Category: Parenting Skills

How Does Reading as a Family Impact Adults?

I am a BIG proponent of family reading because of its many benefits. When our kids were living at home, we read together. I wasn’t consistent, but we did manage to do it often enough that one of my daughters would say years later, “Mom, it was so great how you always read to us.” However, I wasn’t prepared for the HUGE impact reading together has had on our household of three, all of us over seventy.

Some time back, I published an article called I’ve Got the Tone. For many years, I have had a tone in my voice of irritation, frustration, annoyance. Over the years, it became a habit. Since we have been reading together, about a year now, that tone has dissipated quite a bit. The truth is I feel less irritated, annoyed, and frustrated. The feeling in our home is one of more charity, less contention, and a greater desire to connect and be cooperative. I think reading together will directly impact our health.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Don bought me a bag of veggie chips. I love veggie chips, but we don’t buy them often. I made yummy sandwiches for lunch. I thought about getting the veggie chips, but I didn’t. After the blessing, Don went into the garage where all the chips are kept and got some of the veggie chips for himself. When he came back to the table, I smiled and said, “Hey, I thought those were mine. You should have brought some for all of us”—end of conversation. However, the comment kept coming to my mind as I was reading to Don and my mom. My tone of voice had not been irritated, just matter of fact. But I worried that I might have made him feel bad.

So, I told him that what I had said wasn’t kind, and I should have said, “Good idea,” instead. He looked sheepish and replied, “I was trying to be sneaky.” Don isn’t supposed to have chips. I laughed and said, “Honey, you got them and then came back to the table with them. You aren’t very sneaky.” He replied, “I know; that’s what my meds do to my thinking.” I smiled and said, “I knew that’s what was happening. That’s why I should have said ‘Great idea’ instead of what I said.” We both smiled. It was a totally different feeling from what would have happened a year ago. The feeling was conversational rather than confrontive, even when my first comments weren’t as well thought out as they could have been. There was a sense of connection.

One of my warmest memories is of my mother reading to us. She didn’t read to us often, but when she did, it was magical for me! As I think back on those reading moments with my mom, I know what made them so special. I knew my mom loved us. This same feeling of love and concern has come from the reading we have been doing in our family. I knew this was the case for kids, but I wasn’t prepared for how impactful it would be for a family of adults. Reading together has established an intimate experience filled with feelings of warmth and belonging.

Most of my readers still have kids at home. It doesn’t matter whether you have a bunch of littles or a group of teens. Both teens and littles like to read as a family. 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). There are excellent reasons to read together.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ AS A FAMILY

A. Physical closeness—Reading aloud allows you and your children to achieve physical closeness. Small children enjoy sitting on your lap or draping themselves across your body. You may snuggle less with older children, but this is not a given. If you’re open to having older children sit next to you or lay a head on your shoulder, the chances are it will happen often. That has been my experience.
B. A sense of security—Gathering together as a family and reading create a sense of security and safety—a feeling of ‘all is right’ with the world. When children feel secure and safe, they function better out in the world. Love is essential to a child, but feeling safe is crucial and often even more critical.
C. A sense of belonging—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 sense of belonging can be beneficial 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.
D. A chance to tackle complex subjects—Reading as a family allows you to introduce difficult topics to your children and have safe discussions. I’ve read books to my children dealing with honesty, integrity, kindness, bullying, God, social issues, beliefs, and feelings. It made it possible to bring up ideas and thoughts I wanted my children to consider and ponder. It was a safe and comfortable way to experience essential life lessons.
E. A shared language and a sense of intimacy—When families read together, they often create a unique language. It can provide inside jokes. I read an article that described the experience of a family who loved the Mercy Watson books. In their family, they frequently heard the call at breakfast for “Mercy Watson toast, please!” (Johnson, “Why You Should Read Aloud to Older Kids”) It is fun and bonding when families share a phrase from a good book that means something to all of them. It creates a sense of intimacy.
F. It can strengthen struggling children and youth—When one of my daughters was fifteen, she made unwise choices. She knew it, but she was struggling to make changes. At the time, the youngest two children read with me. We read in the middle of my bed before lights out. Although my daughter wasn’t usually home, I noticed that when she was, she would come to my bedroom door, lean against it, and listen, no matter what the book was. This time together did not resolve her issues, and she had a tough road, but I’m confident it helped her stay connected to our family in a way that was vital to her eventual success. If you’re struggling with any of your children, for any reason, the closeness generated by reading together can go a long way to keeping you connected while issues are worked out.

