Category: Relationships

To Waste or Not to Waste – That Is The Question

A mother asked me how I handled it when my children wanted to make something that I knew wouldn’t be used after it was created. How did I feel about the waste of resources and the mess that would be left? That is a great question. In fact, this same question comes up often when I am working with moms, and I have put some thought into it and decided that an even better question would be:

“How do we determine when materials are being well used and when are they being wasted and if the mess will be worth it?”

When my youngest daughter Kate was seven, she and a friend created a boat out of an old wooden crate. They spent a few days on it and used a lot of paint, brushes, nails, and other materials. When they were finished, they had a creation that delighted them. They played in that boat all summer. But it did require a fair amount of resources and when seven-year-olds paint and hammer, there will be a mess. 

When my grandson, Jack, was seven he created a robot out of a piece of plywood, tin foil, empty paper roll tubes, and tons of glue, expensive ‘real sticky glue’ as he called it. It turned out spectacularly, but it didn’t have any use. It was too big and not sturdy enough to hang on a wall. It lay on the concrete at the bottom of the back steps to be admired by the whole family until it rained. Then all the pieces were gathered up by an adult and taken to the dump.

Both children learned a lot from their experiences. They utilized skills they would need to hone to become well-rounded adults.  Here are some skills they had to use to make their creations.
They need a vision
It took initiative
They had to bring the vision to life
They needed to gather the needed materials
They had to problem solve
They worked independently
They had to decide when to ask for help and what help they need

These important skills, which they were able to practice, made the use of the materials perfect and justified the mess in my mind. Seriously. : )

Today, let’s explore one of the reasons why parents have so much trouble letting their kids waste, i.e. create, with paper, glue, paint, and so forth, and why it’s tough to face the clean-up afterward.

Adults are End-Product Driven while Children are Process Driven

The end product is what matters to adults, how it looks, and its usefulness. To children, it is all about the process. Children care about how it feels to create. They aren’t as concerned with the usefulness of the finished project or in fact, how ‘perfect’ it looks. They don’t worry about the mess they are making because they are so caught up in the creative process.

Because you care about the end product, you will be viewing your children’s activities through those lensesunless, of course, you will consciously take those glasses off and see what your children see.

Don’t manage your children’s efforts in an attempt to make the project turn out the way you think it should. Don’t worry so much about waste or mess. Think instead of what your children are gaining while creating. 

When you decide to see your children’s projects differently, you will better evaluate the ‘correct’ use of materials. It will be more about them and less about you.

In our communities, we could use a few more adults who aren’t afraid to turn their dreams into reality because they spent their childhood doing it.

Be Careful of Expectations

Majestic

I knew a BIG black dog named Majestic. He belonged to my friend Cathy. I am sure that in his prime, he was majestic. But when I knew him, he was far along in age and had begun to slow down…a lot! His hips hurt, and his eyesight had gone.

Majestic could no longer run freely and chase balls. He frequently bumped into furniture if someone moved it. If you came into the room and walked towards him, Majestic would stagger to his feet and try to get out of your way, not sure which way to go. He couldn’t wrestle with the kids anymore.

You would think that this once-majestic dog would have been miserable. But he wasn’t. In fact, Majestic wasn’t sad at all. Instead, Majestic was glad to be alive. He was open to sniffing your hand, getting a pat or two, and sleeping in the sun. He was grateful for every good thing and seemed to take the bad in stride.

When Majestic passed away, I thought a lot about his acceptance of his life. How could a once energetic and magnificent dog be happy with where his life had taken him – to aching hips and blind eyes? I have concluded that it has to do with expectations. Majestic didn’t have any. He lived in the present, cared about his relationship with ‘his people,’ and took things as they came.

I have noticed that my expectations are the thing that gets me into the most trouble. If what I think should happen doesn’t, I have a hard time enjoying what is.

Examples of Expectations Gone Awry

Here are some perfect examples of what I am talking about. A friend of mine took her family of three boys, ages 9, 6, and 3, on a road trip. They were finishing up a year’s study of minerals and rocks. During that year, the family had terrific experiences. This trip was going to cap it off perfectly. She knew just how it was going to go.

A few weeks later, she gave me a call. I asked her how the trip went, and she said, “Well, it was OK, but it didn’t turn out as well as I hoped.” So, I asked her what went wrong, and she told me all the things that they didn’t get to do.

I then asked her to tell me what they did do. They went to a dinosaur dig and had a fun day. They sang a ton of songs in their van as they traveled. They had great conversations about how the earth was created and what space is like. They dug for gems one afternoon.

“My goodness,” I replied, “there are mothers out there who would give anything for a week like that with their kids.” There was a pause on the other end of the line, and then she said, “Your right. I guess it was a pretty good trip after all. I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

Another mom was telling me about their failed home school day. She described the project she had planned for her kids. The finished product didn’t turn out very well, in her opinion. I asked her if they had fun and learned things. She said yes, but she wished the end product had turned out better.

This mom missed the point of doing the project with her children – to be present with them, connect and have fun and learn a little. But, as far as I could see, and in fact what her kids saw, it was a great home school day, and the project was enjoyable.

Just the Opposite!

