Image

Author Archive for Gayle

Living on the Edge

When my ex-husband and I were first married, we began to use a budget. I was used to saving and living a bit frugally – while my ex was more accustomed to eating out and spending much of his paycheck every month. It’s not that one is better or worse than the other – it’s just different.

One of the more common fights between couples is over how money is spent, but for some unknown reason I gave a little, he gave a little and we learned to adjust to each others spending habits, while still saving money in the long run.

However, I still stressed over some of the expenses I didn’t feel we should shoulder and he didn’t. I remember one day adding up what he was spending on lunch every week. I stood in the middle of our apartment kitchen, hands on my hips and stated – you really like living on the edge, don’t you?

It became an expression we both used any time an expense popped up that fell into a specific category of not too much to be overwhelming but more than $10.00 – one of us liked living on the edge.

Of course, it wasn’t really living on the edge, and neither of us really spent money recklessly – but I thought about that expression the other day.

When was the last time I lived life on the edge?

When was the last time I took a risk? Tried something outside my comfort zone? Rather, when was the last time I lived on the edge of what I considered home?

It had been years – and years – and it didn’t feel good. As a young woman I was used to change and making changes in my life with excitement at what the future would hold. I moved from Chicago to Indianapolis to see where a relationship would lead. It led nowhere.

I moved from a cozy little college town to Chicago to get my bachelors in nursing at a large prestigious university. My roommate from college and I moved into a great condo along Lake Shore Drive with a view of Lake Michigan after stumbling onto the lease. My hospital unit manager in Indianapolis fired me after I took a risk and didn’t call her when a child died one night because the mom asked me not to call her in.

Business ventures were tried and failed – and others succeeded.

But through most of my first decades of life, taking chances was a way of life that I embraced and enjoyed.

Today, raising the last of my four children, it feels like the right time to start living life on the edge once again.

The issue now becomes HOW to do it. What decisions are made first? What risks are worth the effort and which are those better left on the roadside?

My youngest and I joined a discipleship class about three months ago. We’ve learned a LOT, made some new friends and watched how God is moving in our lives in a very powerful way. We took a risk and it’s paying off in big dividends.

The other day I was out for a walk and God presented an opportunity I didn’t take. I didn’t take the risk that God presented – always a bad decision! – and I was again reminded I’m living a comfortable life and finding comfortable results.

Any great business person will tell you – to experience great results, many times requires big risk. The risks may not be obvious or even make you uncomfortable – but there will be risks.

The point where risks became undoable happened after the birth of my second son. Dragging around two children was much easier than three – and having four children felt like a risk in and of itself.

 

Today, risks will present themselves when God brings them into my life. In much the same way they happened before – except at that point I called it serendipity and coincidence. Today, I know better – but it doesn’t make the wait or the risk any less fun or exciting.

Living life on the edge also means being ready for failure – being able to accept the failure and move on to the next path, road, or decision.

However, the opposite side of the failure are the rewards and experiences that come with risk taking. AND, another benefit lies in the experience of the risk. The more you take, the easier the next one is, and the one after that.

Do you remember watching your children learning to walk? Each time they pulled up to stand and took a step out, they took a step in faith that at some point they would remain standing. With each failure they learned better balance, what they did wrong and they tried again.

Taking risks can be exactly like that – trying, failing and then getting up and trying again. The difference is to learn from those mistakes and after getting up to try doing it all differently. Maybe that’s where risk taking becomes scary – because failure may be inevitable, but success doesn’t come without failing, usually many more times than once.

In the next months I’m taking another risk – a business one this time. However, while it’s a new business venture, it’s not a huge risk as there isn’t much more than my time invested.

I can hear my sister yelling at me that my time is VALUABLE and I should stop de-valuing the time I spend doing anything. But, no matter how you slice it – I’ve not invested much money in this project and the time I have invested is time spent after my clients and without taking time from my daughter.

So, all told, is that really a risk?

Maybe it’s time I looked for something else to call a risk. My oldest daughter wants to move and wants me and her little sister to come along. A different part of the U.S. A new city. New friends and a whole new environment.

 

THAT sounds like a risk worth taking!

Tell Your Children You Don’t Know

How much courage does it take to tell your children you don’t have the answer?

 

When I was a child, my mother always had an answer. And, according to her, she was always right. I remember a neighbor asked her once what would happen when her children finally realized that she really didn’t KNOW EVERYTHING. She laughed it off, thinking it would not cause a problem. In later years I found out it didn’t cause a problem for my sister. However, I wasn’t so lucky.

We are all different and we all process information differently. When I finally realized that my mother didn’t know everything, it was a huge emotional blow to me. It literally took me years to get over the fact that my mother was not nearly as wise and intelligent as I had once believed. She wasn’t the All-Seeing Genie I grew up believing she was.

And maybe for that reason I moved in the other direction with my own children. From the very beginning I learned how to say I was wrong. My ex-husband enjoyed it when I practiced on him, because he thought he was right all the time too! But when they came along I knew exactly how to say, I don’t know or I’m sorry I was wrong.

In fact, just this morning I was out for a walk with my dog and God opened up an opportunity for me. Unfortunately, I walked right past it and immediately regretted my decision. After all, God had entrusted this opportunity to me to share his love with someone else and I ignored it.

I didn’t have to and it wasn’t necessary, but when I got home I told my daughter all about it. And I prefaced the story with, “I’m telling you this so you don’t do it yourself. I want you to know where I messed up so that in the future you might not make the same mistake that I did.”

There is a certain power in this vulnerability. There Is power in acknowledging that you don’t know everything, that you make mistakes and that you are still growing as a person. This gives you the power to learn from someone else without feeling as if you’re more vulnerable than you really are.

I think we all get this in the abstract. It’s easy to say that as humans we are all fallible. But, when it comes down to us PERSONALLY making a mistake and owning it – it’s a bit more difficult – a bit more real.

 

I believe that when we can step outside the fear of being wrong and acknowledge that we really are wrong, it empowers us to move forward and grow in a way you just can’t if you’re always right. After all, if you’re always right – where is the room for growth? There isn’t anywhere to go but down at that point.

A long time ago I had a close friend who played racquetball. My friend was excellent at the game and, in fact so much so, that I refuse to play with them. It wasn’t that I was a bad racquetball player but that I knew I was much worse than my friend. And somehow, making myself vulnerable felt bad. If instead I had approached the situation by asking for help to become a better racquetball player I probably could have gotten in some good games and had some good fun.

In fact, what I found over the years is the time when I am most vulnerable to attack is the point when I am ahead of the game. When I turn it around and become vulnerable I suddenly have more power.

Whether vulnerability with your friends or coworkers is something you want to learn or not, vulnerability with your children is definitely something worth learning. Your children are a lot like computers, they’ll do what you show them to do and not necessarily what you tell them to do.

I remember when I got my first computer. This was before user-friendly operating systems. Everything was run in DOS. Faced with a black screen and computer language I was frequently caught screaming at the screen – “Do what I WANT you to do – NOT what I told you to do!”

Children have this unique ability to see past what you tell them to do and they do what they see you doing. When they see you saying you don’t know, they are more comfortable saying the same and acknowledging it may be time to learn something new.

 

It’s a short article today because there is a LOT I don’t know and a lot you and my children can teach me.

Thanks for listening!

 

Raise a Child Who Loves to Read

Raising your child in an era when communication is limited to 140 characters, a picture or a text message full of emojis, your children may wonder what the benefit is to learning − and enjoy − reading might be. Your child may learn about John Corcoran, the author of “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” − a man who graduated high school and college and went on to become a popular high school teacher – all while not being able to read.

Reading is not a mark of intelligence and not being able to read is not a mark of a lack of intelligence.

So if we accept this premise – what’s the point in learning to read? Or rather – enjoy reading?

Let’s start with the task of learning to read. There are multiple reason why learning is critical to be successful in today’s society. These include – but are not limited to:

It is fundamental to being able to function – from medication instructions, to filling out applications.