If you are hesitant to read as a family, give it a try. Be patient. In my book Becoming a Present Parent, chapter Four covers touchpoints. Touchpoint 7 is reading together. You can read that chapter free. Touchpoint 7 shares a real-life experience of a troubled family, how they made family reading work, and their eventual success. There is a section called Making Family Reading Work. With the tips found there, you can read together, and it can be successful.

Share the reasons that you read with your family. If you don’t yet read as a family, why not?

Intentional Systems Make All the Difference!

When I mentor moms, I hear about all the things that aren’t working. That is what they come to me for – for perspective, to see with new eyes. I enjoy this process of sorting it out. We often begin with family systems, so things start to work better.

I have had this type of conversation hundreds of times:
Mom – I can’t stand dinner time. It is always rushed, and then everyone goes and does their thing, and I am stuck in the kitchen with a big mess.
Me – Well, tell me about your system for getting dinner done.
Mom – We don’t have a system.
Me – Yes, you do. You figure out what to fix at the last minute. You cook the meal. You set the table; you serve dinner. You clean up. You are filled with resentment. It isn’t an intentional system, but it is your system. There is usually shocked silence on the other end of the phone.

Here is another example.

I worked with a mom who hated her bedroom. Her bed was always covered by unfolded laundry. What she wanted was a retreat but what she had was resentment.

When I asked her what her system was for the clean laundry, she told me she didn’t have one. But of course, she did. Here is what it looked like. She would do the laundry, and then the clean laundry would be piled on her bed. She would coax the kids to fold their stuff and put it away. It often didn’t get done before the end of a busy day, and then mom would move the laundry to the window seat. It might stay there a few days while she felt cheated because she couldn’t sit in her room, in the window seat.

When she explained what happened on laundry day, I pointed out that she did have a system. It wasn’t a system that got her what she wanted, it made her feel resentful, but it was her system. We talked about how she could better manage her laundry to stay out of her room and be taken care of by all the family. It worked. She got her private space back, and her children became more responsible. Everyone was happier.

The women I talk to are always astonished to realize that they have a system by default, and it stinks. Then we talk through what she would like to have happen, what could reasonably happen, and then come up with an experiment designed to intentionally set up a system that accomplishes what she wants. We talk about getting the family to buy in because when people buy in, they take ownership, and things work better.

Here is an example of a default system in my life that whacked me out for months!

I am a very orderly person. I am also very self-directed. However, for many reasons, I found myself in a mess. I wasn’t getting up on time; I wasn’t getting my studying done; I forgot to pray; I was distracted. After nine months of suffering, I did what I should have done far sooner. I prayed and then thought through what was not working. What did my current system for managing these things look like?

I realized that the system I had used in the past had fallen apart. I didn’t have a morning routine. I sat down, thought through what I needed, then wrote it down and taped the paper to the bathroom wall. This experiment was better, but I was still distracted and not getting these important things done daily. I know that consistency is essential, so I went back to the drawing board and prayed again. I was missing something.

I have kept my morning routine quite simple for a long time because I am a full-time caregiver. I get up at 6:15 on many days, dress, feed, and groom my 15-year-old special needs granddaughter. Then I get the other three off to school. In the summer, I am on deck with these kids for a few hours most days. By nine Don and possibly my mom are up and want breakfast. Mom needs her hair done, and twice a week, she needs to bathe before I can move on to anything else. Noon would come and I wouldn’t have gotten what set me on a solid path for the day completed. The time would rush on from there and frequently late evening would come, and I never got to my ‘stuff.’ The question was how I do the things that matter to me and still take care of all these people.

