Category: featured

It’s Not Education or a Degree That Thrills Me

Sometimes Bad Things Happen to Good People

Recently, my 45-year-old son graduated from college with a bachelor’s in philosophy. It wasn’t easy because he has a past that could have made it impossible.

When Seth was a small boy, he had some experiences which hurt his heart and soul. Sometimes, no matter how carefully we try to guard our children bad things can happen. This set him on a troubled road. He used drugs, dropped out of high school, went to jail, and was sentenced to the D.O.C. (Department of Corrections) and a work-release program. He stole some cigarettes from a closed gas station and received a felony that would make life hard.

The future looked poor. However, he was a good person, as most of us are. When his son was born, he decided to make a change. It wasn’t easy because of the past. People weren’t sure they could trust him and so they didn’t want to risk giving him a chance. He just kept looking and eventually, he found a man and a company that employed him. He worked in an underground mine running a huge haul truck and eventually became an underground miner.

However, after just a couple of years, his body wouldn’t take the shaking and jolting of the machine any longer and he was back on the hunt. He was hired at a scrap mental company sorting metal.

Setting the Goal and Sticking With It

Seth had a goal to make something of his life so he could be an example for his son and he became one of the BEST scrap mental sorters they had. Eventually, he was promoted and found himself running the front office involving the 20-ton scale and the selling and buying of scrap metals. Then during the market collapse of 2007, Seth was laid off.

He eventually found a job as a machinist and was promoted after a couple of years to the position of Quality Management Systems Specialist creating a Quality Management System training program and taught it to the employees at his plant and others in the state. This was the job that changed the direction of his life. He began to believe that he was smart enough and capable of returning to school.

While Seth was working at the mine, he developed a love for rocks and minerals. He studied them and began collecting them. He also learned to pan gold and joined an online club of like-minded people. Eventually, this love of rocks and minerals got him thinking about college. He determined to become a geologist. But he was pushing 40 and he had a felony on his record. He bravely decided to go for it.

At the University of MT, Seth did what he had done at the scrap metal job and as a machinist. He moved up. He impressed his professors and counselors and they asked him to mentor ‘at risk’ college students. His efforts were so effective that he was often able to keep all his mentees in college. He taught some classes. He was making a difference as he pursued his own goals.

All these opportunities moved him from seeking a degree as a geologist to getting a degree in philosophy. What a major jump!

We didn’t put Seth through school. He worked his way through! It wasn’t easy. I can remember times when he called me in tears seeking encouragement. He thought about quitting. After all, he was going to be 45 by the time he was done. It seemed indomitable at times!

This spring Seth accomplished his goal and graduated with a degree in Philosophy.

Anyone Can Build a Meaningful Life!

There is a purpose in my sharing Seth’s journey with you other than a mother’s bragging rights. It’s not the education or the degree that thrills me. It’s that he was kind to himself, trusted himself, set a goal and then accomplished it.

The reason that I find that so magnificently thrilling is that when we can set a goal and stick with it, no matter how hard, then we can always take care of ourselves and others. We can always make, not just a living, but a life. Way to go Seth!!

P.S. Currently Seth is pursuing setting up a program to coach troubled youth. He understands that you can’t just take kids out of bad situations. You must help them be kind to themselves, trust themselves, set a goal and then accomplish it. You must change how they think.

If you know someone who needs to be reminded that they can make a life,
please share this article. : )

The Best Grandparents Are …

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

It’s Gotta Be Candy!

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

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

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

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

No, It’s Babysitting, Right!

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

No, Really, Its Praise!

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

Odds Are, It’s the Pool!

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

Gotta Be This – Build Your House for the Grands!

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

Wanna Be the Best – Just Have Everything!

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

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

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

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

Finally, We Got It. BE THERE!!

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

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

Got Grandparents? Why not share the message, they will love it!

Do you HATE Legos!

Payton loves Legos so much he signed a contract

Recently, while mentoring a busy mom, the topic of Legos came up. I laugh because the topic of Legos comes up often. Such an innocuous toy to cause so much trouble.

The problem is that Legos are small and seem to be always underfoot. Many moms and dads reach a point of exasperation and want to pitch them out! I understand because I had kids and they had Legos. My grandkids have Legos.

