Category Archives: Parenting

I have been a parent now for nineteen years.  Some days I feel like I have learned and grown so much as a parent that I could sit with a new mom and pour wonderful nuggets of wisdom into her cup.  Other days I feel completely unequipped and literally exhale doubt and confusion about how to walk this parenting journey well.

Over the years I have garnered advice from various sources and tried numerous “systems” in our home to to be an intentional, character developing mom.  Many of the new things I have tried have totally flopped, and some have been a great success.  Today I want to share with you three of my most successful parenting “hacks.”    These are resources that are not only extremely helpful to me as a mom, but continue to help me again and again as my mothering seasons change:

MOTHER AND SON by Eggerich

Product Details

This book is a must read for any mother of a son.  Eggerich writes about speaking a different language with our sons–a language of respect.  We are natural speakers of love and affection as moms, but he teaches us how to reach our son’s hearts by speaking words of respect and honor to them.  I began to see changes in my relationship with my son as soon as I started implementing the wisdom in the book.  It’s well worth having in your parenting library– you can click here to find it on Amazon:
Mother and Son: The Respect Effect

CIRCLE by Disney  

So……this is not my children’s favorite but it is one of mine.  I have struggled with managing the technology beast in our house that was threatening some core values we had as a family–protecting what our children watched on screens (what we are putting in to our minds), time spent on screens (how we manage our time), and sleep (…pretty sure sleep can be a core value).

With Circle, you order a small modem that you get for a one time $99.00 fee.  When it arrives at your house you plug it in and the modem basically re-routes all the Wi-Fi in your home through the Circle network.  You then download an app and from your phone can manage all the users of any device in your house.

For example, my daughter has a computer and a phone.  Both of these devices are recognized by Circle which means I can see all the apps on her phone and subsequently manage all of them (Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, etc.), specifically how long she can be on each app (like one hour on YouTube/day).  I can also see what websites she is visiting.

I can also set filters for all the devices (ours are all set to Teen) and set a wake up and sleep time which shuts down the devices at night.

For our family, Circle became necessary when our kids grew old enough to stay up later than my husband and me (actually we are just getting old an needing to go to bed earlier) and we were concerned how long into the night they were on their devices with no supervision.  However, I wish I would have been able to start Circle earlier when our kids first started having phones and computers.

As our teens get older, I will graduate them out of Circle since they will need to learn to manage their time on devices on their own, but for now it is helping them set good habits and learn reasonable time limits for their phone and video use (and I don’t think we can protect our sons enough from access to pornography).

You can order CIRCLE HERE if you want to give it a try…it has given me great peace of mind.

 

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PODCAST  

I started listening to this a couple of years ago and boy do I wish I would have had this resource earlier in my parenting years.  This podcast is one of THE MOST helpful and encouraging (and challenging) tools I have had as a mom.  The podcast is every day, and it ranges from marriage to parenting to discipline to faith building topics.  They are all amazing. But the parenting ones have been priceless for me.  Here is the link.  I have downloaded the app on my phone and listen while I am driving or doing chores around the house.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast

So, those are my three favs.  I hope maybe one of these is helpful to you in your parenting journey. We need to link arms as moms and encourage and help each other out as we raise our kiddos.

Blessings to you!

~Amy

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My husband read a quote on Facebook today:

“I was going to quit all my bad habits in 2017, but then I remembered nobody likes a quitter.”

Ha ha!  That quote speaks to what many of us are thinking about as the calendar changes to a new year.  We want renewal and change but our good intentions often aren’t fulfilled.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am kind of a New Year’s Resolution geek.  And my family gets to entertain my obsession with goal setting just because they love me and don’t really have a choice.  I only subject them to this once a year–when we do our family New Year’s Resolution/Goal-Setting night.

All kidding aside, I do think there are some great benefits for taking the time to work through goal-setting as a family; specifically two:

  1. Our kids learn the habit of self-reflection and the practice of change.   It is actually quite easy to move through life without looking back to analyze what we has worked for us and what we can improve upon.  Successful businesses do this annually (or even quarterly). They review the numbers or the growth they are trying to measure and make changes accordingly.  Why not do this with ourselves and our families?  In seeing what did or didn’t work last year we can then work on changing ourselves going forward.  I want our kids to learn the gift of self-reflection.
  2.  Our kids learn how to set concrete goals and steps for achieving  them. We have all heard how the road to bleep is paved with good intentions.  Well, I would love our children to learn the art of actual change and be able to look back on the year and see how their steps toward improvement made a positive impact on their lives. I want them to feel empowered in their lives with the ability to get “unstuck” if needed.