When the answer came, it was so simple as answers from God often are.

I had the thought to put my scriptures and affirmations in the bathroom, in my reading basket, and hang my clothes for the next day on a hook the evening before. Then each morning, I would get up, go into the bathroom, dress, and prepare for the day. I would sit on the toilet and read my scriptures and say my affirmations. Then I knelt and prayed. I know God forgives me for praying at the side of the toilet. : ) The whole thing takes 20 minutes, then I am out in the fray, but the things that matter to me and my well-being are complete. The system for my mornings that I have intentionally designed is working well!

Systems matter. If there is a place in your life that feels out of order or things aren’t happening, look closely at your system. What is it? What does it lack that would feel better or help you manage better? If you don’t think you have a system, and that is why it isn’t working, think again. You do; it just stinks. Come up with an experiment. Try something new with intention. You will be surprised at what a difference it can make.

Got a great ‘systems’ story. Please share. : ) 

Creating a Refuge for Your Family

My sister flew to Philadelphia to see her son and his family. Michael picked her up at the airport, and they drove to New Jersey. He is in the military, and she was very anxious to see them all.

Here is the catch – my sister has terrible claustrophobia and can’t fly. She has never been on a plane and has anxiety just thinking about it. But she wanted to see Michael and his wife and kids. Watching her prepare for the flight and all the effort she had to make to even get on the plane, let alone stay on it, was a miracle.

She managed to get to Michael’s in one piece. Everyone had a wonderful time, lots of good food, fun activities, and hugs and kisses. She loved it. But in the back of her mind was that trip home. Again, lots of worries and getting control of self-talk, using natural nerve remedies, etc. On the flight to her sons, she used an entire bottle of Ashwagandha.

When Rozanne got home, she said that it was such a comfort. She said, “Home is a refuge. It is a safe place to be. The place where you can rest and feel peace.”

That is so right! We all want to go home to be safe and at peace. It’s what our kids want too. For parents, that is part of our job – creating a refuge where it is safe and there is peace. That is a significant part of the job.

There is a skill we can learn and then practice that will help our homes feel more like a refuge. It helps kids feel valued and heard.

ACTIVE LISTENING

When we actively listen, it is to connect with the speaker and to understand how they feel about what they’re saying. It’s active and engaged and seeks to hear the words and, more importantly, to hear the heart.

Because this type of listening doesn’t come naturally, I’ve had to develop steps to make it happen more often. They may be helpful to you also.

A. STOP what you’re doing. Turn away from any technology, book, or project. If you genuinely can’t stop, tell your child you can see this is important to them, and you want to hear what they have to say. Set a specific time when you’ll be free and keep it. Saying “we’ll talk about it later” is not specific and sends the message you’re not available to them, that whatever else you’re doing is more exciting or more important. If possible, stop and listen now!

B. Make eye contact with your child. I remember reading that an infant can tell the difference between a face in order and one with jumbled features.

From my experience, I know babies are interested in their parent’s faces. They look at their parent’s faces constantly and reach out to touch them. Infants want us to look back at them. As we grow older, the desire for eye contact with the people in our lives that matter to us remains.

Eye contact is looking directly into your child’s eyes and not looking away at other things or looking down. When we look at our children as we listen to them, it sends a powerful message that we care, we hear them, and they matter.

C. Respond to what your child is feeling, not only what they’re saying. When you’re actively listening, you’ll respond to feelings more quickly and more accurately. This type of response helps your child feel heard. You can say things like, “Boy—how maddening!” or “You didn’t like that, did you?” or “How did you feel?” This helps your child know that you view their feelings as valid and important.

D. Listen with patience and interest. Whatever you’re feeling, your child will know! They’re like energy magnets. If your energy is inwardly impatient, they’ll know. If you’re dying to get back to your stuff, they’ll feel it. If you’re bored out of your mind, it’s coming across loud and clear. It may all be on a subconscious level, but they know. Hold thoughts in your mind that will help you maintain interest and patience.

