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Archive for Parenting

Seven Simple Strategies That May Increase Your Success As A Single Mom

WHERE is the “Easy Button?”

Staples had it right when they invested that big red button for their advertising campaign.  I just wish they had REALLY invented the darned thing! Life is no small task for most people, and being a single mom is not for the faint of heart.

Once upon a time, long ago, I was married and shared some responsibilities with another person. Granted, he didn’t take on too much, had no idea how to be a parent and even less inclination to learn – but it was another body in the house.

Do you ever get tired of doing it all on your own?

There are more days than I can count that I am grateful I haven’t had to be alone in this parenting journey. God blessed me with a loving and engaging sister. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but more often than not she is on my side. She offers objective opinions, helps me to see situations from my children’s point of view and has saved me from myself more often than I can count.

I may want to strangle her tonight, but tomorrow we’ll still be together. We are family, and best friends – a wonderful combination cause she can’t get away from me!

Over the years, with her help, and the help of several therapists, I’ve learned strategies that have helped save my relationship with my children. No matter what stage in life we’re in – from diapers to married daughter and beyond, these have saved my sanity and my children.

Here are seven of my favorites – I hope they help!

1.  Take a timeout!

Over the years, as my children were very young, I learned and appreciated the advantages of giving a timeout. It gave them time to settle down and me too! But, as they grew older it was something I phased out as they kept telling me how it made them feel like they were still a baby.

After trying – rather unsuccessfully – to deal with my youngest son’s anger issues, we headed off to a therapist who once again introduced me to “timeout.” Essentially it WAS a timeout from each other. The rule was whenever one or the other of us needed time away to calm down we told each other and we HAD to disengage.

Don’t wait until your child asks for a timeout, take one yourself first.

2. You need support.

Everyone needs support. It is literally impossible to do this job alone. You might sometimes feel like you’re alone but the trick is to be sure you aren’t. It’s likely you already have friends and family who would be there to help, but it’s important that you tap into that resource and use it.

Taking your life journey alone is a fool’s effort whether you have children or not.

3. Your children need a mentor outside of the four walls of your home.

Your children need someone other than you to help them balance their own life journey.  It is helpful if that mentor is a man as he will give a different view to your children. That male can be a youth pastor at church, a special teacher or a friend of yours. It’s not necessary they spend hours and hours with your children, only that they are available.

4. Respect runs in two directions.

I am a BIG believer in respect – and I believe that respect runs in two directions. It’s a bit like the comments people yell at their computers – “Do what I want you to do, not what I’ve told you to do!”

In other words, your children notice when you show them respect; they learn how to show respect by watching a mimicking you. If you don’t respect them it will be exceedingly difficult for them to respect you. They may be able to fake it at an early age, but as they reach maturity this little mistake will drastically affect your long-term relationship.

If you want a relationship with your children when they have children it is a wise decision to show them the respect you demand from them.

5. Love is unconditional.

Both my daughters have had friends whose mothers were very open about how they didn’t want them. These girls were mistakes that essentially ruined the lives of their parents, or so they were told.  In the first case the girl was first born, out of wedlock, supposedly forcing the parents to both leave school. After this they went on to have six more children, neither finishing college – but they always blamed their lack of education on their first daughter.

In the second case, the young girl was second born, always playing second fiddle to her older sister and being told that she was a ‘mistake’ as they only wanted one child.

In both instances the girls were permanently emotionally damaged by their relationship with their parents. Both wanted – and did – leave as soon as they reached 18. The first lost her virginity at age 12, searching for love – in all the wrong places. The second is writing a different story, but only because of strong relationships she has outside of her family.

You love your children unconditionally – no matter how angry they make you, no matter what mistakes they make. You don’t have to love or accept their behavior, but that has nothing to do with WHO they are. You love WHO they are and discipline WHAT they do.

6. God gave us two ears and one mouth – use them in proportion.

Most of us (me included!) love to talk. Most psychologists and therapists tell us that we often aren’t listening to the other person in our conversation but instead are formulating our response to their first statement. However, God gave us two ears and one mouth because it’s more important to listen than it is to speak. In fact, you’ll accomplish more in all your relationships if you listen to what the other person (including your child) is really saying.

  7. Learn your love languages.

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a phenomenal book called the Five Love Languages that literally saved my relationship with my youngest son. The basic premise is that we all communicate differently – which is common knowledge. However, those communication differences also include how we communicate love to another person. If the person we love shows love to us in a way we don’t understand we feel unloved.

After reading the book I could identify the way in which my son was communicating love TO me, and therefore understood love FROM me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the way that I was communicating love TO him and he didn’t feel loved. This was feeding his anger and relationship problems within the family.

It wasn’t a quick fix, and it certainly wasn’t the only thing we had to do to make things better at home, but it was one of the pillars that made it all happen.

Over 25 years I’ve learned there are no quick fixes, no fast therapy changes, and no way that I could have done this alone without ending up in a locked room.  These strategies are only the beginning, but they are a strong beginning, to achieving the goals you set for yourself as a single mom.

 

Whether your idea of success is a million in the bank, healthy children or a lot of strong relationships – only you can identify your definition of success and only you can achieve it. Having strong, healthy relationships with your children is a great start to accomplishing any goal.

 

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – This Is What It Means To Me

Growing up Aretha Franklin belted out Respect every day on the radio. It was a word drummed into my head by my mother, the priest at church, my teachers and any other adult who happened to pass by.

In fact, respect was a concept that many people grew up understanding, incorporating into their character and believing was their responsibility in those days.