Another friend and her children worked in their garden all day long. It was coming along beautifully as they dug and planted seeds. When mom wasn’t paying attention, the water got turned on and was on for some time. The garden was ruined. This mom could have said to herself or her kids, “What a waste of a day!” But she didn’t. She was grateful for the fun time they spent together, and she told me it was a day they won’t soon forget, even if they must redo it.

The Difference Between Adults and Children

Adults care about the product or outcome. This sets us up for frustration, disappointment, and sometimes anger when things don’t go as planned. Kids, on the other hand, care about the process. They are interested in what they are doing and learning. They like the paint’s feel, the clay’s denseness, the cool dirt in the garden. They want laughter and mini-conversations.

The outcome will always matter to adults, but when you’re with your child, make the mental shift from the result to the process. Let your preconceived expectations go. If you can keep your mind on the child and the joy they’re experiencing, you’ll have a far different experience. This is true in organizing, playing, working, taking a hike, going on vacation, shopping, gardening, whatever.

I understand this comment by the motivational speaker Dan Clark: “Begin with the why in mind rather than the end in mind.” I love his statement because when adults adopt this attitude, our kids and we have more fun and satisfaction in just about everything we do together. Rather than focusing on how it turns out, we focus on the child. Our expectation becomes the relationship.

Remember why you’re going for a family trip, why you’re letting the kids help you paint, why you’re planting a garden together. Remember, the purpose for just about everything you do in your family is to build relationships. So, link your satisfaction to your ability to enjoy what is with your family even when it falls short of your expectations.

Time with Our Kids Is What Matters Most

Time spent isn’t just worthwhile if everything goes well. All the time we spend with our children matters, both in the good times and not-so-good times.

And there it is. We sometimes suck the joy right out of an activity, a family trip, a child-parent moment because it wasn’t what we had in our mind; it didn’t stand up to our expectations. Keep expectations from getting in the way of enjoying your family. Keep the perfect from becoming the enemy of the good. Let go of expectations and be Present!

Who do you know that has trouble with expectations? Help them out. : ) 

How to Leave Work and Be Present With Your Family

I heard something on TV recently, of all places, and I thought it was worth passing on because the truth is, when you do work outside of your family, regardless of what it is, it is tough to ‘be home’ and leave that work at work.

I don’t usually watch tv. However, Don was watching the Equalizer, and I was baking cookies so I could see and hear the television. The series centers around Robyn McCall, a single mother with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn. In this episode, Robyn was having a hard time letting go of the case she was working on, to focus on her teenage daughter.

Robyn was working with a detective from the police department who seemed able to leave work at work even though people’s lives hung in the balance. She asked him how he was able to turn work off so that he could BE with his family the way he did? His response was terrific. The detective said that he had a ritual when he arrived at home and stood inside his doorway. “I hold my keys, feel the weight in my hands, and remind myself that I am home. Then I hang them up and am present with my family.”

Robyn stood inside her front door, held her keys, and looked at them in the final scene. Then she shifted her weight, hung up the keys, yelled, “I’m home,” and walked towards her daughter.

A tip to help you leave work both physically and mentally

When it is time to end your work and be with your family, have family rituals, systems, or traditions that you engage in. Rituals, systems, or traditions work the same whether your job is outside the home or your job is in your home. These rituals, systems, or traditions can pull you back into your family.

Some Examples

One of my friends is a very successful entrepreneur. She has a great deal to do each day, and her office is in her home. Ten minutes before her kids come home, she shuts the office down. Next, she prepares for what she calls ‘hugs and tickles.’ As each child arrives home, there is a tussle of tickling, hugging, falling on the couch, and rolling on the floor. This activity changes the tone of the day for this mom. Then she asks about school, gets kids to do their homework, and thinks about dinner. Later in the evening, she may have an appointment or call, but she will have spent at least 3-4 hours of quality time with her kids.

Another mom has a 9 to 5 job. She is a manager, and it is stressful. But when she arrives at home, the first thing she does is drop her purse and go to each child and hug them. Then the family prepares dinner and sets the table. They work as a team. They each share what was great about the day and what wasn’t so great at dinner.

If you work at a job or run a business from your home, then it will help you disengage if you have some activity you do consistently that lets your brain know that, at least for now, you are home and your family matters. Of course, there will be days that don’t go as planned and days when you don’t have it together. But if you can put your system, tradition, or ritual in play even a portion of the time, it will make a big difference in your ability to be present and work on family relationships.

You can’t be Present until you learn to leave work at work.

Physical Connection Matters!

I have a friend, Ann, who has taught children with special needs for 16 years. I have been in her classroom, and she is terrific. But this year, she retired, and her kids miss her.

We were talking recently about her retirement. 2020 was tough because they could not touch the kids because of Covid. Remember that these are special needs kids, and there was no hugging, no touching, no patting backs, or rubbing shoulders. No sitting by the kids, no connection. WOW! She said that by mid-year, her class was chaos. There were more tantrums, arguments, and problems than she had experienced in her fifteen previous years.

Then she made an executive decision. She decided that she would touch the kids. She would wear a mask, but she would physically connect. Guess what happened? Within two weeks, the chaos and problems were 95% better.

