn about theirs. Take part in their activities and involve them in yours. Not only will you find some common ground to connect on, but you’ll be able to take part in their development as people, which is what this is all about.

9. Forgive. Forgive them for being difficult, forgive mom for not always lending you a hand when you’re lost, forgive their friends for not understanding your new place in your kids’ home, and most of all, forgive yourself. You are going to make a lot of mistakes

“The key is to remember that the children are passengers on this train. They didn’t get an opportunity to choose whether they wanted a new family member, so great care and patience should be taken to help them adapt to the situation.” Dr. Phil

When we love first we can overcome many obstacles, even when stepparenting!

Kash is a native of Colorado and currently lives in Grand Junction with his wife, Marie. He has four stepchildren and he and Marie have had two children together. Kash grew up in a family of 6 children. He is the fourth child just like his wife, Marie. He was raised by his mother with the help of his grandfather and two of his grandmothers. Kash loves to read all kinds of books.

Love, Dependability, and Trust

  Life doesn’t always go as planned!

When our oldest son was young, he became involved in drugs. Don and I were totally out of our element and didn’t know how to respond. We took a parenting class.

Eventually, Seth, at fourteen, left home and moved to the riverbank for the summer. For the next few years, he was home and then gone again. We tried contracts, and tough love, making him earn back his possessions. If it was out there and we could access the information, we gave it a try. Remember that this was before in-home computers were widely available, so resources were harder to come by.

Eventually, we had three other children become involved in drugs. We faced some challenging things. Kids who came home after curfew. We couldn’t let them in because they knew the boundaries. Those clear rules didn’t make listening to them call out to us any easier. Phone calls from kids late at night who were miles away from home and wanted to be picked up. We couldn’t because they knew the boundaries but that meant a lot of knee time praying for their safety. There were the moments when we, as adults lost it and behaved like children. And then the grief over having to tell friends they couldn’t come to our home because of drug issues. Sometimes we were all the family they had. These were really tough times. 

Our kids didn’t always like us, and we worried about someone dying or going to jail. We had some narrow escapes on both counts. Some parents don’t escape these painful outcomes.

Here is why I am sharing some of the darkness we experienced. I want you to know that even in the darkness if we are doing our best, we are a light for our children. What does that even mean? Let me share a message that I got two years ago from my oldest son, who is closing in on fifty. It filled my heart with peace and gratitude.

“Mom, when it comes to all the kids that hung out at our house, even though you didn’t see it, you were a mom to 150 kids. Our home life was so different than everyone else’s home life. That’s why people liked coming to our house because it was such a safe place. Even though we all had our issues, it was a safe place. I still hear it from so many of my friends. It was that you were a mom. It was a safe and secure place for more people than you’ll ever realize, mom.”

So there it is. Our lives weren’t perfect.

Don and I had a ton of baggage. We were inept at parenting. I have talked about that before. We didn’t know how to respond. We tried stuff, most of which wasn’t helpful. Our kids suffered. We suffered.

BUT here is what I want you to hear, we stayed the course.

We remained loving adults in our children’s lives and unknown to us, in the lives of countless other youth. We were home, and we had dinner together. I read to the kids, not consistently, but enough. We attended church together and went on trips to grandma’s. We went camping. We weeded the garden together and did some family canning. It was all ordinary, no big fancy anything, just plenty of family time.

Don and I made a boatload of mistakes. But we were there. Our kids could count on our being there. They could count on boundaries that didn’t change just because we were tired, angry, sad, or afraid. Our kids could trust us. This is all we really brought to the game: love, dependability, and trust.

I have shared some dark memories. Let me share some of the light from today that lets me know our children are OK. A few years ago, they began having a sibling call once a month. Anyone available got on, and they shared their lives. All seven of the kids made time for this call.

Later it was a video app. We have two video groups. The whole family is on one. The grands see and hear us, and we see and hear them. They see and hear their uncles and aunts. Everything gets shared: grades, holidays, mini-disasters, work, sports, etc. There are always videos to watch.

