Category: Present Parenting

We Don’t Understand Do We!

When I was sixteen I portrayed Emily Webb in the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The plays about the short life of Emily Webb, her growing, loving and dying. It’s about her realization that all that really mattered were her relationships. After her death, she laments that most of us are too busy with cleaning, cooking, work, hobbies, getting through each day, that we miss what matters most.

As you read these lines, you will feel her sorrow and the urgency to look at one another and really see.

Emily: Live people don’t understand, do they?
Mrs. Gibbs: No dear-not very much.
Emily: Oh, Mother Gibbs, I never realized before how troubled and how…how in the dark live persons are. From morning till night, that’s all they are – troubled…But Mother Gibbs, one can go back…into the living.
Mrs. Gibbs: Yes, of course you can…All I can say is, Emily, don’t.
Emily: But I won’t live over a sad day. I’ll choose a happy one…
Mrs. Gibbs: At least, choose an unimportant day. It will be important enough.
Emily: I choose my twelfth birthday.
____________________________________
Emily: Mama, I’m here! Oh, how young Mama looks! I didn’t know Mama was ever that young.
Emily watches breakfast being served and conversations between her family members.
Emily, with mounting urgency: Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead…Mama. Wally’s dead too…But just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another.

Emily, in a loud voice, to the Stage Manager: I can’t. I can’t go on. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize…Do any human beings realize life while they live it?
____________________________________
Mrs. Gibbs: Were you happy?
Emily: No…I should have listened to you. That’s all human beings are! Just blind people…They don’t understand, do they?
____________________________________
I thought about this play as I was looking through old photos and weeping and weeping. I saw my two brothers and my dad who are gone. There were aunts and uncles and cousins, all gone now. Here is the beginning line of a poem written by my living brother not too many years before my dad passed away-      “I know this man as father, yet I know him very little.” It’s a beautiful poem, all about what he learned from my dad that has helped him in his life. Yet the beginning line holds a world of meaning and experience between the two.

Here is an excerpt I found in a letter I had written my dad many years ago. “Thank you for a piece of yourself. The letters from you to grandpa confirmed something I already knew, that as we grow older, we make friends of our family members.”

Why is that? Why do our children have to grow up and go away before they become our friends, before we know who they are, who they really are, if we ever even get that far? I think it’s because we’re so busy keeping track of what they will eat and won’t eat, how well they read, how they take care of responsibilities, their grades, who they hang out with, if they speak politely, and all the other concerns of good parents.

We need to be present. We need to listen to each other. We need to ask better questions. We need to look at each other. We need relationships that go beyond just sharing a home or a workspace or a church pew.

I clearly understand being present. I teach it all the time. But being present can be tough. I admit it. I talk with my mom enough. I don’t sit and listen to my husband dream enough. I don’t know enough about the hopes and dreams of my adult children. I don’t call friends enough.

We live as if life will always be the same. The people we love will always be here. We have plenty of time to know them, to love them. But we don’t! Life moves on relentlessly. People move away, sometimes they die. Sometimes they just stop being an everyday part of our lives. Connecting with people we love, every day, in all the mundane moments, that is the essence of a life well-lived.

These moments happen at the dinner table, during bath time, bedtime and family time. They happen in the car on the way to the store. These moments happen as we weed the garden, clean the garage, take a walk, and do the dishes together.

They happen when we free our mind from the babble of what must be done next and focus on what is happening now, right now, with this child, with this spouse, with this friend, with this parent or sibling. They happen when we’re not so caught up in life that we can’t appreciate life.

Being Present is a skill.

We need to practice it with real intent. When we fall short, we practice some more. Whatever we focus on grows and expands. We can use this principle to become better at our relationships. Spend more time looking at your children and hearing them. Don’t be as Emily Gibbs laments, “blind people.”

If you like this post and it would enlighten a friend please share

The Luckiest Person On The Planet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Tips to Clear Your Lens

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

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

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

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

Are You Like The White Rabbit?

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is best?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn how to STOP being the White Rabbit

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

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

The Greatest Empire is…Drum Roll Please!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To manage the next steps, you must be committed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If this article helped you, please share it. 

How Do You Say I LOVE YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five simple ways that you can say I LOVE YOU daily

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

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

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

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

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

I love your comments. It makes my day!

Do You Leave in the Middle of Memory Making?

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

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

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

Here are some examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memories that last are made during the everyday moments we have

with our kids.

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

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

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

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

At War With Your Family?

Many years ago, I had a friend ask me if it made me mad that someone would undo what I had just cleaned up. I must admit that is exactly how I lived many years of my parenting life. I was at war with dirt, disorder, laundry, and frankly, my family. But all that changed the day that I had an epiphany. I realized that I wasn’t at war at all. I had signed up to serve, to minister to my husband and my children. That small shift in the story that I had been telling myself changed everything. It didn’t change the workload. It didn’t change the messes or the frustrations. What it did change was my ability to deal with the load, the messes, and the frustrations.

What Is Ministering and What Does It Look Like

Ministering is being aware of and attending to the needs of another person. When we minister, we watch over, lift, and strengthen those around us. Doesn’t a family seem like the perfect place to minister most effectively?

I’ve never forgotten a short video I saw as I was beginning to make this mental shift from war to ministering. It was of a very influential man who was hurrying to get to a meeting that he would be leading. As he headed down the staircase his one-year-old daughter was climbing up. He stopped to pick her up and hug her.

