Category: Present Parenting

Let Kids Use Resources and Make a Mess

Kids can be so creative and messy.

Recently, my grandson Elliott was super busy in his room. He wanted lots of tape and privacy. I was happy that his mom gave it to him.

He may have been recreating a spider’s web or he may have been taking a stab at an obstacle course like his dad had made during their self-imposed quarantine for Covid a year earlier. It really doesn’t matter because there is great value for kids in being allowed to create even if it uses supplies or creates a mess.

Not everyone agrees with me, but my experience tells me it is true. If we are opposed to a mess, that is about us. If we think materials are wasted unless the end result is some usable item, that is also about us and our story.

My children were creative, so we used lots of paste, glue, rubber bands, construction paper, paper tubes, and egg cartons. We used thousands of crayons, gone through a few dozen pairs of scissors, innumerable pencils, and pens, not to mention compasses, rulers, and other drawing devices. We used rolls of paper and tape and gallons of paint and brushes. We used pounds of flour, butter, and sugar. I can’t even imagine the number of eggs we’ve used. We burned through lots of gas going from place to place to do this and that. In short, we consumed a lot of resources.

Thinking about this makes me happy. Let me share two experiences I’ve had that demonstrate why I’m happy when children use resources and how I know whether they were well used or wasted.

Experience 1 

When my youngest daughter was seven, we purchased an item in a large wooden crate. Of course, a large wooden crate is a kid magnet. Kate and her friends were all over that crate.

One day Kate came and asked for paint and brushes. When I questioned what she wanted them for she said it was to paint the boat. So, I gave her lots of poster paint. I never went to see what was happening. I knew they were painting the wooden crate and that now it was a boat. They hadn’t asked for my help, and I was pretty sure they didn’t want it either.

Next, Kate came and asked me for a piece of material to make a sail. I got a sheet for her. She asked if I could help her figure out how to get the sail to stay up. I went out to the boat, gave her directions, and she and her friends went to work. Throughout the day, they came in and asked me for this and that and I got whatever they needed.

I didn’t go out to the boat again until they came to say they had finished and for me to come and see. Wow! It was an amazing boat for a bunch of 7-year-olds to have created. They played with the boat for a long time. I think they loved it because they had made it themselves.

They had used a lot of paint and glue, material, and other items. The boat didn’t last more than a month or so, but I can tell you they played with it daily, and it brought a great deal of pleasure to those seven-year-olds.

Experience 2 

A few summers ago, Jack, my then six-year-old grandson, came in and asked me for a couple of empty paper towel tubes and glue. He said he needed real sticky glue. That meant my good tacky glue. I asked Jack what he was making, and he said, “A robot.” I gave him the glue.

Later in the day, I went upstairs and out to the car. As I went out the back door, there was Jack busily working on his robot. It was a square piece of plywood lying flat on the ground. He had used half a jar of my really sticky glue to adhere two round balls on the board and a length of broken necklace. He had used half a roll of tin foil to cover things, robot style. Hmm, what in the heck was that? When I went back downstairs, I told my husband Jack wasn’t making a robot, he was gluing stuff to a piece of board with my expensive, very sticky glue and lots of duct tape.

The next day as I left for work, I stopped dead in my tracks because right there, at the bottom of the back steps, was a perfect robot. Jack had envisioned a robot from a square piece of board and over the course of half a day had assembled all the materials he needed, and he had created it. I was amazed. It had looked like a junky piece of board covered with glue and odds and ends the day before, but Jack knew what he was doing. He had created a perfect robot.

The robot lay at the bottom of the back steps for four days until it rained. Then the pieces were gathered up, and it went to the junkyard in the sky. Jack’s robot couldn’t be played with or hung on the wall. So, the question I ask you is, “Was it a waste of materials for Jack to build the robot?” My answer would be a resounding “No!”

The boat had an obvious use, but the robot seemed useless. However, in both cases, the child had to conceive an idea. They had to determine what materials they needed to bring their idea to fruition. Next, they had to take the initiative to gather the materials and organize them in order to bring their vision to life.

In both cases, since I was somewhat involved and observed the process, those kids had to problem-solve to make things work out. They worked independently, for the most part, trusting they could figure it out and get the job done. At the same time, they had to determine when they needed to ask for help, and exactly what help they needed.