In 2011, a dear friend of mine, Leah Spencer and her son Miles, co-wrote an article detailing their system for keeping Lego order. I have given it a rewrite and share it again because Miles told what he, his siblings, and cousins learned while playing the Lego Game. It will surprise and delight you.

The Lego Dilemma

Lego’s are my nemesis. We have tried many things to keep a handle on them. We’ve assigned drawers, organizing Legos by color and type. We’ve moved them to nearly every room in our house. We’ve put blankets down every time the Legos were used and then dumped them back into one enormous bucket. I’ve been frustrated but continued to try and balance my boys love for them with my intolerance for them.

Finally, I got a large table for the Legos. It was in a room with plenty of floor space for the kids to create. We only have one rule during Lego play. After they’re finished all Lego’s are to be put on top of the play table or under it.

Time after time they forgot. Finally, I was done. I wasn’t mean; I simply and dramatically put the Legos in a big bucket and stored the bucket away. I didn’t take care to keep any of their detailed structures intact. Tears were streaming down little boy faces as everyone sat and watched. I felt terrible. They felt terrible.

At that moment a scripture came to mind which I shared with the boys. “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” All they had to do was follow my one rule and they would have the freedom to play with the Legos. But when they forgot they had no promise, no reward, no freedom. It was an amazing lesson.

After that tearful incident, something changed inside me. I remembered what I had learned from Mary Ann. The thing that bugs you the most may be the spark that ignites your child. I realized that the boys learned so much through their Lego adventures. I knew that I wanted them to be able to play with the Legos. That’s why I had tried so hard to figure out the best place or best way to store them, how to make them manageable.

I told the kids that if they wanted to reopen the Lego Game, they would each have to write a letter indicating why they liked playing with Legos and vow to keep the one rule. The letters were so cute, and they understood them to be contracts. We reopened the Lego game (as they proudly refer to it). I asked my sweet son Miles (age 9) to write what he is learning from playing with the Legos.

WHAT CHILDREN LEARN FROM LEGOS BY MILES SPENCER

  • We learn about money – The kids have designed a monetary system with values for gems,
    Miles, who co-authored this guest blog, and his Legos

    pennies, gold, etc. As a family, we’ve talked about what people did before gold came into society, how money has inflated, etc.

  • We build structures/infrastructure – I have talked to the children about architecture. I’m trying to inspire them to take the next step and design it on paper before they build it.
  • We have implemented punishment – They have set up capital punishment! I couldn’t believe it. There are police and arrests made, but if you do something really bad, they have three choices of death! I didn’t even know they knew about capital punishment. But this has caused our family to discuss ethical issues, why it’s important to follow laws, the job of policemen, what it’s like to be in jail, how being obedient is freeing, etc.
  • We trade, buy, and sell – They trade commodities, put a value on items, share, etc. We’ve briefly discussed capitalism and entrepreneurship.
  • We have governments and there are rules – They have kings or queens, presidents and VP’s, Lords and ladies. They have had coups and impeachments. As you can imagine there have been many disagreements in Lego Game policy. They have had so much experience in negotiation and compromise. It’s been incredible! I could not teach these types of lessons as well. What fantastic leaders they’re learning to become from these small plastic pieces.
  • We host live auctions – Eventually, one cousin decided to host an art auction.
  • We have many jobs in the Lego Game – There are so many different types of jobs their Lego guys apply for. There are firemen, police, mailmen, and so many more. I love that they’re seeing the variety of work that is available.
  • We use math – Even the three-year-old understands their nicknames – pass me a “twoer” or a “fourby”. They’re learning symmetry.

These are just some lessons my son mentioned and some that I have seen. I know there are more that I don’t see. Every time I describe the things the kids have been doing with the Lego Game people inevitably respond, “My kids would never be that creative!” If the environment is right I think any child left to himself will be more creative than you think.

SUGGESTIONS FOR INSPIRING LEARNING WITH LEGOS

  • Make it a safe, relaxed environment.