Reading helps your mind develop and grow as well as a primary way of learning and understanding new ideas.

Reading triggers your imagination and your creativity.

Being able to write your ideas helps to change the world.

There is power in the written word.

Most of these factors help you to get a better job, engage in lively conversation, attract people or become a better leader. However, while these “tasks” often result in a more enjoyable life- what about discovering how reading is enjoyable itself? Is it necessary – or advantageous – to enjoying reading? Does it make you a better person?

As a person who loves the written word – reading and sharing – I would have to say that enjoying reading has opened up new opportunities and helped me to discover new worlds outside of the four walls in which I live.

Reading has helped me to explore new countries without leaving home, experience things I’ll never have the opportunity to in real life – like being a detective, scaling a cliff, parachuting (because I would have a heart attack jumping out of a perfectly good airplane!) or being a spy.

In other words, I take pleasure in reading. This means something I find fun and pleasurable brings me new experiences, greater knowledge, insight and empathy and helps me to converse with people from many countries.

When I can accomplish THAT doing something I enjoy without paying for an education at school I count it as a big win.

Reading is an individual act from which you derive individual pleasure but can share with others. It’s a unique experience you can’t truly describe, but rather have to do it yourself to fully grasp. For me, it’s a bit like watching an incredible movie, except with greater detail than script writers are able to include in the movie because of time limitations.

This is not to mention the joy in re-reading a particularly well-written book and finding details and nuances you didn’t understanding during your first read. Suddenly you’re transported to another time and place, learning new details and understanding more about life in a couple of hours than you could have by experience in just hours.

YES, it is important to have your own life experiences and enjoy your own vistas, but it is critical to your enjoyment of this thing we call life that we experience more than you might in your own small town, street or home. It is completely believable you can live your whole life without picking up a book and never “miss” the experience.

On the other hand, if you are an avid reader, you can’t imagine, in your wildest dreams, going through a week or a month without dipping your toes into far away waters, or sinking into someone’s story that isn’t your own.

Suddenly you can imagine new solutions to old problems, understand how to deal with difficult people or learn new strategies to grow your business – and this is all from FICTION. Imagine what you might be able to learn from books that actually focus on those topics!

This, and more, is possible when you enjoy picking up a book, feeling the pages between your fingers and flipping pages – watching your progress through the book by measure the thickness of the book.

How do you instill this love of reading into your child?

There are several strategies you may consider, beginning when they are too young to read for themselves – all the way through high school when you think you’ve waited too long.

Babies are enthralled by others reading them stories and they take comfort in the repetition of hearing the same ones time and again. My youngest son had a favorite – Is You Momma a Llama? I knew this book by heart from start to finish by the time he was three. I could give him the book while we were driving and, in his car seat, holding the book in his tiny hands, I would “read” it to him while he flipped the pages. It’s a memory I’ll treasure, always.

Read for yourself! Your children do what they see you doing. It’s a conundrum you can’t get away from. If they watch you drink alcohol, it’s more likely they will too. If you enjoy drugs, it’s more likely they will too. If you use medication to kill the pain, it’s more likely they will tool. If you read, it’s more likely they will too. If you enjoy cooking, it’s more likely they will too.

Surround your child with books – give them as gifts, on the Kindle app or a book club that delivers a book of their choice every month. The trick here to be sure the books you give are the ones THEY want to read. It does no good if you have an ulterior motive and give them The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice when they enjoy fixing engines, reading comic books and watching cop shows.

Keep your eye on their interests and tailor your book choices to their likes and dislikes. There’s a much better chance they will pick up the book and read it – the first step to finding enjoyment in the activity.

Visit the library with your child and introduce them to the incredible number of books that exist for them to read. It’s an experience they will remember for years to come.

Do NOT push! Do you remember what it was like when your parents pushed you into something you couldn’t stand? You backed off, dug in your heels and worked even harder to avoid it. Your child is not different.

Read to your child – no matter the age. I remember when my oldest were young teens. We would spend 30 minutes each night reading a Hardy Boys mystery out loud, sitting on the couch with one on either side, and my youngest son sitting on the floor in front of us. I was doing the reading, and they remember these nights with fondness. It brought us closer together and instilled in two of them a love for learning and reading.

If you child is just not interested – try introducing smart comics. Calvin and Hobbes or the Tin Tin series are comics with adult interests and sophisticated vocabulary and concepts. Sometimes piquing their interest is all that’s needed to keep the ball rolling.

Limit technology – let’s face it, there is a certain allure to the mobile device, the bright screen and the immediate feedback of technology. I have succumbed to Tetris, my favorite game, and make sure I play it once a day. But I limit it to once a day. It is difficult to monitor my daughter’s use of technology, but making the difficult choices has paid great dividends.

 

Take a few moments and begin enjoying reading for yourself. With some encouragement, you may find your child right behind you!

 

Prepare For and Face Down Cyberbullies

When my oldest were my youngest, the idea of cyberbullying wasn’t even a twinkle in their father’s eye. We dealt with bullying on the playground, in the classroom and at after-school events. But today, my youngest is faced with other children who feel the only way to communicate their frustrations is through bullying others over their phone or in social media.

Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying follows your kids home and can hunt them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It can devastate entire families and follow your children into adulthood. If your children have any online activity, one study shows 87% of teens have witnessed bullying and may have been the recipient. Unfortunately, the problem is only growing so it’s important that we arm ourselves as parents in order to recognize the symptoms in our children and learn how to help them face down cyber bullies in a way not possible face-to-face.

My Daughter’s Story

Last year my youngest daughter got in the middle of a discussion between two friends. One was a girl she considered a good friend and the other was a young man who attended the same school. Unfortunately, her girlfriend suffered from significant self-esteem issues from her home situation and looked for attention anyway she could get it. She ended up taking a screenshot of part of a conversation and, taken out of context, sent it to another young man. Eventually the whole thing broke blew up in my daughter’s face and she was a pariah at school for several months.

Fortunately, she had strong friends who understood what others were saying about her could not be true and they stood by her. It was the only thing that made going to school bearable for her.

One of the primary focuses of my day, each day, is to ensure that I keep the lines of communication open with my children. I found throughout the years that this has kept me in good stead with them and helps them to overcome their challenges. I’m not the best cook, I don’t always remember when something has to be brought to school, I can’t stand going to baseball games and I’m not always the biggest cheerleader in their athletic endeavors; but I have kept open lines of communication with my children so they can discuss whatever they feel is necessary or whatever is going on in their lives.

I didn’t do it on purpose. It wasn’t planned. It likely happened because my mom and I didn’t have good communication and for many years I didn’t even think she liked me. And so, I wanted to be sure my children knew and understood they were loved and I listen to everything they said. Quite by accident, they understood they could come to me and ask questions and tell me what was going on because I would listen.

Digital and Traditional IS Different

As parents, it is vital that we understand the signs of children who are being cyberbullied. It isn’t the same as being bullied at school and how the kids act will be different. Unfortunately, the number of children who are being bullied at school or digitally has made it a national epidemic. According to a study in the Journal of School Health, 19% of elementary school children are bullied and more than 160,000 stay home from school because they fear being bullied at school.

These situations have traumatic consequences, they lead to poor school performance, low self-esteem and even depression. In research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers found children who were bullied by age 8 were more prone to psychological problems as teens and early adults, and another found elementary school students who are victims are 80% more likely to feel sad on most days.

As kids become more active on social media sites, cyberbullying has become more prevalent. Although you might think of cyberbullying as abusive messages, they can also include sharing inappropriate images or videos, creating pages or accounts with a purpose of harassing someone, sending viruses or revealing someone’s personal information, such as an address or phone number. Another study found an overlap between individuals who are more prone to bully somebody in the traditional sense and those who go online.