So in early January Jon, the kids and I sat down and worked through some questions and then talked about them as a family.  We gave the kids a chance to identify some areas of their lives that they were happy with and some areas where change might be needed or wanted, and we did the same for ourselves.  It was great and I would encourage you to give it a try!

If you would like to have a Family Goal-Setting Night, here are some questions for everyone participating to ask themselves:

  1. WHAT are some areas you would like to work on this year?  For kids some examples may be in academics or sports or cutting back on social media.  For adults some examples may be finding more time to connect with your spouse or goals with your work life or homemaking.
  2. What are the SPECIFIC goals you want to work on in the areas you picked?
  3. WHY do you want this to be a goal? This is one of the most important questions to ask–if we don’t have our strong “why,” the chances of change are pretty slim.
  4. What are the specific STEPS you can take this year to achieve your goals?

If you are like me and want a more structured plan than open ended questions, I created the FAMILY NEW YEAR GOAL-SETTING PRINTABLE

In the printable each family member can draw circles around areas where they want to set some new goals (spirituality, friendships, healthy eating, social media, screen-time, and family relationships to name a few) and then they can work through how to accomplish those goals.

EXAMPLE

Here is an example from my own life that I gave our kids as they worked through the printable:

One of my resolutions for 2017 is with meal planning.  Last year I put as one of my new year’s goals “to increase the variety and consistency of making meals for my family.”  Well, I totally flopped in achieving that goal, and it was a source of frustration for me all year.

But instead of feeling like a total failure as a kitchen maven,  I took some time to really look at why my goal didn’t work. In 2016, two of our children had their license, all were in sports or working, involved in youth group activities, and my husband traveled about twenty nights out of the month.  We had a revolving front door, with busy teenagers and constantly moving parts.

Even when I thought everyone would be home for a meal, I was constantly disappointed that I had made the effort to cook (something I don’t particularly enjoy) when plans would change and no one was there to eat it.  And when the kids did trickle in they were not hungry since they had eaten a snack at work or church.

So this year, I am still going to make it a goal, but tweak it a little. (In the printable I created, each family member can work through these four questions):

AREA: Homemaking

GOAL: Planning meals that work for my family’s busy schedule

WHY: This is still an important need for my family and it makes me feel good when our kids are served a nutritious meal at home.

SPECIFIC STEPS:

  1. To prepare a variety crock pot meals that the kids can eat whenever they arrive home.  This is far more flexible and appealing than a meal on a plate in the fridge that needs to be reheated.
  2. To make sure that in our family meeting on Sunday nights I am aware of everyone’s schedule and they are aware of what nights I am making the effort to cook so they come home hungry and expecting a meal.

This was a great exercise for me to work through personally, and I hope you and your loved ones can find some time to do the same.

Click HERE if you would like to try this with your family!

~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the-hardest-partabout-giving-our-kidstough-consequences

(Shared with permission from our son who is an amazing kid and I will be buying him a large Blizzard from D.Q. for letting me pick on him in this post)

A few months back my husband, son and I stood in our family room in the midst of a tense discussion. Our fifteen year-old had just responded in a not-so-stellar way to the idea that he would have to be dropped off at work a half an hour early to accommodate our schedules.

Since we had been working on respectful responses with our son for a few months now, and it had cropped up again, my husband decided enough was enough.  He proceeded to tell our son that instead of getting a ride to Chick-Fil-A that day for work, he would need to ride his bike the three miles to get there…and he better get a move on to make it in time.

Now a teenager riding his bike to work may not seem like a big deal, but it was for me. Our kids just haven’t ridden their bikes much outside of our neighborhood before.  We live in a semi-remote neighborhood where it takes riding a distance to get anywhere other than a gas station.

So as my husband stood his ground and told our son to hurry up and make sure the tires were full of air, I sat a little stunned on the couch.  Here’s what was going on inside my head:

“He’s never ridden his bike to work, can he do it?” (that sounds silly even as I write it but I really asked myself that question). “Is it too far?  What about the busy roads?  How will my directionally challenged son know how to get there?”

Even though my protective mom instinct was sounding off full volume,  I kept my mouth shut.  I needed to let my husband take the reigns on this one because this was a recurring issue lately and an important one. We clearly needed something tougher to use as a consequence than taking his phone away (which is what we had been doing).

Our son immediately went into sorry mode, which made staying quiet even harder.   He pleaded and then realizing he was getting nowhere got mad,  stormed into the garage and rode away.