And, truth be told, it’s a concept that has been slowly lost in the past several decades. Suddenly, it’s more important that our children understand their self-worth and have self-respect than they have respect for their peers or the adults in their lives. Psychologists have developed a societal norm in which children believe they are the center of the world.

Of course, given the choice between children being treated like a commodity and being the center of the universe – I would probably choose the latter. Neither is healthy for our children. They should be valued and respected, but we should also expect them to have the same respect for us as we have for them.

I just recently finished watching The Gilmore Girls series and the follow up produced by Netflix. What was interesting to me was the group of “30 something” adult-children who wandered the town. The adults in town described them as those who had attended college but couldn’t find consistent gainful employment. They had now landed back in Stars Hollow (the town) and been dubbed “the 30 Something Gang.”

This group hung out at coffee shops, soda shops, candy shops and town meetings – but didn’t work and certainly didn’t act like adults. It was almost like they were a generation of children who grew up, but decided that adulthood was really for their parents and they wanted nothing to do with the bills, jobs, housework, or any type of responsibility.

While the show portrayed the PG version of could happen to children who never grow up, the sad reality of children who live this out is evident all around.

My mother taught me that it was her responsibility to raise me in a way that honored and respected my family and God. To do that I had to take responsibility for my behavior, my actions and respect the people in my life. When it was my turn, I turned away from what I learned in school about raising children the “new way” and went for a moderate approach on the old way.

This is what R.E.S.P.E.C.T. has meant to me:

 

R: Responsibility As the parent and ensuring my children took responsibility for actions taken or not taken.

E: Effort Whether they became garbage men, nurses, doctors, engineers or fry cooks – I expected their best effort in all they did and soon they came to expect it of them self.

S: Service My eldest son has come to live out service in his life as he fed the people living outside his apartment going to school, stopping on the side of the road to help others or giving his time and talent when needed.

P: Personhood In their pursuit of what they wanted to do “when they grew up” we tried to help our children also focus on WHO they wanted to become. Who you are is much more important than what you do. Standing at your grave after you die, people will not talk about how well you did your job but will comment on the type of person you are – because that’s where the difference is made.

E: Engaged Be engaged with the people around you. This is more important for my youngest who has been swept up into a digital world, than for my oldest who started their digital life with flip phones and desktop computers. Look up from the digital devices and engage with the people around you – that’s how you find out who you really are.

C: Communication It’s a skill that helps you to be respectful to the people around you and to improve your relationships. It’s a skill that is difficult for some and easier for others – but one we all need.

T: Try Success doesn’t happen each time, but each time you try, give your best effort, communicate well, stay engaged, and take responsibility.

My kids aren’t perfect, and neither am I. We make mistakes just like everyone else. We hate the mistakes, but forgive the person making them and try to move on. It isn’t always easy – in fact, many times it isn’t easy at all.

But it comes with the territory of respect.

My children don’t get along with everyone – and I wouldn’t expect them to. They aren’t doormats. They have their own opinions and beliefs. But they try to express them in a way that isn’t offensive. They aren’t always successful, but no one is.

That’s the real lesson they learned over the years. They have a goal, they fight to achieve it. They may fall short of the goal, but they give it their best effort and expect the best from themselves. They respect others and they give themselves the same respect.

 

Respect doesn’t come easy and it isn’t easy to practice. But it is well worth the effort.

The Four Hour Parent

If you think about it – on most days, you spend about four hours a day with your children. This means you must pack each of those hours with as much wisdom, love and teaching as possible – without your children THINKING you are packing the time with lessons and ‘work.’

Unfortunately, your time is limited and you likely don’t spend even those four hours each day with your children. In fact, while it might seem difficult to believe, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study, parents spend less than 5 minutes a DAY in deliberate conversation with their children.

Ask them how their day went after school and you’ve used up your five minutes for the day. Forget about dinner together or interacting after dinner. Forget about breakfast in the morning or sending them off to school – according to these statistics the AVERAGE parent spends less than five minutes a day in deliberate conversation with their children.

Now think about the fact that the statistic is about the AVERAGE parent. There are parents who spend more and those who spend even less time talking with their children each day.

It’s mind boggling.

The Office of National Statistics tells us we spend between two and two and a half hours a day with our spouses (when we had them). This means we spent 24 times more time with our ex’s than we did or do with our children – on average.

That doesn’t mean these statistics reflect your behavior – but they do reflect the average behavior of parents in the U.S.

As parents of the next generation of adults who will eventually run this country (now THAT’S a scary thought!) – it is our responsibility to give them the tools they need to become productive, moral and ethical adults.

How can you do that in less than five minutes a day?

I’m proposing that you can’t – that it takes more time than five minutes to communicate and share your ideas about morals, work, ethics, sex, femininity, masculinity, relationships, education, music, appreciation, athletics, art, fun and all the other ideas and information you have floating around in your head.

I’m proposing that as parents we have to take back our children from the digital world into which they have immersed themselves if we want to have a hope that the next generation and the one to come after that will know how to conduct themselves as reasonable and educated human beings.

I’m sitting at the orthodontist office now, while my daughter is getting her braces worked on. As a dental assistant has her hands deep in her mouth, attaching bands and stringing wire, I’m trying to string three thoughts together.

Have laptop, need Wifi, will travel.

It’s one of the ways I use as much of my time each day so that I HAVE more than five minutes to eat dinner with her and learn what’s going on in her pretty little head.

I’ve had an interesting advantage of watching four children grow over the past years. In those years my oldest didn’t get their first cell phones until they were 16 – and they were flip phones 🙂 My middle boy got his when he was 11 so I could find him as he was running the neighborhood playing football, basketball and swimming with his five friends.

Each of them used their phones for functional reasons – to call me or text their friends.

