Tag: connecting with kids

Do You Have a ‘Family Thing’?

Every mother struggles to bring all that she has to the family table. We all want to teach our children to be kind, to have manners, to be honest, to do their chores, to share, and on and on. We also want to teach skills that can help them as adults. We desire to encourage them to develop talents for the joy of it. It can feel daunting.

But there is something else that many of us struggle with; we want to have meaningful ‘family learning’, where our families connect and where the connection we create is passed down. That can often seem even more challenging because of the time and effort it can take. This is not something that we can give to our children by our example or our way of being.

I am talking about what we do as a family that is uniquely our own, that is passed on because we did them together and they became part of us. Today we are going to tackle this sticky wicket and see how it can be done, even if you have felt that you are failing at this or if you don’t even get what I’m talking about. : )

THE MAGALEI FAMILY THING

I want to introduce you to my friend Quincy Magalei, a homeschooling mom. We met via the internet. Years ago, Quincey discovered my blog and then bought my book, Becoming a Present Parent. She signed up to receive my newsletter and followed me through the years, reading what I wrote.

Quincy has seven children. Last year she and her husband took over the care of two newborns with severe special needs. They require a vast amount of time and need willing hands and hearts to care for them. That is when I heard from Quincy in person. She knew it was going to be more than she could manage alone and felt she should set a few things in place so the chances of success would be greater.

Quincy knew she and her husband would be very short on sleep and time. The babies were needy and on oxygen. There were going to be lots of doctors’ appointments and therapy. How to do this and still homeschool? Quincy reached out to me for friendship, ideas, and a safe place to talk.

This last December, in one of our conversations, Quincy mentioned a concert that she and her children were giving in Heber City, Utah. That would be an eighty-minute drive from my home, into the mountains, and at night. : ) But there was no snow, which was unusual, so I decided to attend.

The concert was held at the Wasatch County Senior Center, which also houses the library. A perfect place. There was a good crowd on that night because of the lack of snow. : ) The concert was amazing. There was audience participation, amazing vocals, musical numbers, and good-hearted joking around. Quincy played the piano, as did some of the children. Her husband played guitar and ukulele. The children played guitars and violins. Her twelve-year-old son, Ezra, did some beatboxing and he was good! He began learning this skill at age nine. Asher, one of the 6-year-old twins sang with the Bigs because he loves singing. Ehli has a natural talent but is not yet as engaged. However, he participates because this is a family thing, it’s what they do!

I enjoyed myself thoroughly, as did my mom. I will attend other concerts they give because it was worth the drive. It was wonderful to observe a family doing their thing together. It was moving to see them connecting. It was hopeful to see what a father and mother can do together when they want to share something with their kids, despite the odds against it.

After the concert, I asked Quincy how in the world did her children learn to sing like this, play instruments, and perform together. I really wanted to know. I didn’t think I had done anything like this with my family. Why not? I could sing. My husband played an instrument. Did we fail?

She said the whole idea was born years ago because she wanted to give her children a chance to learn music and then provide a place for them to perform. But how? It was intimidating and would require time and effort. Then she saw another family singing together and was astonished. She had no idea that was even possible, all the littles to bigs, performing together. This pricked her heart and gave her hope and 20 years later her family is doing the same. It wasn’t easy. They were homeschooling seven children. Her husband worked. But the desire to do something as a family was strong, they loved music, and it helped them overcome the barriers.

When they lived in Oregon they performed in the homes of widowers/widows and for older couples they knew from church. When they moved to Utah, they continued the tradition. Then they were asked to sing at the senior center. Quincey began setting up concerts. They honed their gifts, talents, and skills as a family, over time. I want to tell you they are GOOD and sang one song that was so challenging I couldn’t believe they were doing it!

Quincy said that this concert, where all her family was together, was the highlight of her life and worth the time and effort. She told me she was proud of what they had accomplished as a family. I loved these words from her – “It demonstrates the synergy of working with God and trusting yourself; then watching the results while being sustained by grace in every moment.”

Despite the uphill battle and the addition of two special needs babies as they began working on last year’s concert, she said her efforts were magnified in a way she had hoped and prayed for. As she said, “God makes us more than we are alone and fills our hearts and souls in the process.”

But what about me and the fact that I didn’t teach my children to sing or play instruments when Don and I could have? I was a self-taught professional cake decorator too. I made fabulous wedding cakes which were my specialty. But I never taught my kids. Two of my daughters went on to teach themselves and I am proud of them. I was also a terrific seamstress, but I only taught my last two children to sew. Hmmm, did I fail my family? This is a question I have heard other women ask themselves when they see what other families have accomplished. This is a question we each need to examine.