It’s important to talk to your kids and ask if they are the victim of a cyberbully, or are in fact themselves bullying someone else. Both children are the victims. It’s important to remember that both the bully and the child being bullied are both children or teenagers and are not fully formed individuals. Both are under the influence of adults and influential people in their life and both need the support and help of safe adults to help them grow into strong and independent people.

When you’re the mom of the child is being bullied it’s easy to overlook the emotional trauma of the child doing the bullying. But the bully is someone’s son or daughter and it’s important to keep that in mind as you move forward and help your child to prepare themselves for the future or to stand up to someone today.

It’s important that your child recognizes when it’s happening. Sometimes a child whose the target of bullying understands the sick, sinking feeling in his stomach or the shame and humiliation he’s feeling, but he needs to recognize that when this happens it must also be addressed. It’s a perfect time to talk to your child about what it feels like to stand in someone else’s shoes. Fortunately, most are of us are born with an inherent sense of empathy but it’s a skill we need to learn how to tap into so when others need our help we can be there.

Talk to your children about the difference between teasing and laughing with someone versus laughing AT someone else’s expense. They understand the difference when they’re the target but sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference when you’re on the other side of things.

Find a Trusted Adult

It’s also a good time to help your child recognize a trusted adult in their life to whom they can turn to if you’re not available or they’re not comfortable talking to you about what’s being sent to them. This adult must take the situation seriously, must not overreact and must help support your child so they don’t develop feelings of hopelessness or regret. This is why it’s important to identify an adult that you and your child trust to do the right thing and why it’s important that adult is notified prior to being needed.

A trusted adult is someone who listens with kindness and helps her child to take a positive step on their own when taking action is necessary. It’s a time when your child can role play with an adult or practice how they want to respond. In the case of cyberbullying, it’s important to shut off the social media accounts, shut off the computer and put down the cell phone. But the individuals who are passing along the information in the digital world will likely be at school the next day. It’s important to prepare your children to handle situations before they come up and allow them to role play so they feel more comfortable with what they’re going to say.

Get details about where your child expects to see this individual the next day and talk through different responses, acting them out in a safe place at home. It’s important your children understand telling an adult is not tattling but is in fact protecting themselves and the bully from situations that can easily escalate online. Deflection and humor is a simple way to reduce the emotionally charged situation into something more manageable for your child and for the bully. Using a sense of humor appropriately can work as a strong tactic.

When my youngest daughter was faced with a number of students at school who thought she had said things that she didn’t, she ended up just avoiding them until everything blew over and the young woman who made the fuss in the first place let it die out. Thankfully my daughter had a number of friends who socialized with her at school. But she learned some valuable lessons that she’ll take with her in the years to come.

 

 

When Was the Last Time You Took Time Off?

You and I both know the answer. It’s highly unlikely you have had anytime off unless you have family close by who are willing to take over child care for a day or two.

In fact, there usually are no sick days for moms in general.  And, if the truth be told, there are no real sick days for any woman who isn’t single and alone.

The real questions is . . .

SHOULD single moms take a sick day?

Before the industrial revolution, when more people were working in factories than on the farm, there were no sick days.  If you couldn’t do your chores, then you were really, really sick.

Women didn’t stop cooking and cleaning. Men didn’t stop tending to the crops and the livestock. If hunting was required, they went hunting. Children had chores to do as soon as they were responsible enough to do them – and that was a lot earlier in life than it is now.

The farm ran on the energy of the family. Unmarried children stayed home to work the farm with their family. When the men were married their wives came to live with the family. When the women were married, the family lost two hands and a strong back.

When someone “took to their bed” there was good cause. And, sometimes, they didn’t recover.

As cities grew and more people began working in factories, again you had to be VERY sick. There were no paid sick days or vacation days. Once people began to unionize they got better benefits, including sick days.

When you take a sick day, the implication is that you are sick. Your employer is concerned about productivity, health insurance rates and return on their investment. They have invested training, benefits and equipment in you. In exchange they want you to boost the company’s bottom line.

When I was working at a large children’s hospital the administration was so concerned about staff who might “call in sick” on big holidays, the rule was you couldn’t come back until you had a note from your doctor that you were too sick to work.

This was so wrong on so many levels.

In the first place administration communicated they trusted us about as far as they could throw us.  We were all Bachelor’s and Master’s prepared, board-certified nurses. The sick rate was low for the hospital when they put this rule into place.

In other words, the change in policy didn’t result in low sick day usage – it came after a great rate was established.

It was the end of December and I was scheduled to work the night shift on New Year’s Eve, the shift from 11pm to 7am. On December 30th I woke with a fever. I wasn’t scheduled until the next day so I rested all day and took every vitamin known to man.

On December 31st I woke with a fever of 104 degrees. Can you say sick?

Every bone in my body ached. I could hardly hold my head up and felt like death was an option I’d consider.

I called my boss and she said, “You’d better see a doctor or don’t bother coming back to work, ever.”

I had NEVER called in sick in the 2 years I had worked there. But, I had better see a doctor. Sigh . . .

So called the doctor’s office and they asked me NOT to come in with the flu.  I insisted. They sent me through a special doorway so I wouldn’t infect the rest of the waiting room and put me directly into a room . . . with what looked like a bed.

I crawled up on the exam table, laid down and didn’t move a muscle until the doctor came in . . . gown and mask in place.

“Why in the world are you here? Aren’t you a nurse? Don’t you know what you have?” he asked.

I would have loved to answer but it felt like my mouth wouldn’t work. He understood my mumbling about my director, wrote out an excuse note for me and told me the director should know better.

It was a sick day.

When your body rebels against the work, lack of sleep, stress, poor nutrition or lack of exercise, it sure makes you pay attention.

But, if you don’t have an employer paying for a sick day (or three) for you, what do you do?

As a single mom, you not only need time away from work, but also rest away from caring for your beautiful little ones.

The keyword in that sentence is REST.

Single moms (all moms!) need rest, refreshment, replenishment and rest. Yup, I repeated it twice. Whether your body is physically sick or your mind is emotionally exhausted, you need rest.

Do you take sick days? Probably not.

Should you? Most definitely YES!

When you care for yourself, you teach your children how to care for themselves. When they watch you get enough sleep, eat the right foods, drink enough water, take your vitamins and take care of yourself, they learn the value of their own health.

Do you take sick days?

If you fit the mold of most moms, you don’t.  But, there is value to yourself and the future of your children when you don’t fit the mold and find ways to take care of your physical, mental and emotional health.

 

Unconditional: Love or Acceptance?

The first time I became a parent I had twins. It didn’t seem real when I was pregnant and looking at pictures of ultrasounds. I was confined to bed rest for 3 months and it didn’t seem real when I was hooked up to monitors twice a day to ensure that premature labor hadn’t started again. In fact, it didn’t seem real even after the delivery with two neonatologists, two neonatal nurses, my doctor, my nurse and an anesthesiologist all crowded into a room waiting for two little babies to come out of me.

It wasn’t real until my ex-husband was out getting the car, strapping in two car seats and I was sitting in the room staring down at two infants sleeping soundly on my bed. I had been a pediatric nurse for 10 years and as I stared down at them I had no idea what to do.

But I knew one thing. I knew with all my heart that I loved those two children. I knew then I would give my life for them in that moment. Despite my fear and my inability to conceptualize what the next day would look like, I knew that I loved these two little ones.

It was unconditional love because I didn’t know anything about them. I didn’t know my son would have colic for months. I didn’t know my daughter had low muscle tone. I didn’t know my son would grow up to have attention deficit disorder or that my daughter would have a beautiful voice. I didn’t know my son would have a heart he would give freely to anyone in need and I didn’t know my daughter had a heart for Jesus. I just knew they were 6 pounds, they were infants and they were mine.

As they grew I began to learn the difference between loving them unconditionally and accepting everything that came from them unconditionally. And in the process, I also learned that I could love my ex-husband unconditionally and not accept his behavior.

