Category Archives: Parenting

Not every year, but most, I give the ladies in our family (mothers, sisters, daughters) a devotional for Christmas.  It is my way of saying “I love you and here’s some hope and encouragement during the good and inevitable not-so-good days of the upcoming year.”  (Oh, and I always get one for myself too!)

This year I found mother/daughter devotionals that have the same theme for the year and they are at great Cyber Monday prices:

1. COLORING DEVOTIONALS (the new trend)

Wholehearted: A Coloring Book Devotional

Moms, do you daydream about slowing down? Here’s a way. Picture a morning cup of coffee, an array of pencils and a few minutes to color your thoughts on the devotional you just read.  Click on the picture or the link above to see more:


Faithgirlz: 60 Days Of Discovering God’s Hope and Love

This is for girls 8-12 years old..a great present for your daughters or nieces or granddaughters! I love anything that encourages creativity and provides an alternative to screen time.

 

2. PRAYER JOURNALS

My Prayer Journal: A Three Month Guide to Praise and Thanks

I shared in a recent FB video about how writing down my prayers has really helped me focus during my prayer time.  This prayer journal might be the perfect gift for yourself or for others who want to grow their prayer lives.

My Kid’s Prayer Journal: 100 Days of Prayer and Praise

What a gift to our children to help them learn how to pray and give praise to God! And, this is something you can share together if you both have a kickstart to your year with these devotionals.

 

3. QUALITY TIME WITH JESUS

JESUS ALWAYS: Embracing Joy in His Presence

These devotionals are timeless-I read them year after year and the truth is fresh each time. Of all the devotionals out there, Sara Young’s speak to my heart the most.


JESUS ALWAYS: 365 Devotions for Kids

This is one of my FAVORITE kid’s devotionals.  It is simple but full of truth.  We used to read it at the dinner table for our family dinners.

Hopefully you found one of these types of devotionals that you would love for yourself or for a family member (or friend!).  Starting the new year on the spiritual right foot is a beautiful gift!

xoxo,

Amy

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In December on the Blog- another kitchen makeover, holiday design tips, and more Christmas spirit coming your way!

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This blog was written a few months ago and I am just publishing it now. I needed to let it percolate and seek the okay from family members, because it is real and a bit vulnerable…but hopefully encouraging to you as you know you don’t walk this parenting journey alone.

I do my best processing of life on airplanes. There is something about being confined to my own little space with no distraction except the occasional beverage cart or turbulent air pocket.  I am trapped and it is blissful. 

Out in the wide open world I have trouble containing myself. There is so much to see and do and be.  I am constantly pursuing and being pursued in wonderful friendships, pouring time into my family and my relationship with the Lord.  It too is blissful.  Yet my heart and brain are so busy and full that I don’t find much time for quiet reflection.  Which is why, right now, I am writing, almost 40,000 feet above the earth, traveling over cities and farmland and lakes, but in my own space of solitude with a blanket on my lap and a soda on the empty seat next to me.

Today I am thinking about parenting.  We are in the throws of teenage life.

My husband took me to the airport this morning, he taking his own flights, me on another route, and we will meet up in New Jersey tonight and spend the day in New York City together tomorrow, just the two of us on a little 24 hour vacation.  On the early morning car ride I brought up a sensitive topic—one of our children and how to navigate a promise we made to him and that we don’t fully agree on the appropriate reward at the end.

It is just one of the places we spend a lot of time lately-navigating our different opinions on parenting our teenager.  Me from my background, my husband from his, we circle the issues over and over, slowly, slowly coming together in the center.  It is taking time.  It hasn’t been easy. 

Up until our teenager parenting years we were always on the same page as mom and dad.  A unified front.  But what I have realized is that teenagers will peel back all the layers of ourselves, down to the tender core. The stakes feel high.  We can see the clock running out on their time with us and we care SO darn much about the people they are growing into.

Teenagers expose our messy, darker sides as we fight to control our emotions, have endless patience, and exhaust ourselves seeking the wisest way to handle each and every situation.

Growth.  It is a constant companion these days.

Just this week I smiled with clenched teeth at my daughter in the orthodontist’s waiting room as she argued with me in front of a room full of parents paging through magazines.  I reached for her phone after asking her to put it away several times and she pulled it away, thinking we were playing a game.  I. Was. Not. 

The playful arguing continued, evoking raised eyes and sideways glances from the people sitting around us. Until we got into the car…and I lost it.  Unfettered emotion and frustration and embarrassment spilled all over her.  She began to cry.

I had surprised her. She thought I thought it was funny, that we were just goofing around.  By all my outward signs she was right in her interpretation—getting publicly mad at my daughter and creating a scene is about as comfortable to me as sitting on a cactus.  So in the moment I play with fake smiles and clenched teeth “Please give me your phone…”. When inside I am wrapping up more and more tightly, like a coiled spring.

The emotion and tears and raised voices continued all the way home.  It was messy.  In our driveway, my daughter and I sat and talked it out.  I said I understood how she misinterpreted the situation, and that I was very sorry for not handling it better once we were alone.  She apologized for arguing and not being respectful.  We agreed to do better, both of us.

My tender core.  Needing growth, again.  So much stretching and learning and being humbled.   