OUR FAMILY THING

Every Sunday for many years, after church, I would take my children to the care center to visit the elderly. They would read to the people, tell jokes, and visit. I took them to the homes of older people and visited. We served in this way as a family often. Today, none of my children are put off by where people are at, special needs, elderly, ill, homeless. They can talk to anyone, and they do. They have hearts that are tuned to those in need.

That is why my son, Seth, is one of my granddaughter Maggie’s, favorite people. Maggie has severe cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or speak. But Seth knows how to talk to someone who can’t talk back. He isn’t the least put off by her situation. He knows that every person wants to laugh and be seen. In fact, every member of our family, even those who have come in by marriage, knows how to spend time with Maggie.

My daughter Jenny, despite a brain injury, has a master’s degree in communication science and disorders. She works with the elderly helping those with communication impairments, swallow deficits, and cognition. She has told me that her experiences at home moved her in this direction after her accident.

My daughter Jodie regularly takes her children to help the homeless. They pass out cocoa and cookies. They smile. They shake hands. They listen.

All my children serve the underprivileged, the needy, the elderly, and the ill. It was a family thing, and I didn’t even realize it at the time. It was the connecting family activity that left home with our children and is being passed down.

OTHER FAMILIES AND THEIR THINGS

Let me tell you about another mom that I just met a couple of months ago, Emily. She cuts my hair in her home studio. At one appointment the Magalei family came up in our conversation and Emily lamented that she wished she had time to do something like that for her kids. She is a very good seamstress and felt like a bit of a failure because she hasn’t made time to teach this skill to her children. : ) Then our conversation moved on.

I discovered that this family hikes. She said that even her three-year-old is a great hiker. They have hiked in many places. They do it whenever they want to be together as a family. They all love it. She and her husband have taught their kids how to enjoy the outdoors and be safe. I told her that this is a legacy as powerful as what Quincy has given her children or what I gave to mine. It just happens on different stages. Quincy’s family is on a stage in a community center. Emilie’s is on the side of a mountain, and for my family, it is in the halls of the ill and afflicted.

Another mother I know has a son who was obsessed with rocks. It became their family thing. They went to digs and planed vacations around where rocks could be found. They collected, sorted, and displayed them. They spent time in mineral and geology museums. They had constant family conversations on the subject. This is what they did as a family.

Another family I know skies together. They spend whatever time they can every winter skiing. And when possible, do it on the water in the summer. This is their family thing.

I didn’t realize what our family thing was at the time. It would have been helpful to me to have figured that out. I would have been more confident in the job I was doing. It was helpful to my hairdresser, Emily, when she realized that they did have something that was a family thing.

So, I am asking you. What do you do to connect as a family? It is there if you look at where you spend your time together. Is it something that bonds and connects you as a family? If not, then what would accomplish that? As you can see it doesn’t need to be 20 years of teaching your kids to sing and play on stage. So don’t be intimidated. That was Quincy’s dream. Mine was more modest, but in the end, just as meaningful.

What matters is that we have something we do regularly as a family that we all enjoy, that bonds us and helps us connect. Bowling. Skating. Sewing. Baking. Hiking. Reading together. Fishing. Hunting. Serving at nursing homes. Science. What is your family thing? Begin observing your family and your regular activities. What do you do to connect?

When you can see it, you will be comforted, that yes, you have a family thing, and it matters. You’re doing good!

The Two-edged Sword of Innovation

I like Kerry Patterson. He is a great writer and from my era, so I relate to everything he writes. Back in September 2012, Kerry wrote an article about unplugging from the workplace, the difficulty and the benefits. I saw amazing parallels for a family. In the ensuing eleven years, I have seen what Kerry shared become even more challenging.

Kerry talked about the nuclear tests that America engaged in 1951, and all the craziness that went along with that. Students were sent flying to the floor to cover the backs of their necks in case of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. They saw American soldiers in newsreels, dressed in green fatigues, toting rifles, and holding their helmets tight to their heads, walking resolutely into a cloud of nuclear dust as the latest blast rolled across the desert. It was all craziness because in 1951 we all knew about radiation, the danger, and yet the tests went on. Kerry then asked the question “What similarly insane things are we doing today?” What modern inventions have we wholly embraced, which appear to have made our lives better, but are slowly killing us? In short, what “nuclear walk” are we taking today?