The second one is for the adults, us, and our children. The talk there is more personal: lost jobs, new jobs, illnesses, relationships, etc. Deep feelings are expressed.

Every other year we gather for a reunion. Rarely does anyone miss. Two years ago, we had to cancel our reunion because of covid. Last year we held it and our breaths hoping that everyone would be healthy and safe. We couldn’t wait any longer. The videos were filled with a longing to be together. On the last day, our youngest son asked us to do it again this year. The ‘yes’ vote was unanimous.

Early last spring, I decided that I needed a shed. I wanted to clean out more space in the garage for my daughter’s family, and well, I am a handywoman, and a handywoman needs a shed! : )

I found what I wanted and bought a kit. Then I headed out to Washington to help one of my daughters. While I was gone, a miracle occurred. I was worried as to how that shed was going to get built. Both my daughter and her husband work long hours. Then there are four kids to take care of after that, one with severe CP. I couldn’t do it alone, and my husband’s physical abilities and health made it impossible for him.

When I returned to Utah, there was a finished shed. Jodie had called Seth, our oldest son, and he took some time off from work, drove ten hours one way, and helped her and her husband, Doug, build the shed. Later, I painted it with the help of my nine-year-old grandson. I call it ‘The Shed that LOVE built.’ I can’t look at it or go inside without feeling loved.

How does that happen when a family is in so much pain and danger for so long? How does it come right? When you stay the course, when you keep parenting the best you can, when you keep learning and growing and changing, well, that is what helps it happen.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your family’s life. It may be a dark place, and you may feel hopeless and helpless. But you are not. Pray for help. Seek resources. Never give up. Stay the course. Be the parent you promised to be when you began, as best you know how.

Be there. Be dependable. Be trustworthy. It can and will make all the difference.

There is NO Perfect in Parenting!

Perfect is NOT reality, especially in Parenting!

I had two daughters who had babies last year – one in June and one in Dec. One daughter suffered from postpartum anxiety, not to be confused with the blues or even depression. It was excruciating. Just functioning was a challenge. Besides the new baby, she had one preschooler and one grade-schooler.

Despite her struggles with health and energy, I saw her remember what her kids needed to do to be ready for school. I watched her get them to their events and lessons. I saw her force herself to school with her new baby to participate in a classroom party with her daughter.

My other daughter has tweens, teens, and grade-schoolers. She was up multiple times a night. But one morning bright and early I witnessed this: she was in the kids’ rooms getting them up, reminding them of what they needed for the day, giving cautions about getting to work on time and bringing instruments home after orchestra so they could practice. It was all in her head, and despite her baby fatigue, she was letting it out at the right time, with the right tone. There is no getting around it,

MOTHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY’RE STRUGGLING.

 

My sons-in-law also experienced the addition of new babies into their families. One is in the last stages of genetic blindness and was ill at the time of the birth. However, he donned a mask and was by his wife’s side, not just during the delivery but until his wife came home a day later, even though fluorescent light burns his eyes. Then he returned, mask in hand because the baby had a severe bilirubin issue. His eyes burned as he endured hours of blue light. I watched him get up at night to feed his son, diaper, and cuddle him.

The other dad had a two-plus hour compute every day into the city. He left work early so he could get home sooner. When he got back, the load shifted from his wife’s shoulders to his own. He made food, played Candyland, fed the dogs, tucked kids in bed, and comforted his wife. There is no getting around it,

FATHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THE LOAD IS HEAVY.

 

Neither of these couples is doing it perfectly. There are down days, moments of resentment, and checking out. BUT they get up daily and do it again because they love each other and their families. There is no way around it,

PARENTS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T PERFECT!!

Know a parent struggling because they aren’t perfect. Share. : )

Remember, Life is Brief and Tender

“You will miss struggling in church.” WHAT!

A few Sundays ago, in church, a mother was talking to the congregation. She mentioned that at times, in the past, it had been hard to focus on the speaker. This was because kids and church can be a fussy business. As they learn to manage their bodies and acquire the ability to be reverent it can be a struggle. She had lived that struggle.