My youngest got her first phone when she was 10 also – it just didn’t have any service. She spent hours on free text aps that worked over Wifi, Snapchat, Instagram and any other imaging social network.

It was just a couple months ago she got cell service – but nothing changed. She doesn’t use her phone for calls. She texts, messages, uses Snapchat or Instagram – and she has her face buried in that thing as long as I let her. Netflix, Youtube and Amazon are her other three favorite aps/sites to visit.

Having a relationship, including meaningful conversation, with her means her phone is in her lap and NOT in use. Last week I walked out of my son’s room twice when he started texting a friend while talking with me. He doesn’t do it anymore. Of course, he’s 25 and learns more quickly than my 13 year old!

We were talking about our vacation this past week and I let her know that while we’re away she could have her phone for 20 minutes in the morning in the hotel and about an hour before bed – otherwise, our vacation would be digital free.

Although she wasn’t happy, there was also a glimmer of something else when she understood I meant what I said. I’m not sure what it was, but it looked good to me.

Your child might be home and awake an average of four hours each day (the rest of the time closeted in their room or at school), but realistically, you have four hours a WEEK to parent your child, not four hours a day.

And in those four hours, it falls to you to teach your sons and daughters how to make responsible decisions, how to integrate their sexuality with how they think about themselves, how to look to the future while learning lessons from their past (and your past), and to build character in them that will withstand the ravages of school, jobs, relationships and their own self-doubt.

Sort of a monumental task?

That’s why it DOES take a village to raise a child. No one person can do everything for their children – even if there are two parents in the house.

Over the years I’ve learned to rely on other people in my children’s lives. Mr. L. taught at my children’s extension program when he developed cancer. Unable to care for his immense yard, he called on my oldest son to help. Zachary, and then Nicholas, worked for him for years – painting, mowing lawns, building a barn, putting up Christmas trees and even hanging out laundry.

They watched him deal with his wife’s sharp tongue with love and grace – and learned how to do that themselves.

Megan was a mother’s helper and then consistent babysitter for a family up the street for five years before moving to college. She got a front row seat in a relatively functional marital relationship.

Nicholas has become an adopted son in his best friend’s family. They’ve been friends since they were in fourth grade – and now they’re both in college. They take him on vacation, he sleeps over and he worked with his friend in his sound business.
Unfortunately, there were as many bad experiences for each of them with other adults as there were good ones – but the good ones certainly outweighed the bad.

I suppose that is the point – you CAN be a good parent in the short amount of time you have between work, school and after school activities WHEN you choose your words, are intentional with your communication and choose other people who will interact with your children.

I didn’t always know how to do that well, and since other people are important to the life lessons your children learn, it’s also important you choose these people intentionally.

Coaches, bosses, teachers, friend’s parents, and anyone else who spends time with your children are fair game for imparting knowledge and wisdom. The question is whether it’s the wisdom you would have shared.

Watch these people. Talk with your children about how they’re being treated by them. Keep the lines of communication open between you. I didn’t learn about a coach that was verbally abusing my son in the locker room until he had graduated from high school.

He thought he could handle the situation. He did – but it was years before his self-esteem recovered. We could have avoided years of rebuilding if I had been more observant or if he had been more forthcoming.

So, yes, you can parent your children in four hours a day. And, in this day, it’s almost a necessity to be as focused and productive as possible. Watch their behavior, be aware of the adults they interact with, watch their grades and be intentional in your interactions with them.

Every minute is precious.

Every moment is worth it.

Your Child’s Defense Against Stress: You

Children experience stress from any number of situations – some you understand and others you may think are such small issues you can’t imagine why anyone would feel stressed.

But your children do experience stress and the way they express it can be much different than the way you do.

When my ex-husband and I first separated one of my girls had a very difficult time with the loss of her father in her everyday life. It didn’t help that he didn’t visit her more than every other weekend for less than 24 hours.

She has always been a child who turned inward when she was stressed or scared. She did it again. This time she started pulling out her eyebrows and eyelashes. We were in counseling for several months to help her find more constructive ways of reducing her stress.

Why they feel stressed and how they express it will be individual to them. As a single mom it’s a real challenge to watch out for signs in all your children, work, take care of your home and have your own life too.

Sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes things slip through the cracks.

In some instances your child may feel stress from positive experiences and other times it’s a negative experience that increases their stress level. You’ll have to watch for both types, because while positive stress may seem like it wouldn’t cause too many problems, it can.

Your children will be more likely to feel stressed when they’re exposed to multiple stressful situations simultaneously. For instance, if they are starting 7th grade at a new school and their mom started dating a new guy.

You are more likely to see expressions of stress if they or someone in the family has a serious illness or injury, if mom is stressed or if they are being abused. Abuse doesn’t have to be happening in the home. Teachers, bullies at school or coaches may be responsible.

Watch for negative behavior in your children. They may not go so far as picking out their eyebrows or cutting themselves. Even though their symptoms may be less severe, it doesn’t mean that the stress they’re experiencing is any less.

Watch for a negative change in their behavior. Your children may become angrier, start lashing out at you for no reason, get into fights at school, start acting more irritable or withdraw from the activities they enjoy.

Some children get headaches or stomach aches from stress. They may cry more, become clingy, refuse to go to school or get aggressive.

Every child will experience stress, and you may see some of these symptoms in your child. How do you know when the stress is getting too much for them and you should consider professional help?

August4MomDaughterYOU Are Your Child’s First Line of Defense

It’s important that you spend time with your child and help them recognize their emotions and learn to express them in a healthy way. They are going to have emotions that impact their behavior. That won’t change.