I think sometimes the idea of unconditional love gets confusing, especially for Christians. Women are held to a standard of the Proverbs 31 woman and marriages are held to 1Corinthians 13: 4-7. It’s a favorite Bible verse about love often quoted during marriage ceremonies, but it’s a definition of what we should aspire to, how God loves us and not where we exist today.

1Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

In the search for a life partner, too often we look for a soulmate and unconditional love. And the expectation is will also find unconditional acceptance. We might yearn for unconditional love because we didn’t get it as children or because first, second and third relationships had failed. And too often, we are not taught as children how to give unconditional love, because in seeking it we must also be ready and willing to give it.

 

Unlike romantic love, unconditional love doesn’t seek gratification, pleasure or reward. It is the giving of yourself to someone else without the expectation of receiving anything in return. This kind of love transcends time and place and everyday concerns. This kind of love is not often found and even more rarely given. Ideally, unconditional love is an experience that unites two people. It means you give it as often as you get it – or more.

A long time ago, God brought someone into my life who loved me unconditionally and who I loved unconditionally. And as quickly as he came, he left to honor a commitment that had been broken 3 years before. He left because honor and ethics were what he lived and not just terms from the dictionary. And today, I still love him unconditionally.

But unconditional acceptance is something different. Unconditional acceptance means that you’ll accept what other people dish out without protecting yourself or them. Although God loves you unconditionally He does not unconditionally accept all your behavior, and neither should you unconditionally accept everyone’s behavior.

Natural consequences happen with each of the choices we make. If you forget your lunch at home, then you have to buy lunch or you have to go without until you get home for dinner. It’s the natural consequence for the behavior. And each decision we make, each behavior we have has a natural consequence. If you gossip about other people, the natural consequence is others don’t trust you because if you’ll gossip about others, then you’ll gossip about them.

I believe as parents, and especially single moms, it’s important that we love our children unconditionally because it gives us the opportunity to model for them how they should love others. But I also believe that we should not accept their behavior unconditionally. By accepting behavior unconditionally we give the other person the opportunity to treat us poorly and to walk over whatever boundaries we put up for ourselves.

 

Boundaries are what protect our emotional health and the emotional health of our children. When we model for them what unconditional love looks like without unconditional acceptance of someone’s poor behavior, we set up the next generation for greater success.

7 Ways to Make Your Life Better

In a world ruled by rules, some make perfect sense and others you may accept as true without proof. You may have discovered them in a book, from a teacher, from your parents or even your friends. You may have learned them on your own and believed your experience or your friends. These are often unwritten and sometimes splashed in funny memes meant to poke fun at what may be a bit of truth, or all truth.

 

But, whether you learned them from someone you trusted or a stranger, there are seven critical strategies that will help you achieve your success. It doesn’t matter how you define your personal success – health, financial, recreational or emotional – these are strategies that will move you faster and further on your journey when you use them than when you ignore them.

 

  1. Be comfortable in your own skin.

There is one person you’ll never be able to get away from in your life, and that’s you. If you don’t like your own company it can get pretty crowded, pretty fast. And, if you don’t like yourself, how can you expect others to enjoy being with you? Do you want a permanent relationship or maybe improve an existing one? It’s time work on the relationship you have with yourself, before the relationships you have with others will ever improve. Do you want to be a better leader? A better parent? A better friend? It’s time to be a better you.

 

Being comfortable in your own skin will help you react to others with confidence, and will help you learn how to . . .

 

  1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

To do anything, learn anything new, experience new success you have to stretch yourself. Stretching yourself to do new things will mean being uncomfortable – and thus being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I used to hear this and never really understood what it meant. On a basic level I knew that in order to grow in anything I had to do things I’d never done before or I wouldn’t experience anything new.

 

If you want to learn to ski, you have to strap them on and go down the hill. If you want to pray for people, you have to open your mouth and do it. If you want to be able to code a computer you have to take classes and TRY it. I got it about 10 years ago when I got very, very sick. As a nurse, there was one procedure I NEVER wanted performed on me – and that was a nasogastric (NG) tube. That’s a tube passed from your nose into your stomach to decompress your stomach and upper intestines. I had undergone a rather common abdominal surgery and went home the next day. By day two I was doubled in pain with a physician who kept telling me this was normal.

 

I knew it wasn’t. My ex-husband drove me to the hospital where I almost begged the ER doctor for an NG tube. I sent my ex out of the room so he wouldn’t faint (history of that!) and couldn’t get him to move quickly enough to get this done. The pain and pressure was unbelievable and not relieved by the hourly vomiting I had been doing for the past twelve hours.

 

I lived through it. The procedure didn’t kill me. And I learned a valuable lesson about myself. It’s ok to be uncomfortable because you get comfortable on the other side.

 

  1. Have a life philosophy and know your worldview.

Every decision you make is filtered through your personal philosophy and worldview. If you believe there is a God but aren’t a disciple, your decision will be different than if you are a disciple or you don’t believe at all. The decision to vacuum the floor, take a job, talk to a friend, make a meal or even go for a walk – these decisions are all filtered through your philosophy about life and your worldview. If you don’t know what these are then your decisions are haphazard – and without consistency you won’t experience success in any area of your life. If you do experience success but are not sure what your philosophy IS you may be tempted to believe you don’t have one.

 

That’s not true. You may not KNOW what it is – but in order to experience success you have one.

 

  1. Question everything and listen closely.

You may THINK you know why your child is “miss cranky pants” today – but you may also be wrong. Ask and listen. You might think you know why your boss passed you over for that promotion (they just don’t like you!), but it’s likely you’re wrong. You don’t know until you ask – and listen. Most people are formulating their response to the first sentence out of the other person’s mouth. Listen to the WHOLE conversation before you respond, you may be surprised by the results.

  1. Listen to your gut, your intuition, your inner voice.

As adults, we’re often taught to follow the facts and figures as opposed to listening to our guts. I’m talking about the part of your brain that gives you the answer more quickly than the reasoning part. In several research studies, participants were given two different choices. The researchers found the pores on the participants’ hands opened when they were about to make the right choice and closed when the choice was not the best one for the situation. Scientists encourage you to develop the ability to recognize responses in your body to improve the results you get in the choices you make. For instance, in one study, people who spent a lot of time evaluating their car choice were satisfied with that choice only 25% of the time, while those who made a gut decision were satisfied 60% of the time.

 

  1.  Build trust.

People who trust themselves are more often trusted by others. In other words, when you trust yourself to follow through on your own promises, other people can also trust you. This can be a challenge! When you make a promise, do you show up every time or do you regret it and make an excuse? When you make a promise to yourself, do you follow through or do you write it off because no one is looking? Only you know the answer to that question, and that answer identifies a deeper issue. You recognize trustworthiness in people when you see it. It’s memorable. Your goal is to be memorable in your own eyes first. You’ll experience greater confidence in your abilities and better self-esteem, all of which can lead to added success in relationships, finances and business.

 

  1. Do not act on your feelings.

Feelings don’t have a life of their own. In other words, you can control how you feel based on how you think. Here’s the equation: Your thoughts produce feelings which drive your actions that determine your results. This means you control your feelings based on what you think, and consequently the success you experience. Don’t act on feelings that may produce results you don’t want. When success is the goal, you can’t afford to carry around envy, jealousy, anger and bitterness. Toss them away like the garbage they are.

 

My surgeon didn’t want to believe she made a mistake and when she discovered it was possible, she waited another 24 hours before addressing the issue. Her fear almost cost me my life.

 

 

 

Keep It Super Simple:

Keeping your life simple will bring great results. Life is complex enough without creating challenges by complicating the situation. When you feel the world sitting on your shoulders, it’s time to simplify.  My oldest son has been looking for a new job and is downhearted. He started listing off all the things that were going wrong, and that list was long. However, it included everything from the time he was in high school until last week.

 

It took a bit of work but he could finally isolate the reason for his discouragement to a declining bank account as he was paying off his college bills. Simplifying the situation and finding the solution to the underlying problem helped him to feel better. We all feel better when what’s going wrong can be identified, simplified and a solution developed.