He discovered that she had a messy diaper. He knew that his wife was in the kitchen with their other children trying to get them fed and off to school. He faced a dilemma. After all, he was going to a meeting and he was in charge. But here was his sweet daughter in need and his wife was occupied. He could have engaged in a mental battle. He could have felt irritated that his daughter was messy, that his wife wasn’t taking care of it; that he, in his suit, probably should. But he didn’t go to war. As he realized the need his face softened, he gave his daughter a smile and a squeeze and he headed back up the stairs. He diapered his daughter, washed his hands and then headed out to his meeting.

In a family the ways we can love and minister to one another are limitless. I find that I need the help of a power beyond myself to keep my thoughts on ministering and not at war. I need help to know what’s needed because what is needed by one may not work for another. It’s been my experience that as we commit to being flexible, as we ponder real needs, as we make the effort to know another person, as we consider how best to love and serve, we can know how to minister better.

Six simple ways to minister to your children

•Don’t criticize – Listen, support, ask questions and teach gently. We all make mistakes. We all have moments of poor judgment.
•Don’t talk poorly about each other. Words are powerful in moving us to emotion. We want to feel good about our children, so we need to refrain from using words that are negative even when we’re frustrated or stressed.
•Refrain from judging – We can’t always know why a person behaves as they do, chooses one action over another or disappoints us. Rather than jumping to a judgment listen, ask questions, choose to think the best.
•Smile more – It’s amazing to me that we must be reminded of this, but we do.
•Listen, Listen, Listen – Those who are the most influential in this world listen more than they talk. They’re interested in others’ ideas and thoughts. They feel they can learn from anyone and so they do. When we listen it’s easier to think the best, criticize less, refrain from judging and so on.
•Touch – I am a champion of random touch. We shouldn’t need to be reminded of the power of a touch, but we do. I work on reaching out and patting a shoulder or giving a hug. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Maybe it doesn’t to you. But with practice, we can do better.

All those years ago, when I changed my story from war to ministering, I made a short video. I hope you’ll watch it. You will find it helpful.

Here’s to families and the opportunity to minister.

Share some of the ways that you keep from going to war with your family.

We All Lean Into Love

There’s a tree in our back yard that is growing faster on one side than on the other. The other morning my daughter gave me her impression as to why this tree is so lopsided.

First, you need to know that it wasn’t lopsided two years ago when we moved into our new home. You also need to know that it was a very sad looking black walnut tree. The leaves weren’t thick and deep green. There were very few nuts that first year and not many more the second. However, this year the tree is loaded with nuts, the leaves are thick and deep green and it’s growing towards my patio.

Jodie said that she thinks it’s because the tree is reaching for our patio as if it wants to come right inside. She said that’s because it feels the love, the caring. Isn’t that an extraordinary thought!

I’m not one to talk to plants, but I love nature, outdoors, and gardening. I even love weeding. As soon as we could I built garden boxes for my patio and I’ve tended them with loving care. I feed them and I prune them. I deadhead the flowers every day, so they’ll keep blooming. I water. I am consistent.

Our patio is a shaded, blooming wildness that is irresistible. Yes, those are sweet pea plants in the flower beds, and we’ve enjoyed snacking from them for weeks.

It doesn’t really matter whether this thought about why the tree has become lopsided is true or not. It illustrates a very important, in fact crucial, fact about people, about families. We all lean into love. We want to be loved. We want to matter.

What I know from working with hundreds of families is that most parents want their children to know they matter. Why then do we unknowingly send messages that make our kids feel they’re in the way, that they’re bothering us, or that they aren’t as interesting as whatever else we’re doing, or that they aren’t good enough. It’s because we aren’t focused on being Present with our children. We check out.

It’s easy to check out in this busy world and often we don’t even realize that we have checked out. When we’ve checked out or are totally involved in what comes next on our list, it’s easy to be irritated and frustrated with our children, which leads to poor responses on our part. Children and youth don’t hear “I’m busy. I’ll help you later.” They don’t sense you’re overwhelmed or tired. They aren’t old enough or experienced enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. They hear, “You have no value.” “You don’t matter.” “This is more important than you.”

HOW TO SEND THE I LOVE YOU MESSAGE CONSISTENTLY

Here are some behaviors that we, as adults, can practice that will help us send a clear message to our children and youth that we love them, that they matter, regardless of whether they’re meeting our expectations or not, regardless of how busy we may be?

• STOP whatever you are doing. Turn away from the TV or your computer. Put down the cell phone. Saying “I’ll talk to you later” will not cut it. Say “I can’t talk right now but I will come and find you in ten minutes.”
• LOOK your child in the eye. When we take the opportunity to look another person in the eye, we send the message that we are present with them, want to hear them and find whatever they have to say important. This is especially important when we need to disciple or teach.
• TOUCH them on the shoulder, hand, back, etc. Touch sends the message that we like being with them even if we are upset with them. It connects us to them.
• RESPOND to what your child is feeling, not only what they’re saying. Are they feeling angry, disappointed, attacked, judged, sad? Focus on the feelings.
• 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.
• ACTIVELY LISTEN Don’t check out looking for solutions or what you want to say next. Stay Present. Hear your child and respond to what they’re saying. If you feel the need to teach don’t. Wait until later. You can always teach but your children will not always come to you if they can’t trust that you hear them.
• CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WISELY – We must begin taking full responsibility for the words we say. If we want better outcomes, we need to watch our words. Say what you want, not what you don’t want. Words generate emotions. You’ll feel the way you speak. How you feel moves you to an action that gives you a result, either good or bad.

We want our children to lean into our family, to want to be home, to see our example, and to know that they matter, that they are loved. Children who feel loved have far better outcomes in life.

This leads to the final behavior:

• BE CONSISTENT – You won’t be perfect. You can’t be. But be as consistent in your efforts as possible. If you do, it will be enough, and your kids will know that they are loved and that they matter.

Share and comment. I love hearing what you have to say. : )