For example, you can think, “I sure love this kid. They’re so interesting, funny, kind, thoughtful,” whatever. Hold thoughts that allow you to embrace fully the moment you’re sharing with your
child.

Avoid interrupting. Ask only those questions that help clarify. Your job at this moment is not to teach, reprimand or fix. It’s to listen.

Listening to your child is an end in itself. It isn’t about a resolution, teaching, making progress, none of that. It’s about connection, pure and simple. You can always teach later. Right now, actively listen.

During a day, there are dozens of opportunities to stop and listen. We can’t actively listen in every situation. But if we can increase those times we do, it will significantly impact our relationships.

When you practice listening to really hear your child, even if they have made a mistake or you are angry at them for something, it creates a safe place. When kids feel safe, they will come to you more often, even when they know they are in hot water. And as our children grow older, this will be a gift to us.

Practice active listening as much as you can and make your home a refuge.

Share ‘how to’ with a friend.

Creative Problem Solving vs The Suckers Choice

The Sucker’s Choice

Are you ever faced with a situation that needs a resolution but the choices you see seem unfair or damaging? If you choose one despite not liking either option, that is called The Suckers Choice, and when made, it will inevitably leave someone feeling wronged. The Suckers Choice is almost always bad for relationships, including the one with ourselves.

Here is an example of what I am talking about:

When my daughter, Jodie, had her fourth baby, she suffered postpartum depression. To combat the effects, she decided to exercise by taking a walk with the kids in the morning. How do you think that went?

Let me share a walk I took with them just before the new baby was born. Jack and Mary took off running! This walk will be fast, I thought. Soon they reached our neighbors home with a ramp. It was up the ramp and down the ramp at a full run. Then it was up the ramp and down the ramp rolling over and over again. Good thing we were friends with this neighbor.

Next was the cement retaining wall. It had to be climbed on and then carefully followed by little feet. If anyone fell off, they felt they had to go back to the beginning and start again. Next was the yard with all the kids. Stop and chat. Let’s see what they are doing. Let’s join in!

And dogs! Every dog had to be spoken to and, if it was a happy dog, petted. EVERY dog! I never realized how many dogs we had in that neighborhood!

Then there were the treasures. Every walk is all about the treasures that have to be picked up, examined, and then stowed in the stroller, stones, sticks, leaves, torn paper cups, etc.

About halfway around the block, Mary’s little legs began to wear out. Remember, they have covered the first half at a full run (disregarding all the stops). So, it was into the stroller. The key to knowing when she wanted in the stroller was the phrase, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!

Then we would press on for about 2 minutes (I do not exaggerate here), and then she would need to get out to see something or to run. The key phrase to know when she needed to get out was a clear STOP, STOP, STOP!

Did you get the timing on this little exercise that lasted for the second half of our walk? Into the stroller for 2 minutes or less. Out of the stroller for two minutes or less. Sigh! Can you see how frustrating this walk would have been for my daughter, who needed some sustained exercise?

Jodie had a couple of obvious choices –
• Don’t walk with the kids making taking a walk inconsistent
• Walk with the kids but be frustrated and angry

A Creative Problem-Solving Activity

How can we avoid making the Sucker’s choice and develop creative solutions to real and frustrating situations?
• Work on yourself first. You are likely to benefit by improving your approach, and you are the only person you can work on anyway.
• Make sure your heart is in the right place and stay focused on the matter at hand.
• Do NOT make the Sucker’s choice. Believe that there is always at least a third option.
• Determine what it is you want to happen. Ask, “What do I want here.”
• Ask the question, “What do I want for the other person?”
• Then ask this question “What do I want for the relationship?”
• Finally, ask a very telling question “How would I behave if I really wanted these results?”
• Search for the elusive AND. Present yourself with more challenging questions which turn the either/or choice into a search for the elusive AND. Clarify what you want and clarify what you don’t want. Present your brain with a more complex problem by asking the questions posed above.