 

Seven simple strategies, which when followed and incorporated into your life, will bring more success and happiness. Today, it’s time to evaluate your own life and where you stand with each of them. Do you need to simplify your reaction to a situation? Should you focus on becoming a better version of yourself? Is it time to listen to your intuition and start that small business at home?

 

 

How will your life be different when you make seven smart changes?

Hovering Helicopters Are Not Productive

Do you belong to a group of parents not so affectionately known as helicopter parents?

Maybe you don’t recognize your membership in this group of moms. Maybe you see it in others, but not in yourself. After all – you are only looking out after the safety of your children. You want them to grow up healthy, happy and full of the same character and values you hold dear.

Unfortunately, one of the laws of parenthood you discover as your children begin to reach double digits, is they are becoming their own person, with their own set of values, personality and desires. Yes, you can shape their future, but you can’t pour them into a mold you want them to become.

Yes, you can give them guidance – but the greater your insistence they follow your ‘guidance’ or ‘rules,’ the faster they run in the opposite direction.

I was working at a small rehabilitation hospital in Indianapolis as a case manager when the unit manager (head nurse) turned in her resignation. I applied for the position but was told I lacked the experience they were looking for – so they hired another woman who came “highly recommended” from her past position.

This recommendation was likely because they were eager for her to move on to her next post.

So the hospital I worked for hired her and she quickly became a pain in everyone’s behind. I was two months pregnant with twins (and unbeknownst to everyone, just two months shy of bed rest and maternity leave).

She was, what you would lovingly call, a micromanager. She was in EVERYONE’s business trying to keep all the plates spinning on her own. She asked you to do a job and then watched over your shoulder as you did it.

She did it to those under her and those above her. It was no wonder her past boss wanted to ensure she was hired somewhere!

Imagine what that’s like at work. . . your boss doesn’t trust you. She doesn’t believe you’re capable of doing the job you’ve been doing months before she got there. She checked up on the staff nurses, on the administration, on the case managers, therapists and respiratory therapists. If anyone had anything to do with patients on her unit, she was all over your business.

While I was not thrilled with bedrest (premature labor) or the risks involved (of course!) I was grateful to get off the unit for several months. Everyone of my decisions was questioned and became a topic for discussion. I truly wasn’t sure where she found the time in her day.

This is EXACTLY how children of helicopter parents feel. It’s what they experience. It is how they live their day – without the relief of maternity leave 🙂

One of the rules of great staff management is to trust the staff you hire – and if you don’t trust them then hire others. Trust they know their business and judge them on the results – not on the minutiae they go through to achieve their results. When the path taken isn’t safe, or the decisions about to be made may increase a risk for poor outcomes, it’s time to step in and give an opinion.

Time for a confession. While I understood the concept – and lived the reality of micromanagement – I was once a helicopter parent.

Let me rephrase that. I was a helicopter parent with each of my children until they reached seven or eight years. Food, toys, toxins, television, bed time, nap time, pillows, allergies, medications . . . you name it – I was sure to oversee each decision and every movement those little ones under my care made.

My sister is fond of saying I wouldn’t let her drive the twins (the oldest) until they were out of car seats. While I’d like to think she’s exaggerating – I’m afraid she’s right. When it came to their safety I was momma bear times ten.

Once they reached seven and the next one had come along, I was a little less strict about a few things – but continued to watch their friends closely, how late they stayed up, how well they cleaned up their toys and was diligent about their school work.

It was overwhelming, but it paid great dividends when they were older. The time put in as children paid off when they were teens and I was slowly letting them make their own decisions so they could fail while they were still at home and over a safety net.

In my opinion, the danger in helicopter parenting is not between infancy and seven, but rather as they grow older and more independent. Suddenly habits of seven years are falling away and you may not recognize how much of a helicopter you’ve become!

 

Raising children is a bit like herding cats. The more you push in one direction, the harder they push back in the other.

 

Getting Off the Emotional Treadmill

Have you ever experienced the crushing weight of expectation? If you’re a woman, this is likely a common everyday occurrence for you. Your children have expectations for what you can provide and what you’ll do. Your boss has expectations of your performance and your friends have expectations of your ability to be there for them.

But woven into each of these groups is the expectation you’ll approach life with a smile and a positive attitude no matter what is happening in your personal life. No matter what you’ve experienced, no matter what loss you’re facing, no matter how overpoweringly sad or frightened you are, the expectation is you will smile and take it in stride.

I had a friend many years ago who was a single mom. She had adopted two children from Russia and in the process of the adoption her husband left her. Her mother had developed cancer and came to live with her as she died. She lost her job two months after the children came home. Life was coming down around their ears and she was holding herself up by her bootstraps. We had a conversation about depression and talked about what that meant and how she felt.

She commented to me that while she found her life circumstances challenging and it was a struggle to get through each day, depression was not a feeling she felt she had the opportunity to experience. If she allowed herself to become depressed, her entire family would fall apart and she would have nothing left in the end. Instead, she chose to see her circumstances as challenging. They were something she needed to get through but not something that would overcome her.

She made a choice and she followed through.

On the other hand, she didn’t feel it was necessary to be obsessively positive all day, every day. While it was essential that she address the challenges in her life in order to maintain the safety of her family, she also believed it was important that she felt her feelings and express them to her friends. She didn’t put on a brave front – she felt her feelings, dealt with them and moved on.

It was the last part that’s been so difficult for so many – to move on.

Society has certain expectations you will always smile, always be in a good mood and will always treat people well. No matter what’s going on in your life and no matter how much of a challenge each day brings, the expectation is you live in positivity.

While research demonstrates those who have a greater positive attitude will experience better achievement and greater success, it’s not always possible to keep that attitude of positivity rolling along each and every day. Oncologists recommend their cancer patients watch comedies and uplifting television because research shows those who stay positive experience better outcomes – but no one can be positive all day.

So, suddenly, you’re on an emotional treadmill.

 

On the outside you’re positive, upbeat and strong, while on the inside you’re wilting and unsure how you’re going to make it through the rest of the day. It’s tiring, tiresome and often overwhelming. It stresses you more than if you owned up to the feelings you had and acknowledged that you are not Superwoman!

Yes, you are wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain. And as the song continues, “If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am Woman.”

BUT, no matter how many times you sing those lyrics, you likely can’t do anything (meant everything). You are not invincible – but you ARE woman.

It’s important to find that friend, that safe place, where you can let loose and let go. That person who doesn’t judge you for your feelings, what you think or say In the heat of the moment but lets you say it so that you can get it out and get it over with.

Whether that person is a therapist, a friend, counselor or your pastor – this is a crucial and vital person in your life. This is someone who may make the difference between becoming totally burned out with life or enjoying greater success than you ever dreamed possible.

A treadmill it is designed to strengthen your muscles. I treadmill is supposed to give you greater cardiovascular fitness, improve the large muscles in your legs and even help you strengthen your core.

But an emotional treadmill does not. In fact it has the exact opposite effect.

An emotional treadmill is a little like the hamster on the wheel going around and around and getting nowhere. The hamster enjoys greater physical fitness on the wheel but a human experiences chronic stress. The hamster needs his wheel in order to burn off his energy, but moms need to get off the wheel and find a different release that does not generate high levels of cortisol with the subsequent health-related damage.

I had this conversation with a friend recently. She took a long look at my life and didn’t understand where I was finding balance. In her mind, I spend the day, all day, on a hamster wheel, running from one thing to another without a break or without experiencing any balance in my life. But from my point of view, I spend several hours every day experiencing the release of working out, walking my dog and practicing with my daughter. For me, that was balance. For her, it is not.

That’s a long way of saying that you might find getting off an emotional treadmill looks different for you than it does for your friends or your family. The idea is to understand yourself and recognize what you need in order to achieve emotional health without putting on a constant face of positivity to a world that expects only positive women.