Did you catch that number, a 95% reduction in tantrums and chaos? We all need a physical connection. It doesn’t matter if we are special needs, spouses, friends, neighbors; it doesn’t matter. We need a physical connection with our world and the people in it.  I have known for years, and I have taught that parents need to touch their kids more often, and it can be done without adding time to your day. I call it RANDOM TOUCH.

Currently, I am getting some re-education in this powerful concept myself. My mom has Alzheimer’s and lives with me. Recently her dog, Little Girl, died after being mom’s companion for seventeen years. Mom was in a funk. In talking with a friend, I was reminded about random touch and that it might be a valuable tool in helping my mom. So, I have been testing it out. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the outcome.

I love my mom, and she loves me, but she isn’t a touchy-feely person, and neither am I. I don’t recall being hugged or snuggled as a kid. As a parent, I had to remind myself constantly to touch my kids. I wasn’t always successful. In fact, I still must remind myself to hug my kids, grands, and friends. But I know how much it matters, and I am better at it.

I can see that my mom is responding to the increased touching. My mother is calmer; we have better conversations; she gets dressed earlier and turns on her light. Hugging my mom more has softened me; I am more tender. Does that sound like something that might be useful with any of your kids?

I want to emphasize that touching your children matters when they’re small; it matters, even more, when they’re a youth, and it will continue to matter when they’re adults.

Random touch – what is it, and what does it look like

Random touches are just that, random. They don’t require any reason for the touch or hug. They happen whenever you’re close to your child.

Here are a few examples of what a random touch looks like in real life:
• If you see your child sitting on the couch, at the table, on their bed, or anywhere, stop, sit close to them, stay for 20–30 seconds, squeeze a knee or give a quick hug, and go on your way. No need to say a word.
• When you go into your child’s room to wake them up, hug them. Don’t stand in the hall and yell, “Get up.” Instead, go in; give a gentle shake to the shoulder and a hug. Say, “Hey, buddy. It’s time to get up.” It will take a few more seconds than yelling from the hall but remember to stay out of management mode and build your relationship instead.
• As you walk through a room or down the hall and see one of your children, look them in the eye and smile. Touch them on their back, arm, or shoulder as they pass by. Don’t say anything; just give a squeeze or a pat. You can do this a dozen times a day and use up only a few minutes.
• When you’re moving from one room to another (as you go through your day) and see one of your children, make a slight detour. Grab your child and tickle them for a few moments, just long enough to get a little tussle going. Then gently punch a shoulder or tousle a head and move on.
• Hold your child’s hand when you’re walking together or keep your hand on their back or shoulder for a few moments at a time.
• Rub your child’s back while sitting in church, in the doctor’s waiting room, and so on.

Random touches are an effective tool for connecting in astounding ways with your children. Random touch helps reduce the need for discipline, opens pathways to short conversations, melts stony hearts, and bonds children to parents. I want you to understand how powerful this one skill can be in changing the dynamics of your family. It’s easy to do, takes only moments, and practically shouts “You matter” to your child. It was shouting that to my mom, and it shouted ‘you matter’ to my friend’s classroom of special needs kids.

Respect their boundaries if you have a child or youth who doesn’t like to be touched. Remember that I was a bit touch adverse, but I still wanted to connect in meaningful ways, and so do your children. Experiment to find out what is acceptable to your child. For example, a teen may not want to be hugged but may allow you to rub their back.

Experiment with random touch and I know you will be

amazed at the result!

What Makes a Memory That Matters?

What Makes a Great Memory

My adult children stay very connected via a video chat app. They talk about all kinds of things, health, work, kids, weather, holidays, etc. But, just this week, they were discussing a topic that blew me away – a jar of buttons and books of stickers. This conversation blew me away because I had no knowledge that these two items from our home had such a significant impact on all of them, from the oldest to the youngest.

When I was a young mom, stickers became a thing. You could buy stickers in the store that depicted animals, cartoon characters, flowers, etc. Before that, it was primarily stickers to use on charts in school, for chores, and garage sales.

I was fascinated with the stickers and created a couple of sticker books over the next few years. My kids would look at them for hours. However, when I moved, all the kids had gone from home except Kate, so I let them go. Some years later, Seth asked me if he could have them because he had enjoyed them so much. But alas, they were gone. I didn’t know until this sibling conversation that Seth has been collecting stickers ever since, and some are well over 20 years old.

What began the conversation was Kate, my youngest, telling me that my granddaughter, Tessa, is into stickers. Kate was hoping that I still had the books and that Tessa could have them. Marie, my middle daughter, reminded me that she had also asked for the books some years ago.

WHAT! Who would have thought that something as simple as sticker books created by me and shared by my children would have touched the hearts of all my kids enough that three of them asked if they could have them?

Then someone mentioned the gallon of buttons that we had. They all said that they loved dumping them out on the carpet and sorting the buttons. I can recall Kate and Barry pouring over the pile as they worked together. Who has a gallon of buttons anyway? Well, I did because my grandmother had one, and I loved sorting the buttons. But, unfortunately, that went during our move to Utah too.

A couple of years ago, Marie told me that Matilda loved buttons and hoped I still had that gallon jar of them. I didn’t, so I created her a jar, but a gallon of buttons is hard to find, so it was a quart. Then, her older brother, Parker, fell in love with buttons, and I made him a quart.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT MEMORY?