 “When we present our brain with a demanding question, our body sends precious blood to the parts of our brain that help us think, and away from the parts of our body that make us want to fight.” (from Crucial Conversations by Kerry Paterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler) The Sucker’s Choice presents our brain with problems that are easily solved with restricted blood flow. They don’t require creative thought. The Sucker’s Choice keeps us stuck in ineffective strategies.

Now back to the story

How did Jodie solve the situation she was facing? First, she looked at her motives. Jodie needed to exercise to return to good health and did not want to be frustrated. She realized that she did not want to jeopardize her relationship with her children by being angry with them for natural, childish behaviors.

She knew that if she really wanted health and not to be angry with her kids, she would need to find a way to help them understand her need for a walk while still allowing them space and time to walk the way a child would take a walk. (Her kids were aged two mo. to 6 years old)

Creative Problem-Solving List and Process

Jodie asked the pivotal questions posed above and set her brain to develop at least a third alternative. She made a list.
• Get a babysitter
• Trade exercise days with another mom who also wanted to exercise with a sustained walk
• Walk when her husband got home and could watch the children
• Get up before the children and walk. (They are up at 5:30 sometimes!)

None of these options were realistic for her family situation for many reasons. She kept thinking, and here is what she finally came up with – Mom’s Walk and Kid’s Walk.

If it was a Mom’s walk, everyone stayed in the stroller, and mom would walk fast. If it was a kid’s walk, then everyone could get in and out of the stroller, and they would go slow. This is how the walks played out. Every morning was Mom’s walk. And if they walked in the afternoon, which they did at least twice a week, it was kids walk. Her children were happy with the arrangement. She was not frustrated, and her health and outlook improved significantly. Family relationships grew. They experienced joy.

As you recognize the Sucker’s Choice and work at creative solutions to your parenting problems, don’t expect perfection:
1. Aim for progress.
2. When you come up with a solution that succeeds, celebrate your success.
3. Take pleasure in knowing that you and your family are improving.

Here is a short video that will give you more information on avoiding The Sucker’s Choice.

Share your experiences with solving your parenting situations creatively while avoiding the Suckers Choice. I would love to hear about them.

The power of a table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. It will unify your family—During the years our children were making poor choices, the time at the dinner table held us together. If we couldn’t agree on the best way to live, we could at least gather once a day and eat together. It kept us face-to-face and heart-to-heart. We didn’t teach or reprimand during these meals. We stayed out of management and worked on the relationships. This effort didn’t stop our children from making choices we disagreed with, but it kept our children bonded to us. It kept us unified as a family.

C. You can de-stress—If you determine that spilled milk and children falling off chairs are not interruptions and catastrophes but significant family life moments, then the dinner hour will bring you joy. Even when mealtimes feel hectic or disorganized, they have long-term benefits for children because if parents remain calm, kids aren’t stressed by dinnertime chaos. Remember, they think and see like kids and not as adults. And you, as you watch and listen to them, can breathe. You can let down your guard. You can relax. There is research that supports this. : )

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

E. You’ll have an improved sense of well-being—Anne Fishel, Ph.D., said, “Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members” (Fishel 2016).

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

What If No One Talks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let them know about it : ) 

INSPIRATION – Sample Mission Statements

When children are young

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

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

Here are some samples for those that need inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part I,   Part II,    Part III,    Part IV

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

School in Limbo? Here’s Help!

In our district, kids are going back to school only two days a week. WHAT!! That will leave a lot of parents with kids who want to do something fun and connect, as well as learn. Here is something that will help you out! : )

I began teaching and speaking over a decade ago. I focused on a learning tool that, at that time, was called The Closet. The printer said he loved my Closet Mastery Course but had to look inside because he wondered if I was training people to come out of the Closet. It also seemed odd to call this tool The Closet and then tell people they can use a box, a bag, or any old container that they would like – or even no container. So, the name was changed to The Spark Station.

