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Archive for Parenting

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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?

7 Steps to Grow Your Children Intentionally

It was only 10 years ago when I first heard the term ‘intentional’ used to in relation to what was done in their life.

The exact quote was about living ‘authentically, transparently and intentionally.’ Each of these are things I aspire to become, because in the journey to reaching authenticity, transparency and intentionality I become the best version of myself. And, the best version of me will be the best business woman, the best parent, the best friend and will be someone I enjoy spending time alone with.

Unfortunately, too many times relationships with 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 with intentionality? 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.

In fact, my oldest who have long since left the protection of my home continue to humble me. 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.

You entered into an agreement with them when they were born. They didn’t ask to become a person, you made that choice for them. So, when they were born you agreed to do anything and everything to keep them safe and raise them well – whether you know you made that agreement or not.

Somedays are better than others – but at the end of every day the question remains – did you do your best?

Did you intentionally interact and give your best – to your children? To your job? To your friends?

Whether 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.

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

It may be 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 relationships 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.

This was a concept my ex-husband couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. Although his own father modeled intentionality – spending time and energy with his children – my children’s father found it foreign, and he wasn’t willing to learn how.

You might be in the same shoes. It may be a foreign concept to you – these are after all small people who don’t act or react in the same way your adult friends do. But, if you CHOOSE to learn, discover and invest yourself in them, you’ll reap rewards far beyond your dreams.

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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!

6. Be straight with your children, at their developmental level. Never lie to your children, unless you expect 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.

7. 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.

Start Aiming for the Path You Want Your Children to Take

There is such hope in a new baby, sleeping peacefully in their bed. They haven’t tried to put a fork in the wall outlet, or bit a child at daycare. This newborn has not yet torn up their crib mattress or smeared their sister with diaper cream. The hope lying in the face of new innocence hasn’t talked back to you, wrecked the car or come home with a new piercing.

There is hope. And with hope, there is a future.

Your parents had the same hope, and their parents before them. This hope is God given, because without it no one would have children!

At some point along the way adults have gotten tired and hope has been lost. At some point we began to expect our children to do their best or to do good enough – and nothing more. And then we began to expect it of ourselves as well.

Without expectations we all fall short – because we have no idea where the finish line is . . . and neither do our children.

Our kids are taking guns into schools. They are failing in math, writing, logical reasoning and history. They are expected to do just good enough in school so they can excel in athletics.

When did football replace math? Basketball replace reading?

I’m not usually thrilled with my youngest son’s focus on his future – he’s a perfectionist and it drives him crazy. No one is perfect – and while it’s important to STRIVE for perfection, it’s also critical to recognize our human failings and accept that failing means you’re one step closer to perfection.

There is a balance there – where “just good enough” is NOT acceptable, but 100% perfection is not attainable.

In some instances, perfection is necessary. You don’t want a heart or brain surgeon to do “just good enough,” you demand perfection. You don’t want your child to get the wrong medication from the nurse, or ordered the wrong test by a physician – you demand perfection.

And rightly so.

Outside of some professions, we’ve come to accept that just good enough is just good enough. And by accepting that 98% of the time the job is done, we are also accepting the cost to our children and to their future – and the future of this country.

If drivers are right 98% of the time, then people die. If airline pilots are right 98% of the time, then people die. If surgeons, computer coders, housekeeping and manufacturers are right 98% of the time – then people die.

And people ARE dying. Drivers, hospital patients, and airline passengers are dying.

Perfection may not be attainable ALL of the time – but it’s certainly not expected if you don’t try.

Perfection comes through practice, through trying, through paying attention every day to everything you do. And your children are watching!

You may expect perfection from them in their report cards, cleaning up at the end of the day, doing laundry, putting away their possessions – but what do you do? How do you practice perfection in your own life?

And are you afraid of failure?

 

 

 

This is something I came face to face with in the last six month. I am afraid of failure. And because of that fear, I haven’t moved forward, haven’t taken the next step and developed what I KNOW can be something really good for my family.

But fear has stood in the way – because I haven’t practiced perfection.

And without practice, how can you expect to produce anything close to perfection? When my sons and daughter have learned basketball, they practiced. Sometimes for hours and hours they practiced in order to get better. And by getting better they enjoyed the game even more.

When you practice perfection in the smaller things in life you learn to apply these principles to the larger things in life. But without practice, you are doomed to fail.

And failure is not fun!

Consider this – medical errors are now the 3rd leading cause of death in America. Each year 250,000 professionals probably thought they were doing their job “just good enough” and someone else paid a lethal price.

But failure is necessary – it’s a necessary stepping stone to achieving perfection. At some point we’ve dismissed our natural ability to accept failure and learn from it – and instead have embraced the idea that failure will screw up our self-esteem or cause us too much stress.

So we started to tell our children that it’s ok to give your best and to stop there. There’s no need to continue down a path that may not yield more or better results.