What can change is how they cope with the situations. These are skills they will be able to take with them into adulthood as their stressors have greater consequences.

  • Spend time talking with your children and developing a deep relationship so they feel comfortable talking with you about the things that stress them out. Communicate how much you care about them and how you are their biggest fan.
  • Listen to them and encourage them to talk with you about their concerns. And, because relationships are a two way street, talk about some of your concerns that aren’t overwhelming to you or to them. This helps them see your relationship as a two way street.
  • Provide a safe environment at home. All children need to be disciplined on occasion but your discipline shouldn’t leave them wondering if you love them and care about them.
  • Good nutrition and healthy exercise habits are incredible stress relievers for both yourself and your children. Participate in outdoor activities together.
  • Try to use positive reinforcement when you see them doing something right, instead of only punishment when they do something wrong. You probably recognize that when your boss compliments your work you work harder the next time. The same is true for your children. They respond best to positive reinforcement – telling them when they do something right – than when you complain about what they’re doing wrong. It’s hard to do! You have to train yourself to watch for those times when you can compliment their behavior.
  • Show an active interest in what they do, their hobbies, sports, and after school activities. If they’re in debate club, attend their competitions. Find ways to watch and participate.

Each of these suggestions just bring you closer to your children so when the hard subjects come up – and they will! – your relationship is strong enough to talk about them and confront the challenges head on.

Be a Role Model

You may not realize it, but your children are more likely to do what you DO instead of what you say.

If you want them to eat healthy, exercise and get quality sleep, then it’s important that you do too. If you’re taking pills to wake up in the morning, sleep at night or for chronic pain, they are more likely to reach for a pill bottle when August4foodthe going gets tough in their little life.

If you stay up late every night and get up early every morning, burning the candle at both ends, they will too as they reach high school. If you talk about eating vegetable but snack on chips and ice cream each night, they will too.

And, if you can’t handle the stress in your own life without lashing out at the people who love you, overeating, drinking too much alcohol or taking pills, then they will too.

They see everything you’re doing, whether you think so or not. Think back to when you were a child. You probably knew when your parents were fighting, even if they weren’t fighting in front of you.

 

You are your child’s first line of defense. You’ll notice their stress before anyone else and you are in the perfect position to address their needs first.

 

Treat Your Children Like a Business . . . 7 Steps to Grow Them Intentionally

It was only 10 years ago when I first heard someone use the term ‘intentional’ talking about their life.

The exact quote was about living ‘authentically, transparently and intentionally.’  Each of these are things we should all aspire to become, because in the journey to reaching authenticity, transparency and intentionality we become the best version of ourselves.

Unfortunately, too many times relationships with your children are convenient and not intentional. They become a fixture in your life, and, like with spousal relationships, you can start to take them for granted.

But, children are like fledgling businesses, the more intentionally you grow them, the better the potential for success.

This is not to say that every business, or every child, you spend time and energy on will be successful. However, WITHOUT time and energy they are both destined to fail.

In the reality of being mother, father, breadwinner, housekeeper and chief cook and bottle-washer, how do you find the time and energy to do anything intentionally?  Children require time, patience, energy, love, understanding, compassion, knowledge, and the understanding that you will make mistakes and you will have to be humble for the next several decades in your life.

Being a parent doesn’t end when they spread their wings and leave home. It doesn’t end when they start their own family. In fact, it never ends.

And your responsibility to continue to engage them intentionally doesn’t end either.  When they move 12 hours away, when they don’t respond to your text messages or answer your calls, when they make bad decisions or do things you don’t agree with, when they become someone you never intended . . . you are still their mother and you must still be intentional.

Whether that intentionality means tough love or it means continuing to stay in touch when you’re so angry and hurt you just want to turn your back . . . your responsibility as a mother is to be intentional.

So, whatever decision you make, be sure it’s intentional. Don’t allow life to take over. YOU take over.

Mar31ClockImageBack to the original question . . . where do you find the time and energy to intentionally grow these little ones?

It’s time to take a long hard look your life, make hard decisions and create an environment both you and your children can live with.  One of the greatest things about your relationship with your children is that it’s never too late to start being intentional. It may take longer to make up ground you may have lost, but you will make up that ground with persistence and consistency.

Your children need time to understand that the changes they’ll see are permanent and that you’ll continue to be there to support them. So, again I say . . . be persistent and consistent. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  1.  Take a strong look at the WAY you spend your time and then get creative.  TIME is the one factor that you can’t buy or barter more of.  You get 24 hours each day, whether you want more or less.  How you spend that time will determine your results – at work, at home, with your children or any other aspect of your life.

Keep a calendar for a week and write it all down. Find the things you can do without, you can stop doing or you can outsource. Whether your children start doing more housework, you pay someone to do your errands or you hire a cleaning service . . .whatever you can do, or afford to do, to free up a bit more time in your schedule – do it.

  1. Direction, purpose and plan.  Now it’s time to put in place a plan that you create from the purpose of growing your children intentionally, which you develop from the direction you want them to take in their life.

There are specific daily factors that increase your potential for success – but if you don’t know the direction you want to take, you’ll never know if you reached success. First determine what you want for your children and then make your plan.

Do you want them to be independent thinkers? Creative? Respectful? Athletic? Educated? Relational?

Whatever you want for your children, be sure it fits with THEIR natural talents. If they don’t like chess they won’t be a chess champion. If they are a great basketball player but don’t have the desire to play in college, they’ll never get there.  Your direction for them depends on THEIR talents, drives, desires and temperament.