    Even a 3-year-old can creatively play with Legos.
  • Let them play – Don’t do it for them. The 3-year-old comes up with horse and buggy carriages or spaceships on his own
  • Playing Lego’s is a reward after chores and such. It also acts as an incentive to get up in the morning. They can play Legos until it’s time for breakfast. But if they sleep in there’s no time for Lego’s before breakfast.
  • It’s their free time stuff and since they learn so much, I could not be more thrilled.
  • Occasionally be Present. Sit and read in the same room while they play. This gives you an opportunity to see what sparks them and ways that you can inspire them. It’s also just a joy to see what they come up with. It’s a marvelous opportunity to be Present!
  • Don’t make them take their creations apart every night. Find a way they can keep their city, or whatever they are building put together so they can add on and play again later rather than having to start all over. That is when the real creativity begins. My son said he
    The lego shelf to store the boy’s creations for tomorrow

    loves the Lego game not only because he enjoys building with his hands, but also because he loves to see his accomplishments when he’s done. He likes to continue to add to it day after day. We leave their structures intact on a shelf.

  • Allow time. It takes time to get into presidential elections or auctions, etc…. they can’t get much done in 15 minutes. Allow time for Lego play.
  • Have a huge variety of Lego’s. Buy pieces at yard sales, thrift stores, hand me downs from college kids, etc. Big Lego sets that show you step by step how to put them together are great, but kids lose interest quickly. The creativity is in the maker of the Lego’s not in the child.

I’m inspired and motivated by my children’s ability to learn and their level of creativity. I could have never imagined, and I can barely even think of what we would be missing out on if I hadn’t gotten over my negative thought patterns of “Lego’s are a mess” and “Lego’s are a waste of time”! Thank you, Mary Ann!

Leah Spencer is the mother of three boys and a girl. Miles is now 17. Here are two more articles about the Spencer family that you will enjoy. How being able to see what sparks your child can bring a lot of joy.  The Spencer Sparks is all about different learning styles in children.

Give other parents a hand up with their Lego mess by

sharing this article. : ) 

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. 🙂 

Are You Like The White Rabbit?

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is best?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn how to STOP being the White Rabbit

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

Know a struggling parent? Please share this article. : ) 

The Greatest Empire is…Drum Roll Please!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To manage the next steps, you must be committed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If this article helped you, please share it. 

How Do You Say I LOVE YOU?

I’ve been married to the same man for 48 years. We celebrated this milestone in May of 2019. This has caused me to pause and contemplate the last fifty-one years. That’s how long I’ve known my husband, Don. I fell in love with him because he was handsome and romantic. One day he showed up at my door with a car full of roses. He had cleaned out a street vendor! But that isn’t why I’ve stayed with him.

We grow old and our beauty fades a bit. Our middles fill out and things begin to sag. We aren’t as beautiful as we were. Romance begins to fade too. Our energy and imagination aren’t as strong. So, his face and romance haven’t kept me by his side. It has been a choice.

Love isn’t just a feeling. When we’re young we think that’s what it is, but it isn’t. It’s a choice that we make repeatedly as we surmount the obstacles of living with another person.

Don has long since stopped bringing carloads of roses. However, I know he loves me because he serves me. He often goes out of his way to do something he knows I need to have done. He looks at me when I am talking to him. He takes the time to listen. He doesn’t always get what I am saying but he listens and tries. : ) He often puts his needs ahead of mine.

One of my favorite definitions of love came by way of my friend and mentor, Audrey Rindlesbacher http://audreyrindlisbacher.com/ – “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” M. Scott Peck

Love is not just a feeling; it’s also a doing. It’s what we decide to do to nurture another soul.

When we’re parenting children, we must decide to demonstrate our love to our kids despite their growing pains and messes.

It isn’t enough to just say the words ‘I love you’. Our children need to feel our love through our actions every day.

Five simple ways that you can say I LOVE YOU daily

•STOP doing whatever it is when your child needs to talk to you. You may not have time to do whatever it is they need right then but you can hear what they say and respond. When you stop and listen it sends the very clear message that they matter more than the phone, the computer, the laundry, or any other thing.
•LOOK your child in the eye. We all want to know that we are seen and heard. Even children know when they don’t have your attention. When you look someone in the eye it helps you stay focused on them. It increases your ability to hear. It helps you stay present in the moment.
•LISTEN for understanding. You can’t hear what’s being said if your mind is busy looking for a solution to their problem or figuring out how to teach. Active listening seeks to hear for understanding. Teaching and problem solving can come later.