As she looked out at the congregation her next words caused me some reflection. “You will miss struggling in church.” Is that true? Do we want to be engaged in a struggle with our kids whether at church, in the grocery store or at bedtime? I don’t think so.

So, what was this mother really expressing? I think it was the nostalgia adults feel when children grow up and leave home. We all know it’s going to happen but while we’re in the trenches all we can see is the struggle. It’s one of those, “You can’t know till you get there” things.

It’s that ‘Family Feeling!’

What is it that causes this nostalgia? What is it that’s missed? I’ve not only thought about this, but I’ve lived it. We miss that ‘family feeling’. When our kids leave home, they’re still our kids. They come home for visits and eventually they bring their kids home with them. We have a family. But that’s not what I’m talking about and it isn’t what that mom in church talked about.

You will miss the energy of children. You will miss the hugs and kisses. You will miss the chaos and the quiet moments. You will miss the snuggles. You will miss your little children. You may not miss the laundry, dirty dishes, or cooking. But you will miss the activities that caused the dirty laundry. You will miss sitting down to eat with your children even if they spill the milk. You will miss having small faces to look at as they complain about what you have cooked.

I know, I know. You’re a busy mom or dad. You’re overwhelmed a lot of the time. Hearing this can rankle. I felt the same when I was in the thick of it. It irritated me when an older parent at church looked me in the eye as I was struggling with a crying four-year-old and said, “The time will come when you will miss this.”
But I have gotten there. I get it.

Why am I sharing this with you? I hope that my words will lodge in your mind and that they will come to you when you’re irritated, angry, frustrated, over the top. I hope they help you be a bit kinder, gentler, more forgiving, more joyous even in the mess. I hope they encourage you to smile more and hug more.

“Before I die I want to . . . ”

In a recent TED talk by Candy Chang, she shared a moving experience. Chang asked the question “Before I die I want to . . . ” She asked the question by turning the side of an abandoned building into a huge chalkboard for people to write their responses on. In one day, the whole side of the building was filled with chalked in answers and it grew from there. Some of the responses were humorous and fun but most were poignant, and many were related to the need we all have to matter and to connect with those around us. At the end of her talk, she expressed, “Two of the most valuable things we have in life are our time and our relationships with other people. In our age of increasing distractions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember life is brief and tender”.

Don’t let the challenges of parenting make you lose sight of the beauty of it. Don’t let busyness take away your desire to hear and see. Don’t let childish learning and error harden your heart.

When you’re older, thinking back on those earlier days when your children lived in your home will cause you very tender feelings. You’re going to want to be able to call to mind moments when you held your child one more time for a little longer; when you were patient; when you allowed them to be themselves and grow; when despite the chaos or mess, you smiled and meant it.

I love this verse of scripture. Matthew 13:16: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” This verse of scripture is about seeing and hearing things that cannot be seen with our temporal eyes or heard with our temporal ears. If we remember that despite the challenges, life with our children is brief and tender, we will be blessed to see and hear in an extraordinary way. We will send the message to those we love most: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

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Lifting The Burden of Work and Family

Judgment is NOT Helpful!

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

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

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

Tips to Lifting Burdens

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

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

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The Luckiest Person On The Planet

During the years that my family lived in ID. my dad was an over the road salesman. He bought a Cadillac and I hated that car. Every time we drove to my grandparents’ home in Afton, WY., with all the kids packed in the back seat, I would ruminate on my dad’s selfishness in buying such a stupid car for such a large family. Why didn’t we have a station wagon?

And here was another thing. He ate cold hot dogs in his hotel room. I loved cold hot dogs. In our money-strapped home, a hot dog was a fabulous treat. I knew he ate them because on occasion he had leftovers and brought them home. I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

After my dad passed away, while remembering these old memories, I had a moment of clarity. It came because I was older and wiser.

My dad was an over the road salesman because he only had a high school degree. Fortunately, he was a gifted salesman. He could sell you your shoes even if they were worn out. He needed to be good at it because it was commission work and he had a family of eleven to feed, clothe, and house.