When I began teaching this tool, my audience was almost exclusively homeschooling parents. The Spark Station initially helped kids want to learn so that the homeschool process would be less stressful. However, over the years, I realized what a fantastic, fun, and engaging tool it was for connection. My message morphed and eventually became a book, Becoming a Present Parent: How to Connect With Your Children In five Minutes or Less. 

The Spark Station has lived beyond homeschool because

it’s a beautiful way to ‘play’ and connect with kids. This is a boon for adults like me, who are a little play adverse.

Years ago, I created a 13-audio course about the Spark Station. This year I have offered the entire thing to all my readers FREE. It is in its original homeschool format, but all principles, rules of engagement, and outcomes apply broadly across the parenting spectrum. Over the next few months, I will create a multi-part series of articles on the Spark Station to help you use it in your home. It’s WONDERFUL, FUN, and EXCITING for kids! It is useful for toddlers, children, and teens.

The Spark Station – Part 1 What is The Spark Station

I used to say, “So what is the definition of the Spark Station? Simply put, it is a space where parents have put items that they think will inspire their children to explore further and learn.” Then I had a mom tell me she was on audio five before she finally understood what The Spark Station was.

Now I say it differently. The Spark Station is a tool you can create. It can be an actual closet or a box, a dresser, or any other place you can put new items to share with your children. It’s not the same as a storage space where you keep your learning materials, books, and craft items. Its purpose is to create a time and place when your children will be exposed to new and exciting ideas or be able to engage in things that already interest them, and where parents connect with their kids. It’s a time and space where both adults and kids can share what they feel joy or passion in, and what interests them, their SPARKS. I’ll share information on how powerful SPARKS can be.

You can use the Spark Station at a set time each week, say on a Sunday afternoon. You can also use it anytime you feel like it. You can use it as part of your school day if you homeschool. Dad can use it to connect after long days at work. However, it is not to be used by children alone because you want your own time. It’s important to remember that it is a connection tool and that can’t happen if you are occupied elsewhere. Another important thing is that when kids use it alone, it turns into a mess quickly, and then no one uses it. This is one of the five critical rules which I will cover in another article.

What I want to accomplish here is to encourage you to begin listening to the FREE course. If you don’t have time for a 13-audio course, then view this one audio. It will give you enough information to determine if this is something you want to have in your ‘connection’ arsenal. Or you can read each installment of the series of articles titles Spark Station Basics as they are published.

I’ll end today with some pictures of Spark Stations. You will see how diverse they are and how fun they look. : ) You will notice that they are large and small, fancy and simple, for little kids and big kids. They are all different!

But before I show the pictures, here is a letter from a mom who took the leap and gave it a shot. 

The  Spark Station and The Spark Station Mastery Course really work! I just had to share my experience with all of you. I finished lesson 5 of the Spark Station Mastery Course yesterday. I went through my home to see what I could find. I cleaned out the entertainment center (that is what we are using for our Spark Station). I was excited but nervous.

‘I found sand in the garage that I forgot we had, rice, material, art supplies, wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, math wrap-ups, and the list goes on. I filled totes with the items I wanted to start with. The kids saw me doing this and were anxious to know when they could use all that cool stuff.

‘I dyed the sand; I dyed the rice, and I put the stuff in the Spark Station this morning. We did our devotional, and then we talked about how the Spark Station would work. I was really nervous.

‘The kids immediately went to the fabric and wanted to make capes. Unfortunately, the pieces we had were rather small, so we talked about using those pieces for other things and talked about how much fabric we will need to make a cape (it will appear in the Spark Station soon).

‘Then they found the colored sand, mason jars, and lids that I had in there. They used the funnel in the box to help pour sand into the jars and make beautiful designs with different colored layers of sand. While the older three were working with the sand, I pulled out the rice tub and set it up on a blanket. I had spoons, cups, bowls, etc. in with the rice. I just let it sit there, and as soon as my 18-month-old saw it, he was occupied until The older kids went to play with him when they finished.