Unlearn Your Need to Be Liked

As a teenager, I was the last to be picked in any sport, team or in physical education class at school. I was the last to be chosen for any group or activity. That’s not to say that I didn’t have friends, because I did. But it is to say that the cheerleaders, Geeks and science nerds avoided me. I didn’t have a set group. I belonged to the outside group.

I believe the result was I grew up with an intense desire to be liked and to be chosen. Even more so than other people. It was important that groups liked me more than I was able to join a group or an organization. My friends chose me, I didn’t choose my friends. And as age and wisdom caught up with my incredible desire to have others like me, I realized my mistake.

By this time I had children and I was teaching them it was more important for their friends to choose them, than it was for them to choose their friends. I was passing on my incredible desire to be liked by others to the next generation.

This type of superficial behavior will eventually rot you from the inside out. It’s essentially toxic and not being you will eventually destroy the you, you want to become.

It took me years to stop wanting to be liked and chosen by others. I still struggle with laughing at jokes I don’t find funny or going places I don’t necessarily want to go. I don’t so much mind eating at restaurants I don’t enjoy, but I draw the line at doing activities that aren’t in my nature.

Before I could change, I had to grow. Before I could learn how important it was to like myself, I had to learn to like myself. It was a journey that was eye-opening and sometimes expensive – and it started with motivation.

I was motivated to teach my children that it was more important to be you, the person  you were born to be, than it was to be liked by those around you. You can always find new friends, but you won’t find another you.

What you may not realize, is you can’t sustain a life trying to please others. You can try, but the price you pay will be heavy. This should scare you – and maybe provide you with the motivation you need to make a few changes.

Support

The foundation you need to become the person you want to be is to find a supportive and nourishing environment. One friend. On confidant. One person is all you need to be accountable and reveal the real you. When one person knows you –  the real you – and they still love and respect you, it becomes easier to recognize that others will do the same. And – ultimately – not everyone has to like you.

That was difficult for me – not everyone has to – or will – like me.

I grew up believing it was important to be a likable person. My mom taught me the importance of getting along to get along. And then I took it to a whole ‘nother level.

I may have reversed the trend a bit further in the other direction today, but I’m happier with myself today than I have been in the past.

Something else I learned over the years is . . . if someone doesn’t like me, the world doesn’t end.

Have you ever watched “Friends?” It was a sitcom about six mid-20s (growing into their 30s) friends who lived life together. Each of them had their problems and challenges and each had their talents. Monica was the woman who couldn’t stand it when anyone didn’t like her. She went to extremes to be sure other people liked her, and almost made herself sick when they didn’t.

One Christmas she began making chocolate candies, placing them in a basket outside her door. The hope was to meet her neighbors. What she created were neighbors ravenous for her chocolates, who didn’t care who she was or how the candies arrived in the basket. People knocked on the door at 3am when the basket was empty, and she volunteered to make more.

It’s painful to watch her character as the behavior is exaggerated. But, it’s likely the same behavior I exhibited for years, just not as BIG.

I kept myself small – so no one would notice me.

Negativity

Changing your behavior may mean cutting ties with negative people in your life. You know who these people are – they don’t like what you do or how you do it, and they make sure you know about it. You feel horrible each time you share something with them. You feel better when you aren’t around them.

And yet, if you struggle with being liked, it may be difficult to cut ties.

Self Talk

This was something that was difficult for me to learn. If I asked myself honestly, I didn’t realize that I was talking to myself at any point. I knew that I would daydream, but I didn’t count that as talking to myself. However, after much reading, learning and even counseling, I realize that what I said to myself was something that my brain believed.

So as I walked through my day, when I would jokingly say, “oh gosh that was a stupid thing to say/do,” or “I can’t believe I just did that, how dumb!” I learned those statements were heard by my brain and believed.

This was demonstrated in an exercise I learned several years ago. It’s really rather fun and you should try it because it gives you a very real understanding of how what you say out loud or to yourself is heard by your brain and interpreted by your body. The exercise requires two people and you don’t have to believe it in order to see the results. Here goes. . .

Start with both arms out to your side, shoulder height. Have your partner push down on one arm while you try to keep it up. Ask your friend to feel how much effort they have to push in order to get your arm to move.

Next, put your arms to your side. Say out loud three times – “I’m not good enough.” Be sure to repeat them slowly, out loud three times.

Now do the same strength test as you just did, with your arms at shoulder height and your friend testing how much effort it takes to move your arms.

You will likely be VERY surprised (as I was!) at how much strength you lose just because your brain hears your comments.

It’s one reason athletes talk out loud to themselves before a competition and “talk themselves up” – so to speak. What you say has an effect on your mind, your body and your performance.

Ignore Others

There’s a fine line we walk between believing what others have to say when they are people we trust, and listening to everyone for their garbage into our brains. It’s important to ignore the people who need to be ignored and identify the people you can trust.

I recently joined a discipleship group and one of the topics in last week’s small group was about finding people in your life with whom you develop a trusting relationship. That relationship is so deep that these are the people who know you best and will call you on whatever you’re doing wrong.

Although it’s not easy to let other people’s opinions go, it is simple. It is simply recognizing and understanding that their opinions don’t mean anything. They can have whatever opinion they want because God has given us the ability for free will and free choice. And, if you live in America, the government gives you the same choice. However, with that choice comes responsibility and it’s time to exercise the responsibility of knowing when to listen and when to let go.

It’s not easy but it is simple and this is where an accountability partner or trusted friend can help immensely. When you bounce these ideas off of someone you trust, you learn to hear the truth in what others say. The more you practice, the better you get at it.

I eventually learned to let go of much of my desire to be liked by others because I knew I was teaching my children a habit that was not healthy. I was teaching them and they would be teaching their children. And suddenly, I was looking at generations of people who would value the opinions of others before they value their own opinion; who would change themselves in order to be liked by others while in the meantime disliking themselves.

Today is the day to start looking at your own future and determining it for yourself, because remember, your children are watching!

Let’s Teach Our Daughters to Be Brave

Raising daughters and sons is different. Before I had children I was a nurse and raised in traditional medicine. The argument often posed in past years was whether nature or nurture had a greater impact on the development of a child.

In other words, were girls just born the way they were, or were they raised in a certain environment that encouraged them to develop differently. My first children were twins and when I learned there was one boy and one girl I was excited about my own little experiment I could hold at home. What if I raise them to believe the same things, play with the same toys and I had the same expectations of both of them? Would they grow up to be the same person?

I started out with great intentions but soon realized that my own upbringing caused me to treat my daughter in a different way than I treated my son. It was difficult, but I worked hard to make the experience for both of them the same because I believed that if my daughter had more strength and bravery and my son more humility they would become better people.

It turned out that both nature and nurture were important in the development of my children’s personality, as psychologist have come to recognize over the past 20 years. What I experienced at home was a blessing, to be able to raise my children in a way that I saw fit, while recognizing the expectations of society.

Everything didn’t turn out the way I planned, nothing ever does! But I learned a few things along the way then I’ve been able to transfer into raising my last daughter.

I’ve learned that it’s more important my daughter is brave in her decisions and her desires then it is that she is perfect. Too often our society has different expectations of boys and girls. Boys are raised to take chances and to be brave in their decisions while girls are expected to have the answer before the question is even asked.

Girls are expected to look pretty and boys are expected to excel in academics and athletics. The interesting part about it all is that girls do better at school up until 4th or 5th grade. Until 4th or 5th grade they ask the right questions and have better grades in math and science than the boys. But something happens in 5th grade. Whether it’s a function of their hormones kicking in, or changing expectations of the teachers and changing expectations of society. But for whatever reason, suddenly girls are no longer as smart as boys and don’t test as well.

They didn’t suddenly lose IQ points. They didn’t suddenly unlearn the math and science they grasped so easily in the earlier grades. But at some point society tells our girls that science and math is best left for the boys and girls can excel in creative endeavors. And by the way, make sure you know the answer before you ask the question.

