Category: Parenting Skills

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.

Your shares are the BEST

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.

Your Shares Are The Best Compliment

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

Do You Use Shame to Teach?

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

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

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

When Shame Cannot Survive

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to create a culture of empathy in your home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Free for a Month! WHAT?

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

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

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

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

HOW TO MAKE GOING SCREEN-FREE WORK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

Your shares are the best compliment!

We ALL Play the Embellishment Game

I got a fabulous call recently from a dear friend. She wanted to tell me about her three grandchildren, twins, aged 8 and one, aged 5. They have been playing a game with their grandma when she takes them to school 3 times a week. It’s called, Embellish the Story. One of them begins the story and then they each take a turn adding to it. In other words, they embellish it.

My friend said the best thing is watching their faces when the person ahead of them takes the story in a direction they didn’t want or didn’t anticipate. She sees their face go from annoyed or mad to thoughtful and then illuminated as they figure out where they can take the story, so it fits what they want better.

Recently, in school, the older girl’s teacher said that they were going to have an embellishment project. The twins were so excited because they knew what the word meant. They were the only kids in class who knew what it meant. So, what does the word mean to them? That is a very interesting thing – In their words you get to tell your story and sometimes you make stuff up.

Our Stories Matter!

Isn’t that the truth. In every situation, we get to tell ourselves the story and sometimes we make stuff up. And it all affects the results that we get. I’ve learned through almost seven decades of life that we do have control over the story that we tell ourselves in any situation and that the story we tell impacts our response to whatever is happening and the outcome that we get.

One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He said, “When we’re no longer able to change a situation—we’re challenged to change ourselves.” He reminded us in his book Man’s Search for Meaning the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond (Frankl)

This can be tough because it means that, just like these little girls, we have to figure out how to tell a better story, one that leads us to the destination we want.

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true. If you say, “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say, “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, and so on,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on.

I worked with a self-employed mother who was telling herself a negative story about her son’s actions. She felt he was whiney and needy. He was a bother when she was trying to work. Her responses to her son were causing a strained relationship between them. She was having difficulty figuring out how to fix the situation. When I asked her to tell me more about her son, she replied that he was bright, loving, and responsible.

We talked about the importance of our story, how they affect our response and ultimately the result we get. Her result was painful. She determined to change the story even if the situation wasn’t changing. She decided to remind herself of her sons’ positive qualities each time she began to experience annoyance or frustration.

When I talked with her next, I asked her how it was going. She replied she and her son were no longer at odds. She enjoyed his company. She could see that he was just interested in what she was doing, and they had had opportunities to connect on and off during the day. She was able to respond positively to him more often.

This mom got better results because her feelings were positive. Her feelings were positive because she changed her story about her son.

Now back to my friend and her grandchildren. She made the call because she wanted to thank me for all that she has learned about taking control of our stories and how impactful and life-changing that has been.

She wanted me to know that because I have made an impact in her life, she has been able to make an impact in the lives of her granddaughters. This morning as she dropped them off to school she asked, “Now when you get in school you get to tell your story. So, what will you do if someone gets your story going in a different direction that you don’t want it to go or that wasn’t what you expected? They knew – “We get to take it in the direction we want it to go!”

As my friend said goodbye and thanked me for sharing with her through the years, she had tears in her voice because as she said, “It’s wonderful when you can see it used in real life, and when you can help the rising generation learn it so much earlier. I know this is going to have an impact on how their lives will go.”

Here are a few tips to help you have better stories.

• Take responsibility and stop blaming
• Decide to think the best of others
• Choose your words wisely
• Keep practicing

Take responsibility for your thoughts, the stories, and emotions they create, and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your stories in concrete form. You’re in control of the stories you tell—stories about yourself, your family, your children, the world, the past, the present, and the future. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Our Stories Determine Our Happiness Level

Stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. My granddaughter, Mary, is six. She loves to watch the fish in our tank. We have a very sleek, silver catfish that swims fast and erratically whenever anyone stands in front of the tank. I believe the fish does this out of fear or because it has been disturbed. One day Mary asked me, “Do you know why this fish swims so fast when I’m looking at him?” I replied, “No, why?” She responded with, “Because he likes me!”