To do well and keep his commissions high he drove an expensive car and wore very nice suits, both items we could ill afford. But they made my dad look successful and helped him be successful. He probably wished we had a station wagon too. It would have cut down on the back seat arguing and chaos.

And the hot dogs. He ate cold hot dogs with buttered bread and milk in his room to save the money that eating out would have cost. They weren’t a treat for him but a major sacrifice. He did this for years!

When I was a young mother my husband sold dental supplies. He would leave early Monday morning and return home Friday evening. He traveled the western half of the state of Montana. When he came home on Friday, he would ensconce himself on the couch with all the kids and watch television. On Saturday he would play ball, do errands with the kids, and hang out. How irritated I felt that he would leave me all week to manage everything while he slept in hotels, ate out, and had lots of quiet. I felt a better use of his time at home would have been to take me on a date or help me with the chores. After all, I had been home alone with six kids all week! I thought he was the luckiest person on the planet.

Years later, in a weak moment, for he is a man of few words, he confessed how desperately lonely he was on those long drives. How he longed to be with his family. How dreamed about home-cooked dinners filled with the chatter and arguing of children and spilled milk. He confessed that he hated being in sales. He told me of the close calls he had on snow-covered roads and his dread that someday he might not make it home. He felt I was the luckiest person on the planet surrounded by our children, in the warmth of a safe home, on a blustery winter night.

We each know our own story. We know what’s happening in our lives. We’re aware of our loneliness, our overwhelm, our shortcomings. But it’s harder to see the reality of another person’s life. We may look at their situation compared to our own and envy them. We may feel what we bear is unfair compared to what they bear. We may be resentful and judgmental. But our families will run better if we extend compassion, if we suspend judgment. This isn’t easy but it is doable.

In 1 Corinthians, in the Christian Bible, the Apostle Paul compared our imperfect knowledge of others as viewing them through a polished metal mirror of the period he lived in. He termed it ‘seeing through a glass darkly.’ I’ve always loved that image. When I’m in a place of resentment and blame, I remind myself that I’m probably seeing through a glass darkly. Then I take a second look at the story I’m telling myself to see if I can clear the lens and get a more truthful picture.

Five Tips to Clear Your Lens

1. Suspend judgment. You can only see the outward behavior. You don’t know the heart or motives of another person. When we judge we’re using our experience? They are behaving from theirs. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
2. Take responsibility and stop blaming. You have control over what you think, which gives you control over how you feel. When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening. Check your story. Be honest with yourself.
3. Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.
4. View them as a person. Regardless of what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in error.
5. Forgive. Even if the other person is in the wrong, even if they do have a better deal than you, when you hold on to resentment and blame it only hurts you. When you extend forgiveness to others and yourself you increase your ability to be happy.

Families are filled with opportunities to judge harshly, blame, and feel resentment. As we practice clearing the lens that we see our family members and our circumstances through we will have more personal peace and family harmony.

The luckiest person on the planet is the one who sees through a clear lens.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. I’ll thank you for it. πŸ™‚ 

Why Is Relaxing Exhausting?

Why does showing up and staying Present wear us out?

“There isn’t anything in this world quite as exhausting as relaxing.” These eleven words, spoken by Rabbit in Rabbit Takes a Holiday, summarize my early parenting efforts. I know that these same 11 words will hit many of you right between the eyes also.

When we engage in a family activity, watch our children in one of their activities or engage in a few minutes of listening time it should feel good. It should feel satisfying and yes, even restful and relaxing. After all, we aren’t working, we’re just chillin with the fam. Right?

Why does showing up and staying present wear moms and dads out? Why does watching our children play, answering their questions or listening to them as they verbalize their thoughts sometimes seem like a poor use of our finite time. Don’t we love our children? Don’t we have a vision of the warm and gentle family atmosphere we want to create? Of course, we do but we are so busy.