 

 

I believe it’s our responsibility as parents to teach our girls that it’s okay to make brave decisions. Doing brave and crazy things is okay as long as they protect their health. Pursuing athletic endeavors at a level only previously thought to be male-dominated is okay. It shouldn’t be that only a couple girls are encouraged to pursue their dreams if they’re dangerous. Because, when we encourage our girls to make brave decisions they are able to contribute to the growth of society in a way that testosterone-driven boys can’t.

It creates a balance in the workplace and a balance at home that Jesus wanted for our society. Throughout the Bible, Jesus valued the work that women did in his ministry and the work they did in society. He didn’t speak down to them, he didn’t devalue them and he lifted them up as examples to others. In a society where men were revered and women were seen and not heard, Jesus flipped the table and made it different.

It’s time that we take a page from His book and give our girls permission to make brave decisions and to be the people they want to be. My youngest daughter dresses each day in something black, gray or white. Her entire wardrobe consist of shirts and pants that are either black or gray. There isn’t a stitch of color that exists in that closet. And that’s the way she likes it. She isn’t Goth. She doesn’t practice Black Arts and she isn’t interested in New Age woo-woo sticks. This is just her personality and her decision.

She wants to play basketball and she does well in math. She’s not interested in science and she can hold a conversation with just about anybody. She loves Jesus and she wants to serve our Lord in a way that He has gifted her. She can make brave decisions to do the things in life God is calling her to do because she gets permission as a child at home and encouragement by her siblings to do the things she wants to do.

As my older twins were growing up I was so wrapped up in discovering whether or not nature or nurture had a greater impact on their development, that I sometimes forgot my own bias and prejudices as I interacted with them. My oldest daughter is learning to make brave decisions and her husband is an immense support and encouragement to her. I wish my oldest son would not make such crazy decisions on his motorcycle, but it’s his life and he gets to do with it what he wants.

I believe it’s time that as parents, we remember our children grow up to be people. They get to make these decisions on their own because they get to suffer the consequences. These aren’t our consequences and they aren’t our decisions. But as they’re growing, it’s our responsibility to guide them into making BRAVE decisions and to leave perfection behind.

Being perfect doesn’t accomplish anything, for anyone. Being perfect the first time just means you weren’t brave enough to try it until you were positive you could accomplish it. It’s time to teach our girls to lean into life and not to be afraid that they will fail. The mark of courage and success is not whether or not we fail, but how quickly we get up and try again, learning from the mistakes that we’ve already made and anticipating the ones to come.

The Danger in Silence

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

Although the attribution of this quote is in question – some attribute to Dr. Martin King and others have found it was an error in cutting and pasting from a Facebook post by Jessica Dovey – the reality is that the words ring true no matter who said them.

This was aptly demonstrated as the #MeToo campaign was joined by women around the world, finally able to talk about the harassment they had experienced. This was only one consequence of silence. Others have led to genocide, racism and war across the centuries.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

We each have experienced times in life where we stayed silent – because it was easier, more accommodating or when we felt threatened by others in power.

I think women are more likely to stay silent so as not to rock the boat (accommodating) or when they feel threatened by the person in power. When your job or career is on the line you may feel it’s better to allow someone to say things you wouldn’t normally allow, so you can be promoted or to keep your job, salary and a roof over your children’s heads.

Unfortunately, it’s in these circumstances we teach our children – who are carefully watching EVERYTHING we do – when to speak and when to stay silent. The tightrope you walk being a single mom, required to bring home the bacon – so to speak – and teach your children why it’s important to speak up for yourself and those unable to speak for themselves, is a challenge.

It has been helpful to have rules for my children, but I find those rules also help me. There have been times when my children have called me on my behavior or on a decision made because it doesn’t align with the rules we created to keep peace and harmony in our home. It is these rules I can rely on to help me make difficult decisions when speaking up has as many consequences as staying silent.

This has never been more evident in my life than recently. I have a friend who is struggling with her life decisions, her children and her future. She was once a single mom, raising three children on her own. After a season she met and married a very nice man and together they have made a home and merged their families.

But in the past her youngest daughter had experienced horrific abuse at the hands of her father. It was a couple of years before my friend could prove the abuse so she could permanently remove her daughter. Years of prayer, relying on friends, talking about abusive situations and opening up to strangers.

Today her daughter continues to experience the effects of those years of abuse, and her mother does as well. Silence in her small community, silence in her husband’s family and her silence for years only perpetuated the problems and ultimately the negative emotional effects.

My friend did what she could, at the time, with the resources she had – but she paid the price of the silence of her neighbors and his family, and will continue to pay a lifelong price.

When we don’t speak for ourselves or others, we are validating their ideas and behavior. This same friend has asked for advice several times and I have been brutally honest. I won’t do her any favors by agreeing or disagreeing to make her happy – and thankfully she understands that and desperately wants someone to speak the truth in love to her.

I believe with all my heart that is what our world needs – speaking the truth in love. We have watched what silently agreeing, being silent or participating has gotten us. Our country is suffering under the burden of a growing number of people who have no compassion or mercy for people who don’t look or act like them.

I recently joined a Christian discipleship group. The first thing that struck me was the safety within the group. The leader said it was a safe group, a safe place to express yourself and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. But I didn’t BELIEVE it. I had never been someplace where there wasn’t at least one person who was a bully, talked back, didn’t obey the rules or otherwise made of fun of everyone.

But not here. Here it’s safe.

Everyone is accepted and there is no silence. And silence is not needed since everyone is after the same thing – to experience His presence.

I have a situation at home now that requires I’m not silent. My oldest son needs a bit of direction, and doesn’t want it I’m sure. After all, at the age of 26, which one of us wanted to hear from our parents we might be making poor decisions?

While I won’t be silent, I also won’t be derisive or condemning. This is his life and he has the choice to live it in any way he chooses. But as his mother, I have the responsibility to point out the end of the journey he’s currently taking. I have the RESPONSIBILITY to NOT remain silent.

He has the choice.

I have the responsibility.

And once communicated – a time or two, but not more than three! – it’s his decision and his life. His consequences and my responsibility to allow him to live the consequences.

There are so many ways and places we may or may not remain silent – and consequences to staying silent that affect more than this generation. The time to pick your battles is when you have battles to pick – and not when they’ve all been chosen for you.

The time to speak up is when you have your voice before the world has stifled you.

The time to speak is when your children are watching so they also learn speaking up is important to retain their dignity, to help those who can’t help themselves and defend the ideas they hold dear.

The time to speak is NOW.

 

Sources:
Root, Fake MLK Quote Goes Viral, https://www.theroot.com/fake-mlk-quote-goes-viral-1790863806

Do Your Children Know Your Safety Rules?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my oldest children were born. While it seems like only yesterday, it was actually nearly 26 years ago. I remember it like it was yesterday. The twins were lying on the hospital bed and I teasingly asked my then husband at what age did he think he would let the girl start dating.

While it was a joke, he seriously answered that she would be 40 years old or over his dead body. And I laughingly replied that it probably would be over his dead body if he made her wait until she was 40!

But my own question got me thinking about safety and the rules that I would want my children to obey in order to stay safe. And I started reading about stranger danger, puppies in the park and men who used women to lure children into cars.

As they grew and began talking I began teaching in terms they could understand all the things they needed to know in order to stay safe without telling them all the things they didn’t need to know that would scare them.

And this again started me thinking. What about when they grew older and they were off on their own, at school, at the park or at the mall with their friends. What did I want them to know? What were the rules I wanted them to follow because they were important to me?

Not because the rules were important to me, but because my children were important and I believe their safety was of the ultimate importance.

All this concern likely stemmed from my professional background as a head injury and spinal cord injury nurse. For instance, I used to warn my boys they could break any bones but they must protect their head and back at all costs. It was just a function of everything I had seen in my professional life. This meant that they always wore helmets in whatever they did that had wheels.