Mary, like all of us, gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as true as mine.

Want to Know More?

If you want an in-depth understanding of how to control your responses in tough situations, how telling a better story can open up your internal resources, and an in-depth look at the tips above as well as a few more, then read my book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can purchase it on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Here’s to better stories and better outcomes.

Your Shares Are The Best Compliment : ) 

A Principle with Power – Consistency

I love to write but don’t always want to prepare and post a new article every week. I enjoy posting something of value every day on Facebook but sometimes I would rather do other things. However, I do both as perfectly as I can because I have a goal and to reach it, I have learned that there must be consistency in my effort, for as long as it takes.

Consistency is a principle with power. When we do simple things consistently, over time, we will achieve amazing results. This principle can be found in cultures all around the world and in most, if not all religions. But this is a challenging principle to live because what we really want is a silver bullet, one big thing that will bring us growth, change, or success.

It’s amazing we ever believe the silver bullet myth because the truth of small steps over time has been restated and demonstrated so often. But the myth is comforting. It’s what we want to believe because the truth is harder to accept. Why would we rather do one big thing to change our lives? Although the big thing may take a massive effort on our part, if we gave the effort, then the work would be done. But the truth is we have to decide to do it and then follow through—over and over and over and over . . . ! There is no one and done.

Whenever you hear that a person has achieved an extraordinary goal, rarely, if ever, are you told the process they used—that is, the ordinary actions they took consistently. You only hear about the outcome. We’re led to believe extraordinary successes in business, home, or life are a result of significant actions, but they’re not—they’re a result of daily actions done consistently over time.

I worked with a single mom who was struggling with her children ages eight, eleven, and fourteen. They were argumentative and disobedient. One of her sons was withdrawn, and other people commented on how hyper her kids were. There was a fair amount of chaos in the home.

As we talked this mother realized that to have what she wanted in her family she would need to be more consistent. But being consistent in anything was a challenge for her. So, she picked one thing that she would do consistently in her home so she could practice living this principle.

She occasionally read to her kids, but it was rarely successful. However, she chose this to experiment with. As she began reading aloud to her children, it didn’t appear it was going to work out well. The kids were restive and quarrelsome. But I encouraged her to keep it up no matter how it looked or felt because the goal was to practice consistency. Her job was to provide a comfy spot and to read, no matter how her kids behaved, and to do it consistently.

So, she did. She committed to reading to her children twice a week. They would all gather in her room, in the middle of her bed and they would read. It wasn’t always easy, but as time went by it became more and more enjoyable. The surprising part is they began to have a sense of cooperation and peace while they read together, and this feeling moved into other areas of their lives. They felt it at mealtimes, in conversation, and when working together. People began commenting that her children seemed more patient and calmer. Her withdrawn child seemed happier and had begun to sing around the house.

Time and consistency are required to take care of most things. Understanding this is especially important in parenting because it nearly always takes until a child leaves home and creates their own life to see the results of our efforts. While they’re growing, it’s tempting to let ourselves feel failure because we don’t see our child as neat, quiet, mannerly and so forth. We often see a mud-covered child, a snitched cookie behind a back, spilled milk on the kitchen floor, or we hear voices’ complaining that it’s not their fault or “it’s my turn.”

Remaining Present while a child grows, not checking out because of discouragement or feeling overwhelmed, is dependent on doing simple things consistently rather than searching for a one-time fix to family issues.

Tips for Remaining Consistent

It takes time and practice to make lasting change and to grow as a person or as a family.
• We must commit to it.
• We need to consistently do the work.
• We must believe we can accomplish it.
• It’s important to remember that consistent is not the same as perfect.
• Keep your word to yourself. Do what you’ve decided to do.

Consistency long term is the key. We must commit to giving any issue time and consistency. Don’t allow discouragement and don’t quit! Time doesn’t equal failure. It equals eventual success.

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

 

Why Is Relaxing Exhausting?

Why does showing up and staying Present wear us out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Truly Present

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

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

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

Your Shares are the Best Compliment

 

Process vs Outcome. Which brings joy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your shares are the best compliment! : ) 

 

Want to Bond Your Family? READ!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Shares are the Best Compliment : )