Kerry and I agree on one crazy thing that is happening – our inability to unplug! Let me give you an example that I witnessed back in 2012 and still see happening today. When I first moved to Utah, I lived on the second floor of a two-story apartment building. Below us lived a wonderful family with two daughters. In front of their apartment was a large hedge that hid their patio from view. As I came up the walk one day, I saw Lisa and Patrick’s heads above the hedge. I saw no children. I called out to them, “Hey are you guys having a date?” They both looked up and answered “yes”. As I rounded the hedge to the stairway, I saw that they were playing separate games on their individual cell phones but…they were on a date.

I have mentored moms who had a hard time gathering their families together. Reading as a family was out. Watching a movie together was a struggle. Meals together were rare. They struggled to find time to be present and listen to their children. When I had these moms track how they used their time they were amazed at how much of it they spent answering emails, checking Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and dealing with other social networking sites, as well as online games they played. There were texts to respond to, videos from friends, and a plethora of things to Google. There were podcasts and audiobooks to listen to. None of these activities were bad but the time used led to a sense of dissatisfaction in their performance as mothers. They couldn’t seem to keep up. This applied to the dads I worked with as well. They not only had the social networking issues their wives had, but they also brought work home with them on laptops and cell phones. These good parents then wondered why they couldn’t connect more regularly with their children or avoid becoming angry and frustrated with them.

After our tracking exercise, I would ask “What would happen if you unplugged occasionally? What if you turned the cell phones off just during dinner? What if you didn’t check your email or Facebook until the afternoon? Would disconnecting for even an hour make your life better?” They answered yes, but I could hear the worry in their voices. They didn’t want to be out of the loop and miss something. And frankly, for some, being thus engaged felt better than doing all the jobs that parents face every day. But what would happen if we unplugged for even an hour a day? Would it make a difference in our feelings of satisfaction, in our health, in our ability to focus on the connection we want in our family? The answer is a resounding YES.

Here is a fact that Kerry shared:

Every time you stop your current task to take a text, etc., or deal with an interruption, and then return, you place the original task from short- to long-term memory, put the new job into short-term memory, and then reverse the entire process to get back on task. Completing this conceptual lifting dozens of times a day creates stress, which can lead to distress and all its attendant health problems.

Frequent interruptions can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction. Instead of working continuously for periods of an hour or more on a task that’s challenging and solvable, we purposely interrupt our flow, add stress, and make our job as a parent far less doable or enjoyable. Take listening to a fretting child or trying to soothe an ill youngster for example.

When we use our time to stay digitally connected, we often extend our day beyond healthy limits. Instead of going to bed at 10, we go at midnight because we want to finish those chores that we didn’t get done earlier. This leads to a lack of energy and eventual grouchiness and dissatisfaction with our children and life.

I worked with a mom who played three online games daily and was a prolific Facebook reader and writer. Often her Facebook messages said things like “I just can’t keep up” or “I am too busy, and my kids are so messy!” She had too many tech interruptions and let too much time pass in these activities which left her always feeling rushed and out of sorts. This didn’t help her parent well.

With the release of each innovation, there’s much to think about. As we invent and embrace new devices, we may not know the toll they’re taking on our mental, emotional, and physical health. What can we do?

  • Take control of how you spend your time.
  • Take control of your outside interruptions.
  • Make the use of technology part of your family dialogue.

When will you, your spouse, or the kids be on the computer? How much TV will any of you watch? What family times call for silencing cell phones? How many Wii or other electronic games will you play?

As Kerry suggests, “Talk openly about the two-edged sword of innovation”. Decide how and when you want to be connected and where and when you want to be interrupted. Make it a choice, not the natural extension of embracing what appears to be a helpful tool. And remember, it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. You’re not required to take a vow of digital celibacy. You don’t have to chuck your devices and neither do your kids; you just need to control them, so they don’t control you.

Have a plan and then work your plan.

I know a mom who realized that checking her computer first thing in the morning was messing up her day. She decided to turn the computer OFF each evening and then NOT turn it on again until after 12 P.M. This one thing made a world of difference. She felt more productive in the A.M. and was able to help her kids get going on their day. When you make decisions about technology you make more time for your family.

Managing technology with children especially youth, can be daunting. There are dozens of books out there on the subject because it is tough. But what if you decided to turn off all phones during one meal each day? What if computers and phones were silenced just one evening a week for one hour while you held a family council on what was coming up that week? Or what if once a month you had a family movie night and phones were not allowed? Challenging I know, but even one small thing that opens space for family conversation is valuable and will make a difference.

What is one small thing you are willing and ready to talk to your family about? What is one small change you will make?

Decide as a family and then do it!

Children Learn Best When They Are Interested!