In Jack’s case, he had to figure out how to get the job done with two younger siblings getting in the way. Yelling or hitting wasn’t an option. He had to use diplomacy. In both cases, the child was able to look at the finished product and beam from ear to ear because they knew they had done a spectacular job. They both felt proud for many days. Their belief in themselves was stronger and their ability to do increased.

When I look at the results from the use of the materials in both cases, I think those materials were used perfectly. They accomplished what paint, glue, junk, brushes, rubber bands, scissors, pencils, pens, and all the rest were designed for—to help people problem solve and create. The use of the materials assisted these children in feeling more capable and able than when they began; to feel the pride of having done something that mattered to them.

If I’d been more involved, or if I’d been worried about how the materials were used, we could have saved paint, glue, tape, and so on, and we would have had less mess. But I hope you can see that what the children experienced would have been far different.

The Value of Using Supplies and Making a Mess

As adults, we do have to pay attention to the use of supplies because children need some guidance, but we should worry less about waste. Think instead of what they gain by creating on their own:
• Increased vision
• Initiative
• The ability to bring the vision to life
• The ability to gather what’s needed
• The ability to problem solve
• The ability to work independently
• Learning when to ask for help and what help they need
• Learning to work well with others
• Developing leadership skills and attitudes
• Learning to use diplomacy

If you decide to see your children’s projects differently—how they feel to your child and what the process of creating is teaching them— you can better evaluate the right use of materials. You’ll be able to let it be about them and not you. Couldn’t we use a few more adults who aren’t afraid to turn their dreams into reality because they spent their childhood doing it?

Let’s spread the word. : )

Want What You Teach Your Kids to Sink In?

Since the schools closed, I have been helping my grandchildren with their schoolwork. Their work is online. A learning curve for me! : ) My eight-year-old grandson is a competent student. When he isn’t doing actual schoolwork, he is busy teaching himself about aerodynamics, science, and math. He is a smart little guy. However, each day that I have been called upon to help him, when I say, “Ben, let’s get your schoolwork done,” he replies, “I don’t know what to do.” That statement isn’t true. He knows how to log on. He knows where to find the modules, and his teacher has made a video for walking him through. I realized what he means is, “I need some direction. Get me going.”

Right after this conversation, we had a second conversation. I said, “Get your iPad, entry code, and paperwork and meet me at my house.” He replied, “I don’t know where they are.” I said, “Ben, you do know what to do. What I think you need is direction. So, I don’t want you to say that you don’t know what to do anymore. Say, Grandma, I need direction. And Ben, it’s your responsibility to know where your stuff is. Let’s find a spot for you to put it in my house, and then you’ll always know where it is.”

Although it will probably resolve these two issues eventually, there was a big problem with this morning’s exchange, and I should know better!

Mini Conversations Vs Mini Lectures

When talking to kids, mini conversations are far more effective than mini-lectures. What Ben got this morning was a mini-lecture. It took all of three minutes, but it was still a lecture.

When he finished his work, he put his book in the spot we decided upon and took his papers to his house. When I called him back and reminded him to put his papers in the same place so that he would know where they were, he said, “Oh, I didn’t know you meant the papers.” My best-educated guess is that tomorrow he will say, “I don’t know what to do” and need reminding that he does know and needs some direction. Mini lectures rarely sink in on the first go-around. Mini conversations, however, are far more effective when teaching. So, what is the difference?

The Purpose of a Mini Conversation

The purpose of a mini conversation is to listen and then teach, if you need to teach. Sometimes you share cool stuff, sometimes kids share cool stuff, and you stay present and listen through it all. Mini conversations always feel agreeable to both parties! They never feel like a lecture. A mini conversation will go miles in helping your lessons sink in. What would it have looked like if Ben and I had had a mini conversation this morning rather than a mini-lecture?

“Ben, it’s time to do your schoolwork.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“That’s interesting. Didn’t you figure it out yesterday?” “Yea, but today I’m not sure what to do.”
“What would help?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s open your tablet and look at the modules and see if we can figure it out. OK?”
We would do what we do every day, and then I could say, “Ben, see, you do know what to do. Now you won’t have ever to say “I don’t know” again. High Five buddy.”