The world is filled with things we can buy for our kids—toys, technology, clothes, and gadgets. There are many places that we can take them—theme parks, water parks, grand vacations. We live in a world influenced by media, which says that good parents give their kids ___________.

There isn’t anything wrong with taking our children on cool trips or buying them a special toy or piece of clothing, but in the final analysis, no matter what we think, it won’t be any of those things that our children will remember with the most fondness. Instead, it will be the simple, family things.

When I was writing my book, Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your children in five minutes or less, I did some unscientific research on this very thing. I asked my adult children and their spouses what their fondest memories were from childhood. Here are a few shortened responses:

Jenny—“Playing with the big jar of buttons!”
Marie—“I remember loving to look at your sticker books.
Barry—“I loved sitting in the dark with the Christmas lights on in the living room.”
Seth—“I loved New Year’s Eve and the cheese and meat tray that we ate while sitting on the floor watching a movie.
Jodie—“My most cherished memories are of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I loved all the little traditions we had, from the way we decorated to making gingerbread houses to what we ate.”
Kate—“I remember when you stood up, not saying a word when I fell during a cheer contest. I knew you were silently saying, ‘Get up. You can do it.’”
Andrew—“I remember working with Dad in the crawl space. I don’t think either of us actually liked going down there, but we did like working together.”

I also put the question of fond memories to my daughter-in-law, siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. Here are a few of their responses:

Cindy (a sister)—“I remember mom reading us a chapter each night from Old Yeller. I loved the inflections in her voice, that undivided time with her, and the comfort of our warm bed.”
Deidra (a niece)—“My mom used to sell Avon, and she would keep all the big boxes her orders came in. We used the boxes to make houses to play in. It was so fun!”
Nanette (a sister)—“Mom helped me sew a dress for 4H. It was so cool and had pom poms on the hem. I was constantly breaking the sewing machine, and she would always get it working again. I won 1st place and went to state. To this day, I sew because she taught me.”

Are you getting the picture? It’s interesting to note that most of these happy and pleasant memories are of events that happened in the course of daily living. Not one respondent mentioned a fancy toy, a fancy vacation to a memorable place, name-brand clothes, a cool car the family had, the size of their home, or where their home was. No one mentioned the great lessons or classes they took. No one said Little League or other teams they played on. Not one.

Memories Come from simple Things at Home

It isn’t just little kids who love being at home whose memories and happiness hinge on simple everyday things. 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. These kids and young adults were ages thirteen to twenty-four ((Associated Press, “Youth Happiness Study,” 2).

My favorite response to my question about memories that mattered came from my sweet daughter-in-law, Kendra. She said, “Something I’ll always cherish from my childhood was the time my parents spent with me outdoors, going to the beach, hiking, fishing, swimming, and letting me be a kid. It was something we often did because it didn’t cost much, but to me, it was the greatest thing ever. In fact, one time, my dad took me to Disneyland, and I asked him if we could leave and go to the beach. I look back on that now and think that must have both surprised him and probably made him wish he had saved all that money.”

A Gallon of Buttons and Sticker Books. Amazingly enough, these things said ‘family’ to my children. They said, “You are part of something bigger than yourself, and you belong here.”

Tips for Lasting Memories

If you want your kids to have wonderful and lasting memories that they will talk about decades from now:

    • Stay home more
    • Spend less money
    • Be on screens less
    • Keep life simpler

All these items are a challenge in today’s world but will be worth the effort in the long run and will bless your children and their children.

Let your friends know that memories come from the simple things

we do in our family. 

Experiments to Improve Family Relationships

Experiments to Improve Family Relationships

 

A few years ago, I mentored a mom who has four children. I had known this woman for a while, and we were friends. She is a great mom and a wonderful person. At one of our sessions, we talked about her relationship with her 17-year-old daughter.

My friend was answering some thoughtful questions about “how” she is when she is with her daughter. She realized that she was often too critical and that their conversations were usually about chores and schoolwork even though her daughter has things she wants to share. The seventeen-year-old wanted to talk with her mom but she didn’t seem to know when the time was right. She chose to share when her mom was working, getting ready to go somewhere, or helping another child. They wanted to spend more time together, but they were both often tired and on edge. To avoid blow-ups they avoided each other.

Experimenting With Making a Change

When mentoring I often ask my client to pick one or two things that they would most like to see changed in the relationship with someone that matters to them. Then I ask them to come up with an experiment to see what might happen to the relationship.

I love experiments because they are just that, experiments. They are designed for the purpose of seeing if you can get a certain result by doing something new or different. Sometimes the experiment is successful and sometimes it isn’t. When you don’t get the desired result, you just design a new experiment. No failure here.

This mom came up with an experiment to increase the time she and her daughter spent talking and to decrease the time they feel tired and at odds with one another.

I want you to remember that this girl is 17, almost 18 years old. I work mostly with children from infancy to 12 or 13. Nevertheless, the mom tried using a connection technique that I teach all the time to use with children. For one week she was going to give her daughter as many random touches as she could remember.

A random touch looks like this:

• As you walk past the child you reach out and touch them in a friendly way while smiling. No conversation is necessary.
• If you see a child sitting on the couch, a bed, or any place like that, you plop down by them, lean back, and rest for 10 to 30 seconds. Then you squeeze a knee or pat a shoulder and go on your way. No conversation is necessary.