My sons were some of the only boys in the neighborhood with gas powered GoPeds. They loved them and one son learned how to repair and rebuild them. But every time they got on them they wore a helmet. Even when they built ramps on the front driveway and spent hours riding up and flying off, they wore their pads and helmets.

Safety might have been of the utmost importance to me because I knew the consequences to families when children were severely injured. You never think it’s going to happen to you, but it’s got to happen to somebody. It’s devastating and life-altering and something I wanted desperately to avoid.

Of course that’s not always possible, and as with most children, we had our share of broken bones and minor head injuries. However, while some like to call them minor head injuries, at no time when the brain suffers a trauma, is it “minor.” And at most times there are some long-term consequences, even when they aren’t experienced immediately. But that’s another story.

As they grew, my list of safety rules grew. And the children seem to accommodate to each new one. We didn’t start the car until their seatbelts were fastened and if they tried to unbuckle themselves before the car reach the garage they were chastised. They didn’t walk across the street unless they were holding an adult’s hand, usually mine.

As they became teenagers I got them cell phones so I could stay in touch and knew where they were. That was another safety rule that was incredibly important to me. I needed to know where they were and how to get in touch with them, not because I wanted to control their behavior or control where they were, but because it was important in case something went wrong.

As they learned I could trust them and they could trust me, they stayed in touch and kept me up-to-date with where they were. Except one time, when my then 17 year old boy decided to go out on a music job with his friend and neither one of them charge their phones.

He and his friend were expected back at his friend’s home after the job was over. They were running audio for a band in a downtown area not known for being a safe neighborhood. At 3 in the morning I got a phone call from the boy’s mother. She had no idea where they were, she couldn’t get in touch with them, and we were both frantic.

It was after that instance, after she and I had been on the phone with the police, after she and I had been on the phone with the music venue and worried sick for at least an hour, that my son learned the importance of keeping his cell phone charged!

We all have rules for our children but I have learned the most important of those is they know what those rules are. Too often a situation occurs during which a new rule is established based on the consequences of what’s happened. Unfortunately, if the children don’t know the rule before the situation it’s hard to hold them responsible, unless it’s reasonable.

For instance, my now 26 year old was 10 years old when he thought jumping out of a 10 foot high treehouse would be fun. His friends egged him on and he did it. When he came home he told me all about it. He was proud that he had the courage to jump out of the tree house. He told me it was 10 feet off the ground because they measured it with his friend’s father’s tape measure. He also told me the first time he jumped out was a little scary, but it got better the second and third time!

We talked about how it was reasonable for him to know better than to jump out of a tree house 10 feet off the ground with the real potential he would break a bone, including his back. And so he was grounded from going up into the tree house for 3 days, the number of times that he had jumped out.

This was one of the twins, and he was fiercely loyal to his sister. It wasn’t until they were 25 that I learned that she had jumped out of the tree house three times as well. He never said. He never told me and she never got punished.

Well jumping out of a tree house wasn’t the worst thing he could have done, it also wasn’t the smartest. And overtime, through trial-and-error, my children and I learned what safety rules were the most important to create and enforce and which ones could be left by the wayside.

The most important part of everything I learned about safety rules, and rules in general, are that they cannot be enforced unless the people affected actually know and understand what those rules are. Spend the time talking to your children and establishing rules with them. When they buy into what’s important to you and why, they are more likely to remember what the rules are and generalize them to situations they find themselves in.

And after all, that’s what’s important . . . keeping them safe.

What’s Your Parenting Style?

I am a big believer in doing things intentionally. For far too long, I allowed things to happen TO me instead of making them happen. In fact, it was just last week I sat down with a trusted friend and went over a business plan that should take me through the next two years. It was important that I intentionally address the growth of my business, in the same way that it has been important I intentionally grow my children.

These little people with whom I have been entrusted, also trust me to provide them a safe environment, truth, honesty and respect. I don’t believe I consciously chose a parenting style when my children were younger and I don’t believe I will advise my oldest daughter to find one either.

Instead, what I did was to create my own parenting style. It was important not to use the same permissive style others of my generation tended to use as they raised their children. On the other hand, it was also important that I was not a strict authoritarian, without giving my children the chance to express themselves openly.

For years I heard my parents say, children are seen and not heard. Whether we had company over to the house, we were going out in public or my parents were spending an evening alone, children were seen and not heard.

On the other hand, I didn’t expect my children to be the ones who took over the conversations or interrupted adults as they were speaking. So I intentionally attempted to walk a middle road where the opinions of my children were valued and valuable, but my time and authority was respected.

Psychologists have identified four types of parenting. There is the authoritative parent who’s a strict disciplinarian with very little negotiation possible between parent and child. There’s a permissive parent who is indulgent and allows their children to do whatever they want, offering very little guidance or direction. There’s the uninvolved parent who gives their child a lot of freedom and stays out of their way, hoping that the child grows in a way the parent desires without getting involved in the decision-making themselves. And then there’s the authoritative parent, different from the authoritarian, who appears reasonable and nurturing, setting clear expectations and demonstrating self discipline themselves.

Before you can make a change in how you parent your child, it’s important to take a truthful look at the way you do it now. If you want to change, you’ll have to recognize that it will be easy to fall back into old habits. In other words, when things get tough it will be easier to become the permissive parent or the authoritarian again, rather than listen to your child or place limits on their actions. And, it’s important to understand no one person embodies the characteristics of one style. In other words, you may have bits and pieces of all four depending upon the situation and how much sleep you’ve had.

My children grew up understanding we had five important rules. These five very specific rules in the house had to be followed, and as long as their actions did not fall outside of those five rules, they could do or say whatever they wanted. Over time they learn to be independent thinkers and spent hours creatively debating with me how their actions fell within our house rules.

While those times were sometimes trying and often challenging, they were always appreciated by both of us. We spent time together learning each other’s belief systems and understanding each other’s temperament as we engaged in debate that didn’t end up with one person being right or wrong.

It’s critical . . .

to the health and wellness of your family, that you choose your own parenting style and you choose for your family. While psychologists would like us to all raise our children in a manner in which children grow up to be mentally and physically healthy, that isn’t always possible. The choices we make all have consequences, including the way in which we raise our children.

I have an acquaintance whose son is highly intelligent. He was bored in public school and so she and her husband looked long and hard for an educational option that would meet his needs and offer him the challenges he needed. She ended up sending her son to a college campus that offered a high school and college curriculum for gifted students. This worked for her and for her son.

On the other hand, it doesn’t have to work for everyone. In other words, if you have a gifted student it doesn’t mean you have to send them away but it does mean it’s important, even critical, that you challenge them in a way that helps them to grow.

While that seems fairly obvious when you’re dealing with a gifted student, the truth is, every student is gifted in one way or another and when we don’t challenge them and don’t offer them the opportunities to grow their talents and their gifts, then we are frustrating them as much as a gifted student might be frustrated in a regular classroom.

It doesn’t require hours of research and investigation, nor does it require days and weeks of your time, but it does require you are intentional about the time and energy you spend with your children. It does require that you take a truthful and honest look at your children to give them the best opportunities and offer them the greatest challenges so that they can grow into the best people that they can be.

So, as you consider the parenting style that you may or may not use today or the parenting style that you may or may not want to choose tomorrow, be sure you’re taking an honest and truthful look. It does no good to look at your children through rose-colored glasses, nor does it do your children any good to look at your parenting style through rose colored glasses. As you take these critical looks at parenting and your children, consider asking the subject of your analysis.

In other words, consider asking your children what they think and how they perceive how you are parenting them. I’ve done that several times over the years and it’s always an eye-opener to hear what my children have to say and what their perceptions are about my actions and my reactions to their behavior. It’s not always pleasant and it’s not always positive, but it always gives me the information I need in order to become the best parent I can be.

Being the best parent gives my children the best chance at becoming the best versions of themselves.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?