And what about the second part, not knowing where his school supplies are.
“Ben, get your tablet and papers and meet me in my house.”
“Grandma, I don’t know where they are.”
“That seems to be a problem every day, Ben. What can we do about it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Hmmm, let’s see. What if you had a spot in my house to keep them. Do you think that would help?”
“Yea, that would help me.”
“I think I have the perfect spot. See this basket on the stairs. I keep the book I read to grandpa and great-grandma here, so I always know where it is. Would that work.”
“Yea, that will work.”
“Ben, what do you think you need to put in here when you finish your schoolwork?”
“My reading book.”
“What else.”
“Oh, I could put my papers and my code in there.”
“Yea, that’s good. Then you won’t ever have to say I don’t know where my stuff is again. High five. We are Rockin this, Ben.”

Mini Conversations Are Powerful In Connecting With Kids

Can you see the difference? It not only sounds different; it feels different. There isn’t any recrimination. No shame. No judgment. Just solutions. And here’s another thing. Ben would have bought in. When kids buy into something new, a system or way of being, they take more ownership, and they remember to do it more often.

I’ll bet you also noticed that this mini conversation would probably have taken more than 3 minutes. Yup, it would have taken at least five or six. But if it relieved you of hearing lame responses and having to remind over and over, wouldn’t it be worth the three extra minutes.

Mini- conversations are powerful in connecting with our kids, and they are powerful when we want to teach.

Help someone else learn about the power of mini conversations. Spread the word. 

School in Limbo? Here’s Help!

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

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

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

The Spark Station has lived beyond homeschool because

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

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

The Spark Station – Part 1 What is The Spark Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandma, You and I are the Same!

Grandma, You and I are the Same!

When you improve your life skills, it’s a boon to your whole family. The better able you are to navigate life and the more growth you have, it naturally rubs off on those around you.

Case in point. Over a decade ago, I began my quest to improve my ability to manage my thoughts so that my life results would be more in line with what I wanted. I read books, attended many events and classes, got some personal mentoring, and even did some energy work. I noticed that I was happier, more often, by choice. I spoke kindlier to myself. My confidence went up. I was able to help others make changes also. It felt good. My granddaughter, Mary, was born just after I began my quest to control my life, my happiness, and my responses; to stop being a victim. Although I didn’t know it, she has been watching me.

A few years ago, she saw a vision board on my wall and came and asked me what it was. I explained that it contained pictures of what I wanted to happen in my life. She must have thought about that for a few days and then she came and asked me to help her make one. She also noticed that I made my bed every morning, and soon she began doing the same. She was only eight or nine, and nobody told her to do it. She saw that I did it and that it was a good thing. She also saw the sayings and affirmations that I have on my walls. If you go into her room, you will notice that she has hopeful and joyful sayings all over the place. When she makes anything or buys anything, she makes sure that the words she loves are on it.

One day, about a year ago, she said, “Grandma, you and I am the same.” You know she is right. I work to remain in control of the story that I tell myself, and so does Mary. Her room, art, clothes, and actions all reflect her understanding that she oversees how she feels and how life looks.

Not all children will respond this way. My two grandsons are not the least bit interested in making their beds. : ) They don’t wear upbeat sayings on their clothes. They don’t do much art, and when they do, it doesn’t say things like “Love Yourself.” LOL However, I can tell they are learning valuable things, and it comes out now and then in something they say and do.

Our example to our children matters. If we feel like victims and live our lives as if we are, our children will see that and follow suit. If we blame and criticize, so will our kids. If we talk poorly to ourselves, then how can our children believe that they are any better. We can’t and won’t be perfect people or parents, but what will last and impact our children the most is when they see us growing. There is power in understanding and believing that you are 100% in control of your life. You may not be able to control all the circumstances, but you can manage your response.

I have seven grown children. Some are edging into their fifties, and they tell me how much my continued desire to become better has helped them. So, if you have issues in your family, look inside. See what you need to do to take control of your feelings, your own life. Let go of victimhood—practice consistency. Take charge of the story you live and tell yourself. Clean up your self-talk. It will not only bless you. It will bless your family!

Who do you know who could use a good example?

There is NO Perfect in Parenting!

Perfect is NOT reality, especially in Parenting!

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

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

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

MOTHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY’RE STRUGGLING.

 

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

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

FATHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THE LOAD IS HEAVY.

 

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

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

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

The Afternoon Occupation Jar – BRILLIANT!

A friend has been talking with me about her efforts to organize her family and teach her sons. We’ve had conversations, each ending with something to ponder. The goal is to come up with an experiment.