Let’s revisit Rabbit’s comment in view of the need to be able to let go of our incessant to-do list and really get Present with our kids.

Rabbit was chattering on about how on his vacation people wanted to know what they could do for him, could they get him tea, or draw his bath or turn down his bed, and on and on. He missed work! He missed having something important and valuable to do! All his busy-ness made him feel valuable and useful.

After all, seeing old friends and relatives, reminiscing about the past, contemplating and discussing the future, listening to other’s goals and needs and just plain having a good time was a waste of time. Have you ever found yourself in this frame of mind? I have. It happened to me at little league games, dance classes, Beans and Book night at the local elementary school, sitting on a child’s bed rubbing their back or while listening to all the details of their day.

Now lest you think that I was a terrible mother let me assure you that I did plenty of those activities and did them often. That didn’t stop the occasional feeling that I ought to be doing something else, something of greater import.

I had work to do. The laundry was 3 feet high (literally), the kitchen floor had taken a hit of orange juice and I had a lesson to prepare for Sunday School. Just sitting and listening to another person, even my child, was not enjoyable because all I could think about was my stuff.

Just like Rabbit, I found it exhausting to sit, listen, care and enjoy being Present. Steven Covey has said that it’s easy to get stuck in the thick of thin things. I was stuck there on a regular basis.

If we look at the important things in our lives, they usually involve putting our own stuff down and letting someone else’s stuff take center stage, even if it’s only for three minutes at a time.

Being Truly Present

Being Present with a child means giving the gift of our full attention, our whole self, nothing held back, and it can take as little as three minutes or less. When we’re Present we send the clear message that we see them, we hear them, and that they matter. This is why learning to put down our ‘stuff’ and giving moments of Presence to our children matters so much.

We love our kids and we think we’re sending that message but when we don’t take the time to
• Stop,
• Look them in the eye,
• and Listen.
We send a far different message.

As we learn to take the opportunity to find moments to be Present with our children, when we walk away we will be refreshed in mind, even if tired in body (listening to and working with kids can wear you out) because we’ll know that we’ve been taking part in the “real” work of parenting – sending someone we love and care about the clear message that we see them, we hear them and that they matter to us. Trust me, it does a body good – both yours and theirs!

Your Shares are the Best Compliment

 

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.

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.

A Toilet and Self-care

The bathroom crashers – Ashley, Elizabeth, Aubrey

Recently, my daughter shared this story with me.

I was sitting on the toilet. In front of me were my three small girls.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to the bathroom.”
“Are you almost done?”
“No, I just got in here.”
“Well, how long will it take?”
“As long as it takes. Now go out. I need some privacy.”
“But we need you.”
“I’ll hurry, now go out.”
“But mom, why can’t we stay.”
“Because I need some privacy!”
“We won’t talk.”
“GET OUT!”

I’ll bet your laughing. And I also bet that many of you have had a similar experience. It seems to come with the territory called parenting and it can wear us pretty thin at times. That’s why taking care of ourselves on a consistent basis is critical.

WHY WE SHOULD TAKE CARE OF SELF

There are some really good reasons to take care of ourselves when we’re in the thick of parenting:

• Facilitates greater patience
• We are less likely to take our frustrations out on our children.
• We’re able to process our emotions in more adult ways than yelling, spanking, etc.
• We remain freer of resentment which allows us to see what is really happening in tough situations
• We experience less exhaustion
• We avoid feeling depleted and are instead energized
• It helps us tune in to the joy of having children even on busy or chaotic days
• It gives us the mental resilience to remain Present with our children more often
• We will actually remain physically healthier
• We will feel happier and more fulfilled

Often, when we find small moments of time for ourselves to recharge there is a sense of guilt but caring for yourself is a key to caring for your family better. Self-care is an investment in our family relationships, rather than a selfish indulgence.

WHY WE DON’T TAKE CARE OF SELF

There are a number of reasons that both mothers and fathers neglect their own self-care:

• No time
• You don’t know what daily self-care looks or feels like
• You feel that it needs to be away from home, doing something special, for it to count

Let’s take a look at each of these excuses for neglecting ourselves.