  1. Include Essential Daily Rituals and be present. Your children depend on daily rituals to stabilize their lives, so develop daily rituals for your own family. These are things your children can depend on each day – dinner around the table with everyone present, homework time, special individual time (#5), Sunday lunches and whatever else works for your family.

Each of us love rituals. Whether it’s a special way of celebrating Christmas or the way you mow your lawn. For the most part, we do the repeated things in our life the same way, each week. Your children are not different. Except, for your children, these rituals give them stability in their life.

Be PRESENT during these events. Don’t let your mind wander. Pay attention to what they say and how they say it. This will give you clues as to what they really mean.

  1. Quality time incorporates INTO quantity time.  You’ve heard that quality time is more important that quantity of time. I argue that both are important. You won’t get your child to open up and talk with you about the important things in life if you spend 1 hour a week with them over Sunday lunch.

Relationships need time and energy to build. Your children have a LOT going on in their heads. If you want to know what it is, so you can have an impact on how they grow up, then it’s time to spend quality AND quantity time with them.

Find the time when your child likes to open up and talk. For my children, it’s always been after 10pm when I want to get to sleep. Sleep has occasionally been in short supply, but when the children start talking at 11pm, it’s time to start listening.

  1. Weekly or monthly dates. You want to spend time with your children when they want it, but you also want to schedule time with your children. Make a date to do some of the things they enjoy and then keep the date. Stay present during the time you’re together and enjoy yourself!
  1. Be straight with your children, at their developmental level. Never lie to your children, unless you Mar31StraightRoadexpect them to lie to you. Children appreciate when you’re straight with them, at a level they can understand. If you can’t take your five-year-old to the park, then tell them why. If your teen wants a new phone and you can’t afford it, then tell them and come up with a plan to help them pay for it.

Your children may not like the answer, but they’ll appreciate your honesty and will come to expect that from you.

  1. Practice humility, integrity and compassion because you want to and because they’re watching. When you’re wrong, say so. Own up to doing the things you shouldn’t have. This will help you stop the behavior and help your children respect you. When your children respect you, you’ll find they listen to what you say and determine to follow your advice. Do you follow the advice of people you don’t respect? Neither do they.

Integrity, compassion, honesty, truth, humility and every other character trait you want to instill in your children starts with you. And it all starts with humility.

Until you recognize the times you’re wrong, or the times you fall short, you won’t be able to help your children. They’ll only see someone who is hypocritical . . .

BE the person you want THEM to become.

Mothers and Daughters: Heath, Fitness and Body Image

In my interview with Patty Gale from Chocolate Chip Fitness, she shared some amazing insights into how we interact and react with our children and ourselves, the things that influence our behaviors and some functional things we can do to make a real difference in our lives and the lives of our children.

Listen to the audio below and take a quick peak at the points we covered:

  • Health, wellness and how it pertains to our daughters and about the body image that we and our daughters struggle with.
  • The impact of the media and Patty’s unique perspective on why the media doesn’t have to be as influential as it might be.
  • The unrealistic images you and your children are exposed to and how phones are integral to this issue.
  • 91% of woman are unhappy with their body shape but only 5% naturally have the body type portrayed in the media as ideal.
  • What does it mean to have a healthy body?
  • How is your body like a car?
  • The differences between being fit and being healthy, what that means for your future and how you can incorporate changes into your family that impact your children.
  • What can we positively do to impact the lives of our daughters?
  • Some of the functional ways we can communicate a more positive body image to our daughters.
  • How forgiveness integrates into how we think about ourselves.
  • How we can identify when our body image is not healthy and what we can do to get help.

Today, please listen to the interview with Patty Gale from Chocolate Chip Fitness.
Just click the link to the right and it will start to play.

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CLICK RIGHT HERE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Discover Your Child’s Love Language

I was introduced to Dr. Gary Chapman and the Five Love Languages about 5 years ago. At first the concept didn’t make sense to me. I know what people do that makes ME feel loved, and I assumed that those same things made my loved ones feel loved.

Turns out I was wrong.  It wasn’t the first time and definitely wasn’t the last time I was wrong.

Reading the Five Love Languages has helped me to identify not only how my children perceive love, but also how any other important people in my life perceive that I love them. Let’s face it – some of us want to stay single without the encumberment of marriage and the compromises it entails, while others have the opposite desire.

Myself, I’d like to be married again someday. I’d like to grow old with someone who I know and who knows me at a level deeper than friendship. And, maybe someday God will bless me with that particular desire of my heart. For now, I am a single mother who loves the challenges I face each day with my children, because I know each day it makes me stronger.

Back to the Five Love Languages.

Dr. Chapman describes our ability to love and be loved like having a tank. Much like a gas tank, we spend some and we get some back. When the tank is full, we have more patience, understanding and ability to love others than when the tank is empty.

Your tank empties when you serve and help others without perceiving that you get anything back in return. The operative word is PERCEPTION. Because, while you may perceive that the person of your affections doesn’t love or care for you, they may express love to you in the only way they know how.

If you don’t perceive love, then your love tank empties and suddenly it’s almost impossible to have a relationship without anger, frustration and feeling taken for granted.

Unfortunately, as a single mom, we don’t have the balance of a spouse who can fill our tank so we can pour into our children. We have to consciously fill our tank each day.

And the best way to fill your love tank is through the actions of the people you love . . . .

Your Children.

But  . . . . how can they fill your love tank and you fill theirs, if you both speak different languages?

Love can be spoken in different languages and sometimes those languages have different dialects. What speaks volumes to me may not even cause you to turn your head. Over twenty years of professional practice, Dr. Chapman has defined five languages of love that appear to fit the majority of people.