Something weighing heavily on her mind was how to find the time to expose her sons to different hobbies and occupations. She is a mom who works full time from home, helping a small hospital. Since the pandemic, her workload has increased from 30 hours a week to sometimes 80. It won’t be forever, but for now, it is a load.

Trying to find the time to engage with her boys isn’t the only reason she’s concerned about showing them the world of possibilities. She is a true-crime buff. She told me that she has seen a pattern emerge over the years. Many of these crimes happen in small towns and other out of the way places. The perpetrators all say they were bored and didn’t have anything to do, and they were drinking. WHAT!

No Matter Where You Live There Are Things to Learn and Do

That is the question she has been asking herself. No matter where you live, there are things to learn and do – go fishing, learn the names of trees and plants, learn to roller skate, collect rocks and minerals, start a group for kids to teach them a skill, read to others in a nursing home, etc.

Even in small towns, the list could be endless. So, what is the problem? My friend has concluded, after watching these shows for years, that often the perpetrators don’t know they have options, they didn’t learn to explore possibilities.

One of the things she wants to do as a parent is to expose her sons to lots of new and exciting things. How to consistently do that is the problem. We talked about many options, and she pondered them, and yes, came up with an experiment. The system she developed was brilliant, and it may be just what you need too.

Afternoon Occupations

She got a jar, painted it, and labeled it ‘Afternoon Occupations.’ It’s filled with popsicle sticks that mom marked with activities that the boys can do themselves. That is important because these afternoon occupations take place while she’s working.

Here is how it works. The boys choose a stick and engage in the activity. They only get to choose one stick, and then they must give it a good college try, even if they think they don’t like it. After a good attempt, they are free to play with something else that they want. The goal is to help them learn how to fill and manage their time with good things and do it independently.

Mom has put things the boys will need on two shelves of a bookcase. If it isn’t there, then it is in a place the boys can access. Legos are on the Lego table, and the puzzles have a home.

Sample Occupations

Here are some of the items written on the sticks –
• Simple crafts
• Music
• Playdough
• Make a card
• Water play
• Audiobook
• Stretching and other simple exercises
• Draw on the sidewalk
• Make an obstacle course
• Watercolors
• Origami
• Puzzles

As the days go by, she plans to pay attention to which sticks are winners and which aren’t as successful. She will remove the unsuccessful activities and add new sticks as she comes up with new ideas. She is figuring out what they genuinely do themselves and what will take more help. It is a process of winnowing out.

When you’re busy, it isn’t always enough to say, “Go play.” Giving kids a jumping-off point can be immensely helpful. And remember, the goal is not to keep the kids out of your hair while you do whatever your project or work is, it’s to help them learn to fill and manage their time independently.

You never know when one of the sticks could become a hobby that they can do alone for an hour or two on the weekend!

This is a fun one. Why not share? : )

Remember, Life is Brief and Tender

“You will miss struggling in church.” WHAT!

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

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

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

It’s that ‘Family Feeling!’

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

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

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

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

“Before I die I want to . . . ”

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

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

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

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

Love it! Share it.

Stress and Love Can’t Co-exist

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about connecting daily with children. I mentioned that random touch was one of the most powerful practices I knew for connecting multiple times a day.

She laughed and said, “I come from an Italian family. We’re snugglers and kissers. When I read about random touch in your book, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got this covered!’”

As we continued our conversation, she mentioned she found it hard to touch her kids when she was involved in her business. She’s a work at home mom and often feels stretched and overly busy. There were other times too, when she wasn’t reaching out.

Here is where I stepped back into the conversation

I want to share with you what I shared with her.

I love random touch! It’s an effective tool for connecting in astounding ways with children. Random touch helps reduce the need for discipline, opens pathways to mini conversations, melts stony hearts, and bonds children to parents. Reaching out and touching your kids is practically magic for connecting. BUT there’s an equal, if not even more important reason, to do it. It’s for you!

Random touch doesn’t just help your kids know they matter. It’s also a prescription for stress reduction in your own life. Kids are like batteries. They’re filled with energy and light. The younger the child, the truer this is. When I’m stressed, I work at remembering to stop and grab my grandchild in a big hug as I say, “I love you!”

If you’re down, you can get up by accessing your child’s energy. They’re up more often and are far more energetic than you are. It’s a gift of being young.