 

A. No time
This is the same excuse we use for not being Present with our children. But as in the case of being Present, it can take as little as 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

1. Deep breathing
It only takes 30 seconds to take 3-4 good long deep breathes. There is ample research that backs up the claim that breathing deeply is good for us. A few deep breaths:

• Relieve stress
• Helps a feeling of calm return
• Allows us to process emotion more quickly
• Slows a rapid heartbeat
• Drops blood pressure

2. Read
Go to the bathroom and lock the door. While you are in their read 1-3 paragraphs in a book you keep by the toilet just for this purpose. It takes less than 3 minutes to read a few paragraphs. I use this technique daily. Sometimes it’s the only self-care (except for my shower) I get and it helps me feel cared for on even the busiest days. You will be surprised at how many books you can actually read in a year this way!

3. Take a shower
A restful shower in the morning or evening can take as little as 10 minutes. I take one daily for the express purpose of letting myself know I am cared for. You probably take a shower to wake up or get clean. By changing that story I can promise you that your shower will begin to feel quite different and you will feel cared for. I have been doing this daily for over fifty years now and it’s one of the daily events I look forward to the most!

4. Sit down
Just stopping and sitting down for 1-3 minutes, even if children are with you, can feel like self-care if that is the story you tell yourself for sitting down. I also use this technique every day and when I sit down for this short rest I smile because I know it’s a tool for self-care and not just my bum in the chair. : )

I’ll bet you can come up with at least 3-4 ways that you can take care of yourself in under 5 minutes that can be repeated a few times each day. I would LOVE to have you share them in the comments.

B. You don’t know what daily self-care looks or feels like
At some point, I had to make a conscious decision to figure out what I could do that would feel like I was taking care of myself. So I paid attention to my days and began making a list. You know what is on my list – a shower, reading in the bathroom, sitting down on purpose for no other reason than self-care, and deep breathing.

Take the time to make a mental list. What would work for you? For one of my friends, it’s sneaking a piece of licorice out of her secret stash a couple of times a day. It always makes her smile and she feels like a kid again.

Another friend makes a cup of herb tea and then sips it as she passes the counter during the day. Yes, it gets cold but every sip tells her mind – you matter and I am taking care of you!

Another suggestion is to smile. When you want to yell or spank or run choose to smile. It may sound impossible when you’re stressed out by the 3rd cup of spilled milk or by your 2-year-old who is going to see how long he can scream; but there is magic in a smile, even if it’s forced.

Forced smiles also increase positive feelings. When a situation has you feeling stressed or flustered, or overly tired even the most forced of smiles can genuinely make you feel happier.

My mother walks out to check on the chickens. It takes only 5 minutes and she repeats it a number of times a day. She loves her yard and her chickens and rain or shine, summer or winter she takes these small breaks.

So take the time this next week to make your mental list and then implement with the express purpose of telling your mind and body – I love you. I’m taking care of you!

I promise that it will feel like self-care no matter how simple it is.

C. You feel that it needs to be away from home, doing something special, for it to count
Remember that consistent actions are what are required for self-care to impact your daily walk as a parent. If you have to leave home or do something special then self-care will be spotty at best. Even if you are one of those lucky couples who go on a date every week it is still not consistent enough. In order to impact your ability to parent at your best then self-care has to happen daily, in fact, a few times daily.

The need to leave home and do something special is a story you tell yourself. Our stories are powerful. All that is required is that you rewrite your story about self-care. If you need to, write out a simple one statement declaration about your new self-care story. Then repeat it to yourself every time you take one of your new actions.

EXAMPLE – I care for myself when I shower, sit down, read in the bathroom or breathe deeply.

Getting away is wonderful, as is doing something special. But if we truly want to have greater satisfaction in our parenting lives then we have to learn to care for ourselves every day, in fact, a few times every day.

You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends. Nurturing yourself while you’re doing your job of parenting is going to help you be in a place mentally where you can and will be Present more often.