In the next four weeks, I am going to be sharing articles I wrote over ten years ago. Why? Because they were fun, contained great information and when I reread them, I fell in love with my family all over again. I will have a current introduction to each article, but I‘m not going to adjust the information to make it appear that it is in the now. You will see people and situations as they were over a decade ago.

You know, I have been in the parenting trench for a long time. I raised my own seven and then I moved into a three-generation home. I didn’t have that 24/7 responsibility but I was still surrounded by children and the challenges, joys, and learning that come with that territory.

Now, I am in a four-generation home. It just goes on and on. LOL I think I was made for this and although sometimes I would like to be in a home with just me, Don, and quiet, well, I would miss out on much, and I would learn far less. So, enjoy these lessons from the past and the cute kids who taught them to me.

Children Learn Best When They Are Interested

Benny is two, and he loves knowing how things work! Yesterday, as I came upstairs, I saw him working with a screwdriver on the wall heat vent. He was trying to put the blade of the screwdriver into the slot on the screw head.

Of course, his motor skills aren’t developed enough for him to manage it. Then there is the issue of being strong enough to turn the screwdriver. Benny didn’t seem perturbed or discouraged about what he couldn’t do. He was totally immersed in learning at his level.

I said, “Benny, what are you doing?” He replied, “Take off.” When his motor skills catch up with his desire to work with tools, we had all better look out!!!

I am thinking about Benny today because of what happened this morning. I have been tied to my computer for a few days working on a project with a deadline.

This morning Benny climbed onto my lap and watched for a short time. Then he said, “What this” while pointing to the cord that connects my computer to the source of electricity. I responded that this cord brought electricity to the computer and that a computer had to have electricity to work. He repeated, “Electricity”.

He then pointed to the printer cord and said, “What that?” “It is a cord to the printer, Benny. It lets the computer tell the printer to go to work”. I pointed out the cursor on the screen and then hit the printer icon. Then we watched the page print.

Next, he pointed to the cord that connects the mouse to the computer. “What that?” “That is the mouse, Benny. See, when I move the mouse this little cursor moves on the screen and lets me pick what I want.” He repeated, “Cursor.” He was fascinated.

Then he pointed to the thumb drive I was using for my project. “What that?” I told him it was a thumb drive that contained pictures of family. He said, “Thumb drive”.

I moved the mouse, pointed out the cursor on the screen, and he watched while I opened the device and then the file. We took a moment or two and scrolled through the pictures while he named off the people. When we were finished looking at the pictures, he pointed to the thumb drive and wanted to start over again! Children learn best when they are interested!

Why Taking the Time to Hear Matters!

This is a perfect example of what happens when we make time to listen to children and respond to what they are currently interested in. I was listening, I heard his interest, and I responded. Then we had what I call a mini-conversation. It was tempting to say, “Benny, I can’t play right now, I am working.” But who knows when he will come again to ask about the computer.

And since when does a 2-year-old sit still and learn about something way over his head for almost 5 minutes? Anytime they are really interested.

That is the key to real learning. When a child is interested in something, they want to know more. So, it is important to resist the temptation to put off what we could do now, until later, when it feels more convenient.

The Rewards of Making Space to ‘HEAR’

We can’t always respond right now, but we should respond whenever we can; the younger the child, the more fleeting the interest and the teaching moments.

Benny won’t remember the terms he heard today. He still has no idea how any of it really works. But here is what he will remember:

  • Grandma loves him and is interested in what he is interested in.
  • Learning is fun.
  • He is never too young to ask questions about what interests him.
  • Asking questions is a good thing. Not knowing yet, is OK.

When Listening to Kids:

  • We can scale down any topic to fit the child’s age as I did with Benny.
  • We need to listen to and hear their interest
  • Watch for Sparks, your child is telling you what they want to know NOW
  • If you can’t respond now, do so as soon as you can. With children, time matters.

I enjoyed helping Benny learn more about the computer today, and it went a long way in helping us connect and share love. Remember,

Children learn best when they are interested!

6 Tips for Talking With Kids

6 Tips for Talking With Kids

I have had some GREAT conversations with kids. There are always opportunities to practice this skill, and it is a skill. Part of the reason I have these great conversations is that I work at keeping the conversation going. I want to talk with them, I want to know what they think and feel about what is going on in their lives. I want to know them better. That is what makes a great conversationalist with kids of all ages.

How to keep the conversation going 

A conversation goes much farther with a child when we do not impart our judgments or opinions. There is great value in focusing on a child’s feelings or reactions in any given situation rather than sharing what we think or feel. When we can listen without judgment, it helps kids process their emotions.