Most of us have had the unnerving experience of being in a conversation and knowing the other person’s mind is in another place. You’re sure they don’t hear you even as they nod their heads as if they do. It’s interesting how often moms and dads think they’re sending positive, connected messages to their children, when in fact, their children are experiencing this kind of disconnect.
•TOUCH them in an appropriate way, a pat on the back, a touch on the shoulder. Making a physical connection when another person is trying to share is powerful in building confidence and trust.
•REMAIN CALM. Our response to whatever is happening is in our control. If we explode, we choose to. I know this is hard to hear. As a recovered rager I know that it’s a choice and you can learn to remain calm.

There is a space between stimulus and response. Sometimes it’s so narrow that you would swear it isn’t even there. But it is and you can learn to recognize the moment of choice. You will still respond poorly for a time, but eventually, that space between stimulus and response will get wider and you will have time to choose a better response. I promise this is true!

When you’re busy, angry, or overwhelmed these simple things may feel hard. But they are a choice. You choose to work on them daily until they become habits. You choose to do this work in order to send better messages to your children.

When you make that effort and then consistently do them it will increase your child’s confidence in your relationship and in themselves. They will know that they are of value to you, that they matter. They will know deep down that they are seen and heard. They will know that you really do love them.

I love your comments. It makes my day!

Do You Leave in the Middle of Memory Making?

I had the opportunity to do some work with a nephew of mine. That meant instead of listening to Andy Williams or a musical, I was listening to Country Western. One of the songs I heard was In the Middle of a Memory by Cole Swindell. It’s a love song about meeting the person you want to be with and then having them jump ship, so to speak.

There was one line in the chorus that caught my ear – How you gonna leave me right in the middle of a memory?

Has that ever happened to you? It happens to kids all the time. As parents, we often just disconnect or check out in the middle of memory-making moments.

Here are some examples

•You’re raking the leaves with the kids. There has been a lot of laughter and horsing around. But time is passing, and lunchtime is approaching. So, you throw one more handful of leaves and head into the house. It feels as if getting lunch done on time is important.

•Your teen is telling you the details of the camp she just got home from. You’re laughing at the craziness that went on. Then your cell phone rings, and you say, “Just a minute” and answer it. It might be important. By the time you finish the call, your daughter has drifted away.

•Finally, after a few days of craziness, your family are all sitting down at the dinner table together. Your oldest son is telling corny jokes and all the little kids are laughing. Then someone spills their milk. You jump up, grab a rag and remind everyone that this is dinner and not a free for all and that milk isn’t cheap.

•You’re having a coloring session with your four-year-old. You enjoy your son, but it’s been a long day and your novel is calling. If you hurry you can get a little reading in before dinner. You pat his hand and tell him it’s been fun but that you’ve got to go and get dinner made.

These are some simple examples of how adults leave in the middle of memory-making moments.

When I was writing the book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with Your Kids in Five Minutes or Less, I did an informal survey. I contacted my kids, my grandkids, nephews, cousins, and siblings. I asked them for their favorite memories. I think you’ll be surprised at the results.

Most of my kids said, “Eating together.” They also mentioned picnics in the park, which was a block away, watching movies together and having treats as a family. My daughter’s favorite memory was of us sitting under the table reading one of the Ramona books. My favorite memories are of the times my mom read poetry to us.

Memories that last are made during the everyday moments we have

with our kids.

If we want these everyday moments to be memorable then we need to put technology, work, our interests, and even time, on hold. We need to stay Present. It isn’t always easy. I get that. I was a busy mom of seven kids. I am not saying that we shouldn’t take care of the duties of running a home or that it isn’t OK to give yourself a break. What I am saying is that we don’t often think about the impact that our checking out makes on our children and youth. We forget that it sends a message and one we probably don’t mean.

If we want our family to have memories that last, then we must practice putting our focus on what is most important for just a few minutes at a time during the mundane work of caring for our family.

Keep your mind with your child or family for the short time it takes to read a book, take a walk, eat a meal, clean up spilled milk, or color a picture. When your kids are adults and remind you of some ordinary moments that they remember fondly you’ll be glad you did.

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compliment. : ) 

What is most worth doing must be done at home

Did you know that happiness begins at home?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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People Over Projects – Is That Even Possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!

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

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

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

ANOTHER VALUABLE EXAMPLE

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

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

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

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

Your Shares Are The Best Compliment