Perfection may not be attainable 100% of the time, but it won’t be attainable at all unless you try to get there in the first place.

Our school systems are giving awards to all the kids so they don’t have to confront the student who doesn’t put forth the effort or chooses less than what they can achieve.

In other words, we’re more comfortable rewarding the effort than the result.

The effort is important. The result is what counts. You won’t get results without effort – but you can put forth effort without achieving results.

In 2015, 20% of all graduating seniors in Dublin OH left school with the title Valedictorian. Two hundred and twenty two students were valedictorian that year. I can guarantee you, there wasn’t a tie between 222 students for top grades in three high schools!

Instead of top honors going to the student with the highest GPA, they awarded the honor to all students who graduated with a GPA higher than 4.0.  If 4.0 is the highest GPA you can achieve . . . how can you get higher than 4.0? And if you can get higher than 4.0 – where does it stop?

At this point the school is offering an equal outcome – when everyone rises despite results, then you have to wonder – how do you rise above the crowd? If you don’t have the potential to fail – then how do you reach your potential?

Failure is a motivating force when you harness it so you are willing to do what is difficult to achieve what is right.

 

When we seek perfection without fearing failure we will stop living in a world where we reap the rewards of “just good enough.”

Rules You Can Live By

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 theirs.

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 your 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 for 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 Pop Tarts 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 were the Pop Tarts! 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teach Your Child About Bullies

Unfortunately, bullies are not just common in childhood. It seems that some people never grow up. Some adults think they can get their way by raising their voice, towering over you, staring you eye-to-eye, or threatening you with consequences that aren’t normally associated with the behavior.

The news has been filled with men who are losing their jobs and positions after reports of their behavior have been made public. Some are surprising and others appeared to be the worst kept Hollywood secret. But, the one that strikes me as the most preposterous is the man who lost his job after listening to another man talk about assaulting women, while the guy who did the talking was elected president.

But, I digress.

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. All ages. Both genders. All colors. Some hide under a threat of retaliation while others don’t care who knows about their behavior. Your child likely knows a bully at school. They may have daily contact with that bully.

The school your child attends does not preclude this behavior. Christian schools, public, private and even homeschool programs are not immune from children whose behavior is likely the result of how they have been treated.

My children had a cousin who enjoyed pushing them around, bullying them and pulling out his father’s soft porn magazines. It was a fine line we walked between offending the family and keeping my children in public areas with him. Turns out his father treated him in the same way he treated those younger and smaller than he was.

My youngest daughter attends a Christian homeschool program where she’s been bullied by a young man who has threatened her over the phone. The threat was to spread vicious rumors about her.

My oldest daughter experienced interactions with young ladies at her first Christian college who were bullies.

It’s important to talk with your children about bullies, whether they have interactions with one or not. Sooner or later, at some point in their life, they will have a relationship with someone who threatens them with physical or emotional repercussions if the bully’s demands are not met. If your child knows how to react first, they’ll experience less emotional turmoil and may get out of the situation unscathed.

Give your children the tools they need to navigate this minefield.

 

They will feel afraid

Tell your children they will feel afraid. If they know upfront they’ll feel afraid and that fear is exactly what the bully wants, it may help them to deal with the situation. Teach them how to deal with their fear in the moment, so they can follow the plan and deal with the feelings after the situation has expired.

 

Showing fear increases a bully’s power

Most, if not all, bullies will recognize fear and continue their behavior when they recognize their actions are achieving results. If your child can learn to hide their fear or pretend they aren’t afraid, many bullies will back down with other strategies listed here. One way to hide your fear is to keep your mind occupied with another task. Count backwards from 100, spell a word backward or recite the periodic table or the U.S. states. It doesn’t matter what you do, keep your eyes on the environment and your mind on something else – no one will know how scared you are.

 

Try to prevent running into a bully

Teach your children not to give bullies a chance to interact with them. Your child can’t hide or skip class, but they can take different routes and pair up to walk with someone else. Make a plan to walk to school, take recess or walk to class with friends. Bullies are interested in dealing with one person at a time, so two or more children together may be just the deterrent that’s needed.

 

Stand up for yourself

When you’re scared of another person, you’re likely not feeling your bravest. BUT, sometimes just ACTing brave is enough to make a bully back down. Most bullies are not interested in engaging in a physical confrontation. You want to stand tall, but you don’t want to provoke a bully or try to bully them back by hitting, pushing or kicking.

 

Talk about it

Speech is one of the most powerful things we have. It’s why God taught the tongue is more powerful than anything man has at his disposal. The tongue can start a war, forgive a wrong and communicate ideas. And your child’s tongue can stop a bully.

Most bullies prefer their actions to remain private, in the dark and far from the light of day.  When your child talks to an adult about their problem it helps them to process through what’s happening and reduces the risk of depression.  And, between you, you’ll find a solution. So encourage your child to share with you.

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.