‘When they bored with the rice, my older son pulled out the art box. He found cupcake liners in the box. Immediately the girls wanted some too. They asked me what they could use them for, and I told them anything they wanted. They seemed unsure; I told them I could see making a pretty flower. My son immediately said he wasn’t going to make a flower; he thought his would make a great head for a lion. They glued their cupcake liners to the paper and used the chalk in the box to draw the rest of their pictures.

‘I just sat there and grinned the entire time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Why was I so afraid of this, it’s not scary, it’s incredible? I now have a…tool at my fingertips that gives me the perfect way to my kids. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and neither can my children.” Stacey S.

Please take a look at The Spark Station Mastery Course; it’s FREE.

Does your family have a good way to connect and do you use it consistently?

How would it impact your family if you added this one thing – consistent family play for connection?

Focus on what ties you together and your family can never fall apart. family.lovetoknow.com                                                       

Family Mission Statements Rock – Part 4

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

Ideas to Engage with Your Family Mission Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know someone with kids? They need this!

Family Mission Statement – Part 3

 

In preparation for writing your family mission statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to consider when developing a family mission statement

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

Want more question examples?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our family felt most connected to the Big List. 

Here is our family mission statement.

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

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

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

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

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

Family Mission Statements ROCK – Part 2

 

For many of you, developing a family mission statement may have been on your “to-do” list for a long time, but you have never gotten around to it. Or, maybe the idea is new and a bit daunting.

Here are some sabotaging beliefs and myths that real people have said about mission statement development.

1. “My children are too young to get involved yet.” Or, as one mom put it, “I don’t want my four-year-old influencing our mission statement.”

Even though children might not be able to articulate it, it matters a lot how their family “feels” to them. The family is a child’s world, and they can, even at very young ages, make valuable contributions to the discussion of what matters to the family.

If children are too young to participate, it’s never too early to begin consciously creating the culture of your home through the development of a family mission statement. Their contribution might merely be participating in the daily reciting of the mission statement.

In our home, we have a disabled, non-verbal four-year-old, a very busy two-year-old, and a five-month-old. Our children were too young to have participated in the actual development of our family mission statement. But they very actively participate in the daily reciting of our mission statement. Our two-year-old loves to say the first line, “The Joyful Palmers are a team! Yeah!” Our disabled daughter engages with a huge smile, and the five-month-old soaks in the feeling of it all.

When children are a little older, they can contribute by drawing their ideas of what matters to the family and how they would like the family to feel.

2. My children are too old. I don’t think my children would accept it.

Older children may very well reject something that might challenge the current family status quo or come down from the “powers that be.” Working with older children requires that we pay special attention to “doing the dance” of inspiring.

Primarily, a family mission statement should never come down as an edict from parents. No matter how fabulous your mission statement might sound, it must be created as a family to have any real investment by everybody.

Consider engaging your older youth and young adults in a way that gives an air of anticipation and excitement to the development of this statement. Be prepared to invest in this process. For example, consider taking a unique family retreat, or maybe your children would respond with some private, preparatory, one-on-one talking.

Never create it yourself and then announce it to the family as the new thing. Make it fun; involve food and activities that your family enjoys.

3. I’m not creative enough.

Mission statements don’t require creativity; they require truth.

4. A mission statement must be short; we can’t fit all that’s important to us in a brief statement.

Here’s an example of a family mission statement that is not short.

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

5. A mission statement needs to be long.

Here is an example of a short and sweet family mission statement.

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

6. I’m not sure we need a family mission statement. We seem to be doing just fine without one.

That’s a fair evaluation if “just fine” is your standard.

Assignment #2: What roadblocks, if any, have been keeping your family from creating your family mission statement? Are these roadblocks real or excuses? If they are real, write them down. Now begin considering solutions to these roadblocks. If you need help, reach out to your spouse or a friend to help you start seeing opportunities and solutions.

You can access Part 1 and Assignment 1 HERE. 

Do you have a Family Mission Statement? We would love to know how you did it. Please comment. Do you have a friend who needs this?