I laugh when I think of a conversation that a friend shared. She was riding in the car with her teenage daughter, and it went something like this:
“Mom”.
“What?”
“I don’t think I should have a baby now.”
“Is this a consideration?”
“I thought about it, but now I’ve realized something.”
“What’s that?”
“I only really want to buy lots of cute little baby shoes.”
“Oh, that’s very different from having a real baby.”
“Yeah, that’s what I think too.”

When this mom listened calmly, without judgment or sharing her own opinion, she found out what was really going on. It was all about cute baby shoes and not sex. She learned something about her daughter. The conversation lasted long enough to know what her daughter was really thinking.

Here is another example of listening without judgment or opinion.
“Mom, I don’t like David.”
“Hmm, why not?”
“He is dumb.”
“What happened to make you think that?”
“He pushed me off the swing.”
“Oh really? How was that for you?”
“Not good! I really wanted to swing, and it hurt my leg.”
“You didn’t get to swing.”
“No, and that wasn’t nice!”
“You got hurt?”
“Yeah! I would never do that to someone!”

Right after the words, “Mom, I don’t like David,” this mom could have begun a mini-lecture on why it isn’t nice to talk mean about our friends, and then she wouldn’t have discovered what her son was feeling or had experienced.

6 TIPS FOR TALKING WITH KIDS

  • Ask open-ended questions. “How did that work out? How do you feel about that? What do you think you can do? How was that for you?
  • Don’t offer your opinion.
  • Give fewer judgments.
  • Say fewer words.
  • Help kids find their own feelings about their experiences.
  • Rather than tell, ask.

These tips will help your child develop emotional awareness and a strong inner compass. It will help them choose their behavior even when no one is there to evaluate and give them feedback. There is always time to revisit a conversation if teaching is needed, but for now, listen, be interested, and ask good questions.

When we practice talking with our children we are better able to be present and we parent more wisely.

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.

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!

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.

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Would You Turn Back Time?

On a mature dating site commercial, a giddy woman said, “It’s just like being back in high school.” YIKES! I liked high school. It turned out okay. In my yearbook, I’m listed as “The most typical girl”. But I wouldn’t want to go back!

When I got married, I was happy. Our children were born; we loved them and learned a lot of things. Some of it was great and some was hard, but all in all, it evened out and we had fun. I was happy. But I wouldn’t go back!

There isn’t a single point in my past life that I would willingly return to. You know why? Because today I’m a better person. I know more. I’ve learned to value now what I couldn’t value when I was younger. This is the natural course of life; with experience comes wisdom.

Relationships are valuable

Last week I mentioned one of the pivotal moments in my life, playing Emily Gibbs in the play Our Town, when I was sixteen. It was pivotal because Emily learned the hard way that going back isn’t always good. Going back showed her that often we can’t “see” one another because we’re too busy doing all the things that we think matter – laundry, cooking, education, church duties, work, making money, changing the world. Emily understands for the first time that all that matters are the relationships we have.

When I’m making a big decision, I ask myself, “How will this affect my ability to nurture my current relationships?” I recently asked that question as I considered some important life choices, and I ultimately made different decisions than I might otherwise have made.

That’s the great perk of aging. We have a clearer perspective on what really matters. That’s why grandparents can be so great. That’s why they have so much fun with grandchildren. It isn’t really because we don’t have to discipline or manage our grandchildren. It’s because we truly want a relationship with them. We like them. We “see” them.

Maybe it’s because the sand is running out of our hourglass faster and faster. We’re aware that we don’t have all the time in the world. We just have now, today. That’s all. It’s all anyone has. We can fill it with “busy” or we can simplify and make room for relationships. It’s a choice!

Tips to Make Room for Relationships

  • Simplify your calendar.
  • Simplify your activities.
  • Stay home more.
  • Read as a family.
  • Turn off all the electronics and play a game.
  • Fold laundry together.
  • Eat together.
  • Talk and listen.
  • Laugh more.
  • Let stress go.

Ask yourself, “What could I let go of today to have more room for what matters most?”

One day you’ll be older. Your kids will be older. You won’t care how clean your house was, how spectacular your yard, if you homeschooled or public schooled. You won’t value the amount of money you made, how often you went to Disneyland, if your kids got a new bike every year or what college they got in to. You won’t care if they were carpenters or lawyers. You won’t care if you impacted thousands of people. What you will think about more than anything else is the condition of your relationships. That, my friends, is what you’re going to treasure most. Take time now to make them sweet.

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We Don’t Understand Do We!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Present is a skill.

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

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Are You Like The White Rabbit?

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is best?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn how to STOP being the White Rabbit

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

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