The Result of the Experiment

Here is what came out of the experiment. The relationship felt better. They spent more time together even when tired. Mom was more aware. The daughter talked and mom listened more. My friend and client said that looking at the relationship and asking questions about it helped her to be more conscientious about the fact that the relationship was more important than the management part of parenting. She also said she felt more purposeful in the relationship. She was keenly aware of what she wanted the relationship with her daughter to look and feel like.

After a few weeks of the experiment, she and her daughter had four weeks left of life as they had known it. Her daughter was graduating and moving into a new phase of life. She was leaving home to work for the summer. She and her mom decided to go to lunch once a week for the final four weeks. They were really looking forward to it despite being at odds just a few weeks earlier.

In a family, relationships trump just about everything else. How we see people matters. Our stories about them and their behavior impact how we, as adults, treat them. It doesn’t take much to “shift” a relationship into calmer and more peaceful waters. I like to remember that it isn’t the big things that make relationships firm and comfortable. It is the small and simple things we do on a consistent basis.

Questions To Ask About Your Relationship with Your Child

Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself about the relationship you have with each of your children:

• What is the primary conversation you have with the child? What are you talking about?
• What is the energy/mood between the two of you most of the time?
• What assets does the child bring to the relationship?
• Are there behaviors that block the relationship?
• What are you tolerating in the relationship? A toleration is anything that is draining your energy.

Now design an experiment to try something new. Remember that it is an experiment. You don’t know how it will turn out and that is OK. If you don’t get the result you want, design a new experiment. Like any good scientist, you will eventually find what works!

Share this exciting information with those you care about. Not everyone knows they can experiment.

Encouraging Creativity and Creative Thinking in Children

“When art teacher Kandy Dea recently assigned fourth graders in her Walnut, Iowa, classroom to create a board game to play with a friend, she was shocked by one little boy’s response: He froze. “While his classmates let their imaginations run wild making up colorful characters and fantasy worlds, the little boy repeatedly said, “I can’t think of anything,” Ms. Dea says. Although she reassured him that nothing he did would be judged “wrong,” he tried to copy another student’s game, then asked if he could make a worksheet instead. She finally permitted him to make flashcards with right-and-wrong answers.

“Americans’ scores on a commonly used creativity test fell steadily from 1990 to 2008, especially in the kindergarten through sixth-grade age group, says Kyung Hee Kim, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The finding is based on a study of 300,000 Americans’ scores from 1966 to 2008 on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, a standardized test that’s considered a benchmark for creative thinking.”

The above story and test results came from an article in the Wall Street Journal on December 15, 2010, A Box? Or A Spaceship? What Makes Kids Creative.  I am not particularly interested in test results, and I don’t place a lot of credence on tests themselves. However, as a mom, grandmother, and teacher, I have certainly seen this trend. Some children seem to have more difficulty being creative now than when I was a kid.

Some researchers feel that the growing amount of time children spend on screens has decreased their ability to be creative and to enjoy playtime. Others think that children today have as much creativity as ever but that public schools get a D in encouraging it. The belief is that schools are doing an inferior job of encouraging and supporting creativity in children.

As parents, it would be good to have some ideas about supporting and encouraging our children’s creative thinking. Right? I have to laugh at that. In my day, what our parents did to encourage and support our creativity, was to send us outside and say “go play,” and we did. We had a lot of creative play. We made up games, invented terrific machines, made mud cakes, ran and skipped and hopped and created jump rope games, etc. That is how my parents did it. But today is a new day, a new time, so here are some ways you can encourage creative thinking.

Five Tips to Encourage Creativity

Tip 1 – Solving problems is a way to practice and encourage creativity.
Have family councils. Let your children in on problems that need to be solved. Allow them to voice their ideas. Listen to them with respect. Avoid the tendency to decide that their answers are wrong or silly, or naive. On the contrary, you may be surprised at what great ideas they come up with. I might also add that when answers to problems come from the children in the family, they are much more on board with putting the ideas into practice.

Maybe in your family council, you mention that your elderly neighbor is sick and needs help. What can you do to help her? Your children might volunteer to shovel her walks, water her yard, or sit with her and read; things they might not be willing to do if the idea came from you.

In your council, you might mention that you aren’t sure that you can save enough money for the annual trip to the family reunion, and you wonder what ideas they have to solve the problem. Some may suggest jobs they can do for neighbors, allowance money they can save and donate to the cause, or heaven forbid, they might even be willing to cut off cable for a while. LOL

Tip 2 – Thinking, discussing, and voicing an opinion are ways to encourage creative thought.
Have “mini-conversations” with your children about current events, historical events, books that you are reading. Don’t dumb it down for your children. Make your open-ended questions and comments age-appropriate but dare to talk to your children about things that matter. Even four-year-olds have a viewpoint on what happens in their world.

Tip 3 – Listening to your children’s ideas and valuing them as worthwhile is a great way to encourage creativity in your children. It gives them the courage to keep on thinking.