Sharon Silver has expressed this perfectly: “Focusing on love and creating a connection causes unseen properties to magically eat up stress. It’s as if stress and love can’t exist in the same space. When a stressed-out parent takes a few minutes to sit and lovingly reconnect to their child, heart to heart, it’s like a key has been inserted and the stress begins to dissolve”. (Silver, “4 Minute Way to De-Stress”).

A wonderful story and example!

After I shared this information with my friend, she told me this story. “One day, when I was helping one of my boys with his math, I felt irritated because he was dawdling. Then I touched the back of his neck and ruffled his hair. I felt less irritated. My energy changed.”

Touching your child makes a significant connection that strengthens your relationship. But it also helps you ground yourself. It helps you change your energy dips from negative to positive.

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

5 Tips To Put Family First in a World of Distractions

I saw an insurance commercial in which the adults (portrayed by kids) were being treated like children by the insurance company. They felt helpless, undervalued, and frustrated. When I saw this commercial, I, like most of you, could relate to those feelings. At the end of the commercial, a rival insurance company helped a woman (portrayed by a child) with her needs. She stood there smiling, feeling good.

Then I had a second thought. Why would they use children to illustrate what all of us have felt as adults? It’s because this IS how children are frequently treated. They are not seen, heard. They don’t feel they matter.

What Does Being on the List Look Like

Let me give you an example of what it looks like when we treat our children in a way that leaves them feeling like the adults in this commercial, helpless, undervalued and frustrated.

One day I was sewing, and the project had a deadline. I’m pretty good but sewing would be on the bottom  of my relaxing and fun things to-do list. I was feeling some pressure. My 3-year-old daughter, Marie, kept coming into the sewing room and interrupting me. This and the sewing were wearing on my nerves. I was ready to spank her. After all, she was bugging me, and she could see perfectly well that I was busy! I decided if she interrupted me again, I was going to swat her.

Of course, you know what happened. She came in again and I was ready to carry out my intention. Then I had a thought, “Why not hug her instead!” It wasn’t my thought! Remember, I had a firm intention to swat her. It took me by such surprise that I STOPPED what I was doing.

I turned my chair away from the sewing machine and I looked at my daughter. I picked her up and I hugged her tight. I hugged her for 15-20 seconds. I said, “Marie I LOVE you!” Then I put her down and off she went as happy as a clam.

She didn’t come back. Why! Think about that insurance commercial I described and it will be clear. When they were being ignored the people in the commercial were frustrated and feeling undervalued. The woman at the end of the commercial was smiling and feeling good because someone cared. She was on the list.  She felt valued.

This is what happened to Marie. All she wanted was to be on the list, to be valued. Our children want to be on our list, and in our busy lives we sometimes erase them off. Oh, we cook meals, clean and maintain order and manage our family, but our children and our relationship with them are not on the list. We often don’t make time to let them know that we see them, hear them, and that they matter.

5 tips to help you let your kids know they have a place on your list.

1. Take a hard look at your calendar – We all have good things on our calendar. However, are there so many goods that there isn’t room for the best – time with our children? Can you pare down the classes, lessons, team activities, and community and church responsibilities? Time at home matters to kids. Ask yourself, “What happens if I/we don’t do this?” If you’re doing a task out of guilt or habit, take it off your calendar. Figure out what your priorities are and pursue those. Something must give.

2. Involve the kids – I know, I know, it’s simply easier, faster, and more efficient to do things by yourself. But there are advantages to including your children a few times a week. Gardening together, folding laundry as a group, and tidying up the yard as a unit are ways to kill two birds with one stone. If you make it fun it won’t seem like work, it will seem like a family activity.

3. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology-free moments every day. For example, have a TV, computer or no phone hour just before bed or while eating dinner. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time, you’ll be surprised at how much time you can open up for the family.

4. Make a date with your family and then keep it. When things are planned, they tend to happen. When they aren’t the world crowds in, and they get put off. If you have a family evening once a week then consider that sacred time. If you decide to have a game night, don’t let anything else interfere. If you plan to walk one evening a week, make sure it happens. It doesn’t have to cost money, take a lot of time or preparation but you do need to be consistent. That will go a long way to saying, “You are on my list.”

5. Realize you won’t get everything done. A to-do list is unending. It will never get done. Laundry is forever, so is cleaning and cooking. The yard always needs to be mowed and snow must be shoveled. So, lighten up a bit. Let some things go, short term, and make space for your family. 

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