That doesn’t mean you don’t speak a language that has yet to be discovered – or that your love language isn’t a less often used dialect. But it does mean, for the majority of people, there are five languages that fill your love tank. And one of them probably resonates with you.

You can find these languages listed in multiple places because it’s a concept that has merit and produces results.

Words of Affirmation
Quality Time
Receiving Gifts
Acts of Service
Physical Touch

Feb11MomChildThese are things that drive us as humans to want to please our loved ones.

Love is a choice and I choose to love my children, much the same way that you choose to love yours.

The interesting thing I found about learning my child’s language of love, is that the more they felt loved by me, the more they were willing to engage with me. We had deeper and more meaningful conversations about topics that parents have to talk with their children about.

Drugs, sex, school, work performance, future plans, girlfriends and boyfriends, relationships, abstinence, STDs . . . and the list goes on.

Without these conversations your children are getting the information they want and need from their friends, the media, YouTube and Beyonce.  If you want your children to pattern their lives after people in the media then you may be satisfied by not engaging them in the tough conversations.

But, if you don’t want your children to follow the same path of the people you watch on the news, then it’s time to face the challenge head on and address the issues they are facing everyday they leave your home.

When you connect with your children because their love tank is full and they know in their heart-of-hearts that you love them, then it’s possible to share your perspective, your world view and your ideas without coming to blows.

Assuming you believe it’s important – how to do you figure out what drives your child?

It’s actually much simpler than you might imagine. Children are usually much more transparent than adults and so, you become the detective.

Get to know the languages, how they’re spoken and how they are received when you speak the right one. Give your child words of affirmation, spend quality time, give them priceless gifts that don’t cost money, hug them and make them dinner.

The language the child speaks will mean the most to them. Do they love to hug you throughout the day? Do they thank you for making dinner or doing the dishes? Do they tell you how much you mean to them? Do they want to spend time with you, even if it’s just watching a movie together? Do they bring you small gifts with a big smile?

Your children show you love in the same way that they perceive it.

In other words, if their love language is physical touch, then they love to hug you throughout the day. If their language is words of affirmation, then they tell you how much they love you or how thankful they are for the things you do for them.

After reading the book, I sat back and thought about my children and what meant the most to them. My oldest daughter loves quality time with her mother. My youngest son’s love languages are balanced between words of affirmation and those incredible hugs he gives me. My oldest son loves quality time with me, usually after 10pm when I’m ready to fall asleep sitting up! And my youngest daughter loves words of affirmation and quality time.

Once I knew how to pour my love into them, it was important that they knew how to show me love, so that my tank was also full.

You might think that acts of service would do the trick for someone who is running from the time they are up in the morning until it’s time for bed. But, while I appreciate it when they help me keep our home clean, it is their words and their hugs that mean the most to me.

The reverse is also true.

If you can’t figure out what your own language is or your children’s, think about the things that hurt you (or them) the most. More often, if your language is words of affirmation, then hurtful words cut deeper. If your language is gifts, then having your birthday or anniversary of a special event overlooked is more painful.  You get the idea. You can figure it out by how they express themselves or what hurts more, because your love language speaks to the heart of who you are and how you feel about your relationships with others.

So, as you move through the rest of the week, think about what your children are saying and doing. Ask them if you’re right about what makes them feel loved. And then pour it in to them and watch them flourish and your relationship with them blossom in way you never thought possible.

It’s never too late. Whether you have 5-year-old, 15-year-old or 25-year-old children, it’s never too late to show them how much you really care.

 

 

Happiness Scale on Single or Married

Life in 21st century America is brimming with contradictions.

The divorce rate remains at a staggering 50% of married couples.
The number of single mothers is rising.

But our society continues to value pairs. There are discounts for people booking two seats. There are no single tables at restaurants. You are charged more for a single room at a hotel than a double (per person).

At Christmas couples kiss under the mistletoe. New Year’s Eve is a celebration for couples. Valentines and Sweetest Day round out the couple holidays. But let’s not also forget the tax benefits for married filing jointly or the stares as you enter the movie theater alone.

Why is it important to answer the question . . .

Who is happier? Single or married?

It is not a secret that I’m a Christian, follow Jesus Christ and call myself a Christ follower.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage, the joy of uniting for a lifetime. I look forward to the day when I might also be equally yoked with a good man, who has a good heart and looks forward to a future with me.

But, for now, the reality is that I’m a single parent. I’ve been a single mom through most of my married life, so it wasn’t nearly the shock I might have otherwise expected when I became a legal single mom after the divorce.

This question of being single or a couple has come up more and more in our home as my oldest daughter (one of twins) has married and the older two boys are casting about, trying to find their significant others.

I remember the same angst in myself and my peers as I was entering mid-20s. What would the rest of my life look like? Would there be someone at my side?

It might be my perspective, but today it feels a bit more frantic.

Today, it seems that hooking up is more important than a future together. A night of romping is better than a lifetime commitment. And, while being single no longer implies looking forward to a future with husband, wife and family – the desire for the warmth and comfort of another human being has not disappeared.

The difference seems to be in the amount of time we want to be attached to this other human being. Instead of finding your anchor, your soulmate, the person you can love for the rest of all eternity, more people are looking for the person they can love for the rest of the night.

Apps are making it easier to satisfy the flesh and more difficult to enjoy the deeper satisfaction you get when you know someone and you are known.

It reminds me of the theme song to the TV sitcom Cheers:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

 

The idea is that the people in this small Boston bar were KNOWN, loved and appreciated. But, even when they were disliked, their loss was still felt and mourned.

At some point I think that some of us have lost that desire. Or maybe it’s that we’re afraid that people will really know us – and in knowing us, won’t like who they see.