Refrain from judging your kids’ ideas. I think about Connor, the science-loving kid who started Connors Kits for Kids, an online company that makes kid-friendly science kits for kids. When all he was interested in was science, his parents didn’t freak out. They didn’t think, “Oh my gosh, he has to learn math and reading.” Instead, they came on board with his interest, and he and they bought a lot of science kits. Then, when Connor decided that most kits were not worth the money and wanted to find a way to provide great kits for kids that worked, his parents listened and helped him figure out how to do it. He was in fourth grade!

Tip 4 – Children are naturally creative in their play. Let them play, and amazing results happen.
I loved this example of encouraging children’s creativity from the Wall Street Journal article. “When Maureen Dougherty’s three kids were small, she and her husband Brian encouraged them to make up their own lyrics and dances to nursery rhymes, says Ms. Dougherty, of Stephens City, Va. Hearing Mr. Dougherty and the kids laughing one night, years ago, Ms. Dougherty opened the door to find them stumbling around with their eyes closed, singing original lyrics to ‘The Three Blind Mice.’

“After inventing spontaneous lyrics for years, their children, now 14, 18, and 20, enjoy public speaking and can think of things to say right off the cuff,” Ms. Dougherty says.

Tip 5 – Don’t focus on the outcome.
Adults tend to be outcome-driven, but for children, it is the process that counts. Creativity is in the process of doing. If it fails, then they will try something else if you don’t fall apart. Permit them to fail, and in the long run, they will succeed.

It is helpful to realize that if you raise creative children, they may not always behave like other children. They will feel free to talk, express their ideas; they will be bolder, more courageous. But, unfortunately, this way of being can land them and you in trouble. You will have to be brave and face up to what you have raised. Like me, you may get a pink slip from school stating that you’re 6-year-old is insubordinate. That experience made me laugh. Imagine six and insubordinate. And my grandson, Ben, is not your ordinary 9-year-old. He talks a lot about all the things he is learning. It annoys some adults.

I end with this delightful story from one of my own creative children, the insubordinate six-year-old, Jenny.

In the mid-’80s, flannel shirts were in. I sewed quite a few of them in my size. My six-year-old daughter Jenny loved my shirts and started wearing them to school. Of course, they were way too big for her, actually like a short dress. She solved her problem by pinning them at the neck with a large safety pin. Yikes, she looked like a street urchin; and yes, I had made some in just her size! I just said, “Oh well.” She had solved the problem to her liking and was happy with the result. She wore one of my shirts to school every day.

It wasn’t too many days later that I was called into the school to visit the teacher. She wanted to know if everything was OK at our home; was our money situation OK. (This was a small school, in a tiny town!) I got what was up right away and explained to her what Jenny was doing. The teacher was worried that the pin might pop open during playtime and that Jenny might get stuck. “Well, if that happens, I suspect she will change her wardrobe,” I responded. Jenny wore those ridiculous shirts for a few more weeks. Then she decided that they hampered her ability to play ball and other games, and her wardrobe did change. P.S. That fire dancer in the meme above is that insubordinate six-year-old who wore her mother’s flannel shirts. : )

Raising creative children is an adventure worth having.

Let other moms and dads know that kids who are not run of the mill grow into great adults.

Choose to Let Go of Suffering

Today, August 6, 2021, I finished reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for the second time. The first was when I was a young woman in my forties. Now I have read it as a much older woman. I have to admit that my life’s experiences have made it much more meaningful than when I first read it. After all, you can’t know till you get there. : )

I certainly haven’t passed away and entered Heaven or Hell, but I have had far more experience with what the people in the story experienced while on earth.

On the back of the book, it says, “… comes to some significant realizations about the nature of good and evil.” However, I was more moved by the knowledge that, yes, in this life, we often choose to suffer. Here are a few phrases from the book that confirmed that.

“There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery.”

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it.”

“That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that, we begin living.”

Back in 2015, I wrote an article about this very topic. This book so moved me in that regard that I looked it up. I am re-sharing it here, updated, because understanding that I was free to choose to suffer or not has been life-changing for me. It will be so for you too. I will put 2021 in front of what I add to the original article. After all, it has been six years, and I will have learned more. : )

Choose to Let Go of Suffering

I have a friend who is very dissatisfied with parts of her life. She is filled with disappointment, dissatisfaction, resentment, and frustration. Some of her struggles are the same as mine, so I have shared how I have learned to be happy, even though life and people can be disappointing. Recently she said, “Well, you are just settling.” I have given this much thought, and here is what is true – I am choosing to let go of suffering. I am choosing to be happy by choosing how I will respond to my circumstances.

2021 – I know that I am 100% in control of how I respond. Knowing this has changed my life because it has moved me from being a victim to having personal power in how I look at things and react to situations.

Embracing Serenity

I love the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. It hung in my childhood home for many years, and I read it often. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now.

The philosopher W.W. Bartley juxtaposes Niebuhr’s prayer with a Mother Goose rhyme (1695) expressing a similar sentiment:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

Serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. How often have you longed for that state of mind? Did you know it is a choice and not the result of your circumstances?

Making the Choice to Let Go of Suffering!

My marriage has been a good one. I love my husband, and he loves me. But some things caused me to feel resentment, frustration, dissatisfaction, and disappointment. Too many things! Sometimes I suffered. I would hold on to those moments of suffering and bring them out whenever I needed to remind myself why I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be.