I fought all sorts of urges to stop the whole scene.  But why?  Why was it so hard for me to accept that our son needed to have a hard consequence?

I’ve given this some thought…a lot of thought actually.  And I have three main ideas about why it is so difficult for those of us who are parents to give hard consequences to our kids.

ONE:  It Causes Us Pain

I feel pain when my kids are struggling and darn it, I don’t want to feel pain.  And I don’t only feel pain, but I worry and stress and doubt about the decision. As loving parents, we carry a fierce instinct to protect our children, and I think we feel like we’re leaving them outside to weather the storm alone when we dole out the tough love.

I’ve noticed I am mostly unaffected when grounding our kids or taking their phones away or making them do chores for misbehavior. But the truth is while those things are challenging for our kids, they often do not produce long term-results.

Sometimes we need to be brave enough to raise the bar on the discipline.  In our trying to “protect” them and soften the consequence, we ultimately fail at protecting them from turning into self-indulgent, self-centered, “me” focused children.

TWO: We Don’t Like Our Kids Being Upset With Us

I don’t know about your family, but when we set a boundary or say no to something, especially something that is a “big deal” to our kids, they aren’t all lovey dovey with us.

In fact, we may experience some anger or aloofness or distance from our kids.  We feel disconnected with them.  Doesn’t this go against everything we normally fight for as moms–feeling connected with our children?

We work so hard to create harmony and unity in our homes, between siblings, in our marriage, and with our relationship with our children, that the break in harmony really feels… yucky (that’s the most accurate word I can come up with).  It makes me sad, and my day harder, and adds to the tension in every conversation I need to have with that child…so I avoid it, even if it’s unintentional.

THREE: We Are Little Picture Responders Instead of Big Picture Fighters

Ultimately, we are so close to and emotionally involved in the situation that it is often difficult for us to step back and see that the misbehavior is actually derailing our great intentions for our kids’ character.

I think we all can agree that we want to raise respectful, kind, considerate, grateful kids.  It is often when our kids are disrespectful, unkind, inconsiderate and ungrateful that we are faced with the discipline decision.  Yet at that crucial moment we often make excuses for them or soften the discipline because of the previous two reasons.

We need to circle back to the kind of little/big people we want to raise.  The consequence, however painful for all involved, works toward that goal.  It is for their own good, and we need to fight for what is best for them.

The story wraps up like this.   Our son made it to work, and on the way there he was pulled over by a police officer who kindly told him that he couldn’t ride his bike across the bridge over the highway (no we didn’t bribe an officer to add a little extra shake up to the situation, but not bad timing).

After work our son texted me for a ride home since he would have to ride back over the highway to get home and didn’t want to have a second conversation with a police officer in one day.

I fully expected to pick up an angry child who didn’t want to speak to me.  My husband had left out of town for work so I braced myself emotionally for the evening ahead.

Instead, a humble and respectful young man got in the car and thanked me for picking him up.

Wow.

This was a lesson for our son, but it was a bigger lesson for me.  I learned that the hard consequences work, and more importantly that I could handle the pain they caused my mom-heart.  As our children continue to go through their teen years I often think about this day.  I remember that it is okay for our kids to sweat it out (literally) in order to experience changed behavior.

The truth is, our kids can handle hard consequences.  We are the ones that often can’t.

God is the perfect parent.  He does not cushion our life-lessons.  No, He let’s us fall hard, mess up, struggle and even suffer the consequences of our actions.  But He never leaves us, always is there to love us and care for us in the midst of our pain.  May I continue to look heavenward for the best parenting example ever.

Please love on another mom today and share this post with her–let’s encourage each other to be the best parents we can be.

~Amy

PS: If you are wanting to hear a whole lot of great parenting advice, you can attend the online MOM CONFERENCE next week, October 11, 12th and 13th.  It is FREE and you will get access to amazing speakers, and hopefully feel strengthened and encouraged in your mothering journey.

Here’s a short video sharing more:

Just click HERE for more information or to register!

MOM CONFERENCE 2016

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Summer Mom

As school ends and summer gently drops its bags inside our front door for a good long stay, I picture myself sitting on our back patio sipping a cool drink, writing in my planner, reading a great book or paging through the my most recent Good Housekeeping magazine.  This relaxing would happen while my children are happily entertaining themselves with something educational or productive after making their beds and cleaning up after breakfast.  We would rest, play, and I would still accomplish the daily list that I had when they were in school all day.

Why do I picture that which never occurs?