Married people are using excuses to seek comfort and pleasure outside of their marriage. It’s become the “in” thing – or at least until Ashley Madison was hacked!

Jan25CoupleOn the surface of it all married couples may appear to have it all, or at least all of what single people imagine is the Holy Grail. But underneath the façade boils a cauldron of witch’s brew and eye of newt, brought together to fill a void they perceive would be filled if they were single. More variety, more spice, greater excitement . . . CHANGE.

 

So, who is happier? Single or married?

How do you answer that question? Why is the answer to that question so important?

Whether you are happiest single or married is a question only you can answer for yourself. But, it’s how you live out the days between being single and married that your children watch.

They are watching you. Every minute of every day.

This point was driven home to me the other day in a way that surprised me. My sister keeps telling me that my 12 year old daughter hears all. I think I believed her, but it was today when my daughter asked me about something her older sister is going through, that I realized she was hearing EVERYTHING.

With the door shut, the music on and while she is playing on her PS4, she is hearing everything. She told me today that I don’t whisper very well.

It might be that the acoustics in our home are conducive to listening. But, that wouldn’t make sense because she never hears me when I’m calling her. . .

Hmmmm

I’ve had my hearing checked and it’s fine. I don’t think it’s the volume of my whispers.

It’s just that they hear everything. They know what we do and when we do it.

It’s how we live our lives as single mothers in front of our children that demonstrates for them that happiness is not a product of our circumstances. It could never be a product of our circumstances, because as humans we always want more, want something different than what we have.

Instead, our happiness and joy comes from who we are and how we choose to live our lives. Only you know the answer to whether or not you would be happiest single or married.

And only you can demonstrate to your children how to live happily no matter what your circumstances.

 

 

 

Moms Rule! Or Do They?

Before becoming a parent, and then a single parent, I was a pediatric nurse and then a pediatric nurse practitioner. I spent years in child psychology classes, learning parenting skills and failing miserably at understanding the Freud, Jung, Adler and Erikson theories of child development.

I just couldn’t remember who believed what about how the brain developed. BUT I did remember Freud’s bizarre ideas about boys and their mothers. That’s a whole other conversation!

Only after I had my own precious four did I come to a great realization of child development, parenting skills and the resulting child behaviors. Two of the greatest things I learned after years of marriage counseling and counseling for the children after the divorce, was:

All Kids Are Different and They Have to Understand the Rules

My first two children are boy-girl twins. And they couldn’t be any more different if I had planned it that way!

When they were born I was still grappling with the ideas of nature or nurture. Did a child’s personality and outcome depend upon what they were born with or how they were nurtured?

So I set about my own experiment at home. The twins were nurtured the same. They had the same toys, played, slept and ate at the same time. They got the same punishments and enjoyed the same benefits.

All Kids are Different

It wasn’t long before you could see a heart of gold in my young boy and a backbone of steel in the little girl. She knew her mind and there was no giving in. He would give anyone the toys in his hand and the ones in his box. Her toys were hers and no one else’s!

When they were growing up, if he got money for his birthday, he asked to be taken out to buy his sister a toy. If the kids on the playground wanted to pick on her brother, she would have beaten them up if the teacher let her.

He had a hard time making up his mind and she knew what she wanted within seconds. He’s a talented mechanic (self-taught) and she’s a musician with the voice of an angel (mom talking). She has a quick temper and he is laid back. She takes special care with clothes and her hair, he loves sweats and a t-shirt.  She was a focused student and he was happy just skating by.

The point being – they are different people. No matter how much I treated them the same, they turned out differently. The argument of nature vs. nurture can continue, but I’m convinced it’s a combination of both and not exclusively one or the other.

Which brings me to the second point . . .

Kids Have to Understand the Rules

Starting from a base that all children are different, will also mean they have a different understanding of the rules as well.

It might make sense to you that someone has to understand the rules before they can obey them, but if their understanding is slightly different from yours, it can distort the whole situation.

For instance, when I asked my daughter to clean her room she would pick up the clothes on the floor and fix the bed. Everything else remained the same. No matter how hard I tried to explain to her that this also meant she should pick up the clothing tags that had migrated under the bed, the gum wrappers near the garbage can or the bits of paper from her notebook that littered the floor, she just didn’t understand.

It was almost as if she didn’t see them.

But, when I picked them up, she noticed they were gone. They were, instead, a comfort to her. Those were her bits of garbage that made the room feel like home.

At that point I had a decision to make. How important was it that I disturb what she found comforting in order to have a room I found clean?

It wasn’t important, so I closed the door and called it even.

If kids are different but have to understand the rules in order to follow them, then wouldn’t it make sense to know what they are thinking?

This is the part where you balance your knowledge, expertise and desire against their’s.

Jan14Teen

Who Wins?

The objective is that neither of your wins and neither loses – but you come to an agreement about what’s important and you both respect each other.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!
~Aretha Franklin

Respect has to be the basis for developing rules they can live with and you can enforce. Without respect for both the rules and for you, chaos rules.

Here are a few tips from psychologists and moms who have walked this road and found relief in the rules.

  1. Spend time thinking about what’s important in your family before determining what the rules will be. Too often we look at the minutia of life and forget the big picture. If you daughter keeps her room spotless, will it teach her to be a better person? Forgiving? Charitable? Persistent? Forceful?

What do you want your children to learn before leaving home. Figure that out, and then work backwards.