As I got older and wiser, I wanted to ‘see differently’ what was happening or had happened. I began praying about the issue. Then, one day while driving to an appointment, I had this thought come into my mind – “You have suffered by choice.” I was stunned. What in the heck did that mean?

So, I asked out loud. “Heavenly Father, I don’t get that at all. Show me what that looks like,” and He did. I had a memory come clearly into my mind. I could see my husband’s actions and mine, and I saw that I chose to suffer. Yikes. I began from that moment to go back into my memory bank, to all the places where I had felt hurt, disappointed, etc., and examine them through this new lens. It became clear to me that I had chosen to suffer when I could have chosen peace instead. My response to what was happening made all the difference.

Not long ago, I read a fantastic book, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is…: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson. She went on a journey in letting go of resentment, frustration, and disappointment. Laura chose a path of happiness in the most challenging time of her life. It confirmed what I had learned for myself, that we can choose happiness even when we are sure we are being wronged. (WARNING: This book does use the F word a lot but was an excellent read.)

What Does Letting Go of Suffering Look Like?

Let me share some mundane examples of choosing to let go of suffering.

All my life I have wanted a bed with beautiful bed pillows. It wasn’t possible for me to have this in my family of origin for many reasons. When I was newly married, it wasn’t a real option either. However, I did come to a place where I could finally have them. But my husband doesn’t want to move a big pillow to take a nap, rest after work, or when he goes to bed. He can’t see the point. Mostly, he isn’t aware whether they are on the bed or not. He doesn’t see them. They aren’t even part of his thinking.

It has been a huge irritation to me for quite a few years. I always get up earlier than Don. He will make the bed but never puts the bed pillows on. When I come into the room, I put them on, and when I come in next, his pillow has been removed so that he can rest or nap. As I look at the gap where the bed pillow should be, I feel resentment and frustration build up. It is disappointing!!! If he loved me, he would put those pillows on the bed, right! Grrrr. You all know exactly how this feels!

So here is what I decided to do. I decided to stop suffering. When I get up in the morning, while Don is still sleeping, I make my side of the bed, putting my wonderfully beautiful bed pillow in place. When Don gets up, he makes his side of the bed, and his bed pillow stays propped against the wall. Every time I walk into the bedroom now, I feel happy. There is the bed pillow I always wanted right where I want it, on my side of the bed. I know that some of you are saying to yourselves, “How tacky is that. She is settling!” I get it, but I have decided not to suffer. I am in control of my response. I am happy with my bed pillow, and it feels great!

2021 – This year, I gave these beautiful pillows away to my daughter, who loves them. I didn’t need them anymore. I have moved to a new place. I am grateful that I haven’t spent the last six years angry and frustrated at Don over a pillow. That would have been a terrible waste of energy, and it would have been hard on our relationship. Having a kinder, more profound connection with Don has always been more important to me than bed pillows, no matter how lovely. I am grateful that six years ago, I made a choice to put my relationship above them. It has made ALL the difference.

I have also always wanted beautiful towels in the bathroom that never get used. They just hang there and look beautiful. Raising seven children and growing up the oldest of nine, you know that there were NEVER unused towels in the bathroom.

So, when all our children left home, I thought, “Now is the time.” Wrong! My husband just can’t understand the idea of unused towels in the bathroom or taking the extra steps to use the hook on the bathroom door. So here is how our bathroom towel rack looks – one used towel, unfolded, drying. Very convenient and very “not decorative”!

I have to say this caused no small amount of disappointment and frustration in me for a long time. First, I resented that I couldn’t have what I wanted because my husband stood in my way! Then, when I went into the bathroom, I would see that towel rack with its unfolded towel and remember that I never got nice decorative towels, and then I would feel disappointment and frustration. I wasn’t happy!

When I decided to stop suffering, this is what I did. I acquired a small shelf which I put in my bathroom. I got it from my mom. I trifold the towels and keep them color-coordinated, and it looks terrific. When I am in the bathroom doing whatever, I look at the towel rack, and it feels so lovely. It is perfect. I don’t mind Don’s unfolded towel or the fact that my color-coordinated towels aren’t hanging up. When I go into the bathroom, I see that I have this orderly, beautiful rack of towels. It feels satisfying to me.

2021 – Since writing this, we have moved again. In our tiny bathroom, there is NO towel rack. None. We have two hooks on the wall. My beautiful green towels are hanging there, drying or awaiting the next shower. I am so glad I didn’t live with frustration over having towels hang a certain way to feel content. If I had, I might not feel as good now when I have no towel rack at all. I still have this small antique shelf which looks very near the same today as it did in 2015. And looking at it still brings me a feeling of contentment.

2021 – I had another experience with letting go of suffering in 2016. It was such a clear example of how we burden our most important relationships when we choose to suffer over things we think matter but which, in reality, are not truly important.

Don is a gadget-man. He bought a new stovetop grill at the county fair and was excited to use it. The
following day was Sunday, and we needed to get to an important reception right after church. I said, “Honey, there isn’t time to grill chicken today and make it to the reception. You’ll have to do
it tomorrow.”

After church, Don was nowhere to be seen. I knew he had left early to go home and grill chicken! Sure enough, when I got home, the grill was on, and he was cooking. When we got to the reception, they were cleaning up. The bride and groom had left. We ate at a table alone while others cleaned up around us. I was so angry!