In reality, the transition from school to summer feels more like being dunked into a basin of shockingly cold water. One week our three teen-aged children are gone for 8 eight hours a day, busy with tests and school and end of year activities, and the next week they are sleeping until ten…ish, and then needing forty-two rides around town, and eating all the food in the house.  It’s normal, and I am happy to stock up on extra food and increase my gas budget, it just happens so suddenly and every year it throws me for a loop.

Now that I have walked through 13 summer transitions (starting when our oldest was in Kindergarten), I have learned some things.  Things that I would like to share for those of you who are starting to feel a little panicky right about this time.  These “things” are not magic, you will still feel like you are dunked, but the water won’t be so shockingly cold:

RELAX for the first two weeks.  On everything. On schedules, on eating, on how everyone should be getting along, on expectations. Throw them all out the window.   I used to, in my panicky state, structure much of our kids’ lives from the first day of break–bible studies, chore charts, even asking them to set their alarm so they didn’t sleep the day away (I know, not fun mom). I was just terrified of NO STRUCTURE.  If I kept my kids busy, they wouldn’t be bored or argue or completely shrink their brains with screens–all things I feared. But I noticed after a couple years of this that it made everything worse.  They fought more, they were stressed with my expectations and I was just plain frustrated.
So one year I decided to not to have any structure for the first two weeks.  Let them sleep, be totally unproductive, and watch TV longer than I preferred.  And they were okay! In fact, they worked out their sibling issues with in a week or so, they got bored watching TV and started getting outside and being creative, and they slept–and that is so good for their growth and development. So give it two weeks and see what happens.
LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES  I listened to an audio recently of Gary Smalley and his wife being interviewed about how they managed their family summer.  They shared how each family member should find both REST and LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES in their summer structure. Sometime in those first two weeks, sit down as a family and ask each person what their ideal summer would entail. What would make each person excited? More sleeping?  A great vacation?  Time with friends? Reading a novel or two? Try to honor everyone’s wishes within reason, and then remember when your teenage son is still sleeping at 11:00AM, that this is life giving to him.
BE INTENTIONAL Now be intentional about making your family’s hopes happen. Put them on the calendar.  Make them a priority.  If your husband really wants to take the family camping, honor that and find the time.  If your daughter would like to learn how to do pottery, sign her up for a class.  And figure out what YOU would like, and honor yourself enough to make it a reality.  If in the family meeting you and your spouse valued doing something together as a family each week, then you will need to say no to certain things, and move others around to make that a priority.
SET ASIDE YOUR AGENDA–or slow it down.  For me, this is the hardest part of summer.  I have a design business, love to write for my blog, errands, housekeeping and exercise when I can.  I am full steam ahead with these activities while the kids are in school and I find that when I forget to make the shift to kids being home I just feel frustrated that I am not getting things done.
MOMS, WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE DO LIFE IN THE SUMMER.  If we want to be engaged and present with our kids, we need to rework what our days normally look like the rest of the year.  For me it’s rising early to get a couple of hours of work in before the kids wake up.  Then I try to be available to them and enjoy the chauffeuring and sitting at activities.  I slow my workload WAY down, and if you are not able to do that, consider hiring someone to take care of your kids while you work so you can be present with them the rest of the time.  I also shift my expectations of how clean my house will be–I will be vacuuming and picking up more, and that’s okay because it means there are lots of little people around enjoying their summer.
ALLOW YOUR KIDS TO BE BORED.  For some reason as a mom of young children, boredom scared me to death. It meant whining and fussing and I was often tempted to never allow boredom to happen by over-scheduling our days. Yet boredom forces our kids to be creative.  It causes them to engage a part of their brains that is not used when we are constantly entertaining them.  Put up with the whining for however long it takes–an hour, a day?  And then watch what your children begin come up with to creatively fill their time.

As a mom of a child heading off to college this fall, I know the blessing and gift of summer for our family.  It is where we treasure some of our best memories, and it is also a time that has caused me stress over the years. I was truly that mom that had bible studies ordered and chore charts made and alarm clocks set.  And our sweet kids tried to accomplish all the “goals” I asked of them.  While some structure and contribution is so good for our kids, my hindsight perspective is that I wish I would have relaxed more, let there be more unstructured time, and investigated each family member’s desires for their summer and made sure they happened–including mine which would land me back on the patio with a Diet Pepsi and a magazine!

Summer MOM Challenge:  Spend some time thinking and praying about what your summer stressors are.  What is frustrating to you?  What are your fears?  Ask God to give you clarity and then come up with some ideas about how to change things up this summer to relieve those issues.

xoxo,

Amy

 

 

 

 

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