  1. Think about the rules in light of what you are willing to enforce. If you can’t enforce the rules, then maybe you’re becoming a helicopter mom, hovering over all they do. As they grow you should be allowing them to make some of their own decisions so they can make the mistakes at home while you’re there to catch them as they fall.
  1. Use words and terms they understand. Think about how they are different from you and from each other before you try to explain what you expect. For instance, explaining how they can honor you will be different between a child of 5 and one of 15.
  1. Make gradual changes. Almost no one likes going cold turkey. It might be the best way to quit smoking or eating sugar, but it’s not easy. And, what isn’t easy for them will be more difficult for you. Remember, these are rules for the family and not just the children. If you expect them not to use curse words, then you’d better stop too. Children do what they see more often than what they’re told.

Many years ago my twins enjoyed PopTarts in the morning before school and gallons of ice cream throughout the week. That’s right – gallons with an “s.”

As I discovered better ways to take care of my own health, they were introduced to new ideas as well. First to go was the PopTarts! After weeks of crying, begging, moaning and negotiating they gave in and didn’t ask again. Many, many weeks later it was another treat or sweet they thought they couldn’t live without.

Gradually, over months, our diet changed and we began eating more real food and less processed foods. Today, they enjoy real food and steer clear of the ‘other stuff’ all on their own.

Life is a journey. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Prepare for the marathon and set your goals accordingly.

All I ask for is a little respect.
~ Aretha Franklin

 

Four Parenting Discoveries That Made Life Easier

Where do we learn our parenting skills?

Most psychologists agree that we learn by seeing how our parents prepared us for adulthood. There are so many different styles, methods, ideas, and ways of dealing with your children on a day to day basis that most of us learn to fly by the seat of our pants and don’t delve into the newest parenting book on the NY Times Bestseller List.

I remember when the twins were babies that the “in” thing to do was to “Ferberize” them. This meant evaluating their need for food during the night based on their age and weight. If they were over a specific age and weight then it was time to let them “cry it out” so they could learn to sleep through the night.

Today, this sounds a bit barbaric to me. But, in a sleep deprived state, my brain thought that method of getting rest was just what the doctor ordered. In fact, my pediatrician ordered just that.

I sat outside my daughter’s room for 3 nights as she cried for her momma, while I was in tears outside the door. She was a particularly persistent child. My son learned in one night. She took three. It took me weeks before I could forget the crying and decide that no matter what any doctor said, I was the best judge of what my children needed.

I had a friend at the time who used a method of parenting she learned from a book. Her children appeared to be incredibly obedient in public. But, when we visited her home the chaos was as great as it was at other homes. The methods she used seemed a bit harsh to me.

Another friend had a teen who totaled 3 cars before he was 18. They replaced the car each time for him and told me it was never his fault. After three totaled new vehicles I would have thought that something might have clicked for them. ONE of those accidents must have been his fault!

So what is the best way to raise our children? Is it being permissive and open with them? Should we be very strict and expect more from them than society does? Are we their friends or their parents? And what exactly does being the parent really mean?

After years of raising four children, starting three businesses and watching my friends I’ve come the conclusion that I still don’t know.

But, while I don’t know the ultimate answer, I have uncovered four factors that helped me.

 

  1. Each child requires different kinds of attention. Until my oldest children were 12, all four were treated pretty much the same. But it was that year that I read The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman and learned that each of us interprets love in different ways. It made sense that my children had the same experience. When I looked at them through that lens I discovered that Nicholas loves to be hugged, Megan values the time she spends with me, Zachary thrives on having things done for him and Gabrielle wants quality time with mom.

Once I got it, they started feeling more loved and cared for, and became more independent. It was like a light suddenly opened up in our home and it was an incredible blessing.

  1. Building their strength made them better humans. When my babies were first born I used to laughingly say that I signed up for bottles, feedings, diapers, illnesses and sleepless nights. But, I didn’t want to deal with driving, dating, sex, drugs, or alcohol. Thankfully my kids didn’t listen and they continued to grow up.

Somehow I was going to have to make it through the teen years. So far, I’m through three of them. Although they’ve turned out fairly well, I’m still not looking forward to the fourth one and her teen years.

Each child has a different set of strengths and weaknesses, just like our friends, ex’s and ourselves. When we play up to the strengths, we create a stronger child. These children grow into stronger adults.

Psychologists call this strength-based parenting and point out that this type of parenting increases the resiliency children have as they grow older. They get through negative circumstances better, have less stress and become better people.  The idea is to help them THRIVE.

  1. Making the rules clear, cleared the way of potential problems. I have five rules in my home. The children grew up knowing those five rules. The unfortunate part is that although they knew them, they weren’t always enforced. Of course, knowing the rules is important. If you don’t know what’s going to happen, then how do you know what you should do.

But the flipside of that same coin, is knowing the rules and enforcing them – those are two different issues. My kids knew the rules, but mom didn’t always enforce the consequences. They learned that if they waited long enough I’d probably relent or forget. It has been a challenge for me to learn how follow through!

  1. Working from the end backwards. Anytime I started a business I worked from the ultimate goal, backwards. If I wanted to open a new membership I started with whether there was a market, how to communicate with potential new members, the product I had to produce and how I should deliver it.

Why is it we don’t think about approaching our children or our other relationships with the same attitude? Somehow I thought that it would just all turn out in the end. It doesn’t! Children are a project and if we don’t spend time planning the project – how to address issues, grow their strengths, guide their morals and ethics – we have planned to fail.

The end result might not turn out too badly, or it could. Planning takes some of the risk out of the future. Flexibility is also necessary, since not all children will respond well to the consequences you use.

My middle son is a talented basketball player. But I’ve found that he blossoms under some coaches and not so much under others. Some coaches believe there is just one way of motivating players and they use it for the entire team. Nicholas is just like all other players and other people, he’s an individual and needs individual attention.