I chose to feel angry because I decided that his grilling was either because he didn’t listen to what I had said or he didn’t care. I held onto this upset feeling as we drove to the reception and ate in silence. I held on to my ill feelings as we went home and for a chunk of the evening.

Finally, I grew tired of my self-inflicted unhappiness. I asked Don, “Remember when I said
there wasn’t time to grill chicken today. I can think of two reasons why you went ahead and did it. Either you didn’t hear what I said this morning, or you didn’t care what I wanted. But I know you, and you
love me. You’re not insensitive. So, there must be a reason I haven’t thought of.”

He looked at me with a stricken face and replied, “Gosh Mary, I thought I could do it in time. I thought the whole thing would take thirty minutes. I didn’t know it would take so long.”

I had to laugh because I could tell from his poor face, he had believed it would only take thirty minutes and was shocked to find out it took longer.

At that moment, I wished I had chosen to let go of suffering earlier. We could have felt better as we drove to and from the reception. We could have had more genuine enjoyment talking to the bride and groom’s family and sending our love to the newlyweds through their families. We could have enjoyed that cake as we spoke with those of our friends clearing up. So, you see, it could have turned out better despite our lateness if I had chosen to let go of suffering.

Will You Let The Thieves of Joy Into Your Home?

Bed pillows, bath towels, and receptions are not very important. But this principle of choosing happiness, of choosing to let go of suffering, of changing what you can and accepting with grace what you can’t, works in things that do matter. It comes up over and over in my mentoring; the need to be correct, to prove that we have been inconvenienced, the need to let others know we have been wronged, wanting to make sure others know how we have sacrificed for them, to name a few. Disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction, and frustration are the thieves of joy! You can let these thieves into your home or not. It is your choice.

I have given you some examples of the mundane. But I have used this knowledge in the vitally important. I have healed my feelings about old wrongs, embarrassing moments, out and out rudeness and unkindness, out of sorts relationships, and even abuse.

One of my favorite books, as a 16-year-old, was by Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. It has multiple lessons on its pages, but one of the biggest is that you have a choice in every circumstance. It all comes down to your response. There are two quotes that I can still remember now, almost 50 years later.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Taking responsibility for our happiness is wonderfully empowering. When we know that we control our satisfaction, we can choose our response more consistently. We can act and not be acted upon!

I can fight with my husband over bed pillows and towels or not. I can feel resentment and disappointment every time I go into the bedroom/bathroom or not. It is up to me. And frankly, I choose to take responsibility for my response; I choose to let go of suffering. I choose peace!

I hope you will do the same. : )

Creating a Refuge for Your Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACTIVE LISTENING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share ‘how to’ with a friend.

Simple Isn’t Always Easy

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a friend and mentee. We were talking about some concepts found in my book, Becoming a Present Parent. She said, “The problem with your book is it’s so simple. I loved it when I read it, and it was all so doable. Then two months later, in an overwhelmed moment, I asked myself, ‘Can it really be this simple.'”

I laughed. I have asked myself the same thing over the years. It’s natural to feel that we have to do some great, fantastic, out of the ordinary thing to fix whatever is causing us overwhelm or pain in our families.

Just this week, I read an article on how to better manage irritations in marriage. The writer gave a simple and straightforward example of how we can get into trouble when someone falls short of our expectations. It was laughable when I considered the angst the couple was feeling and the simple solution the writer proposed. But there it was. I knew that if the couple followed the proffered advice, they would manage better. 

The author didn’t suggest learning to communicate better, going on weekly dates, getting away without the kids, etc. No, he suggested they forgive one another their failings. I have been married fifty years, and that counsel rang true to me because I have experienced its truth.

Here is the rub – simple does not always equate to easy.

Forgiving someone for not being perfect or not meeting our expectations isn’t easy, but it certainly is simple. Far simpler than figuring out how to get away for a few days without the kids. More doable, long term, than going on a date every week. And frankly, more effective than talking, no matter how good we are at communicating.

That is what my friend was really saying – “I know it is simple, but it isn’t always easy. I have to bend a bit. I am required to think differently. I must change.”

That is what my book is all about – making subtle changes in how we see what we already do every day—making use of those moments when we would typically have contention and instead create a connection. When we approach chores, bedtimes, homework, and meals together with a better story, we get a better result. We do. It is that simple.

But it isn’t always easy because rather than blaming the kids or our spouse, we have to come face to face with ourselves. We need to do something different. We must change. Irritating, isn’t it. We would rather have someone else change. But the truth is, we only have control over one person, ourselves.

I first learned this concept when I was sixteen and reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. He said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves…Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” I didn’t understand it then, and it took me decades to understand, but I never forgot.

Here is something else I have learned from my own experience. When we are willing to change how we think, see, or behave, the results are successful and worth the effort. It is always worth it!

It’s FREE

If you want to understand what I am talking about when I say you must come face to face with yourself and then make a small shift in how you think, read Chapter four of my book. It’s FREE, and it is one of the best and most enlightening chapters in the book. I did that on purpose because if that is all you ever read and implement; it will be life-changing!

Why not share this FREE chapter with a friend who could use a lift, a reason to change, and simple information on how to do it. : )