And then last night, as we celebrated Father’s Day on our back patio on a stunningly beautiful Colorado evening, my girls called, “Mom! Come hold our feet!”  They were upside down, a 19 and 15 year old, in the grass trying to imitate a paired headstand yoga pose they had found in an Athleta magazine.  Giggling uncontrollably.

I walked through the grass, stepping on the thick blades and over dog poop land mines.  Holding the magazine in the air my girls said, “Hold our feet together this way!” Laughing, I tried…to hold their feet… but they couldn’t both stay in their pose at the same time. Breathless and giggling they kept falling over. 

I could only grab one leg and then as the other child’s leg came up the first one would fall. More giggling, “Try again!” More grabbing and falling and mismatched poses. Breathless laughing.  “Once more Mom!”  We never got it.  And it didn’t matter. The point wasn’t “getting it”. The point was the moment together, the laughing and trying and falling.

That is the Parenting Teenagers Experience.  Wanting to grab all their feet and connect them in perfect synchronicity to hold the perfect yoga pose.  No falling.  No multiple tries.  Spot on the first try.  Wanting the beautiful, composed image of a happy healthy family, like the sculpted Altheta models on a beach in Tahiti or somewhere.  Peaceful. Perfect. Balanced.

But instead, grabbing one child solidly only to lose grip on the other.  Lot’s of falling over, lots of trying, never quite in sync.

I call these “almost poses.” Almost always showing grace and patience and forgiveness.   Almost responding the right way every time.  Almost completely understanding each other’s point of view.  Almost perfect.

Almost.

Sometimes this place of “almostness” feels really discouraging.   I feel like I should have mastered how to react to stressful situations with my kids at this point, know the wisest call to make at every new issue, and how to always be on the same parenting page with my incredible husband by now.

Other times, when I am in a healthy spiritual place, I see this “not yet there” as a gift of the journey.  God has work to do in me, in my husband, in our children.  He can’t grow perfect people.  He can’t use perfect families to demonstrate forgiveness and mercy and grace and hope. 

God wants to sanctify me—the process of renewal and change for His purpose and aligned with his heart.

This is done, I am realizing, in “almost poses,” clumsy and surrounded by poop land mines, and meltdowns in the car.  It is where he can do his best work.

Not on a beach in Tahiti.

Those of us who are in this phase of life know what I am talking about.  I would encourage you to find a friend who is willing to share about the hard parts, who is striving to be the best mom possible, and walk this journey together.

I have several of those friends, but one in particular, who lives a over a thousand miles away and is walking closely with me through these teenage parenting years.  We text each week, sometimes call, sharing prayer requests, asking for advice.  We are brutally honest and completely real.  She is safe for me, and I for her.

We love our families with a fierceness that gets us in trouble sometimes, but we remind each other to embrace the process God is taking us all through.   We sometimes get off the phone completely validated, and sometimes completely challenged to get back in the ring of raising great kids and showing up well for our husbands.  It is awesome. 

Find your people.

So press on fellow parent. Strive not for perfection but for sanctification. 

I’m taking a sip of my Diet Pepsi now, gazing out at the patches of land below as the plane begins it’s decent.

We are almost there.

Xoxo

Amy

I don’t post blogs every week, but every week I do post content on my Facebook page–on parenting, faith, and design, so “like” my page and join in!  http://www.facebook.com/amyhayesblog/

 

 

 

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We just finished our first year of college.

Well, our daughter did, but from the parenting end my husband and I definitely felt like it was a first for us too.

We learned a lot of things this past year—what to do better, what not to do, and I will be sharing more of these lessons on the blog, but I wanted to highlight my top three best learned lessons and share them with you today.

The lessons I learned as a mom this past year of our first child in college were born out of an “imperfect” year for our daughter. She experienced heartbreaking rejection, the kind that made me want to crawl through the phone to hold her, along with loneliness and a struggle to figure out who she really wanted to be. Yet, she also formed beautiful friendships, honed her major and thrived in the education she was receiving.

Our daughter, after much thought and prayer, decided to transfer schools this fall.  In a future post I will share about that journey!

That being said, I don’t believe any of us would change this last year at all.

It was in essence, a perfect, “imperfect” first year of college—with all the ingredients that make for maturity and preparation for life. That is worth every penny (and there are a lot!).

And bonus! I garnered some “college mom wisdom” through it all, so here ya go:

1. Pain is OKAY. Your child will experience some pain this first year, possibly with a friend situation, rejection from a club or group, or with a roommate. They might be homesick, or struggle with the academic load. They may make bad decisions that cause them to struggle.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to shower advice on our child or “rescue” them.

But pain is good. It is really good. It is from pain that our child finds their inner strength, begins problem-solve, or best, learns to pray. Pain is the soil for maturity and wisdom. When we take the pain away we deprive our child of an incredible opportunity to grow.

Instead, try telling your child, “I believe in you and I know you will figure out this problem.” This empowers them and helps them believe in themselves. They are becoming adults and we need to let them stumble in order to get there.

2. Get off the Roller Coaster

This was a challenging one for me. One week our daughter would be struggling and I would be struggling emotionally right there with her, and then a few days later I was still struggling and praying and worrying and all the while things had turned around and were just rosy and great on her end! This happened enough times to teach me that I needed to get off my parental emotional roller coaster. Things change constantly in college—roommate issues, friends, academics, moods, etc.

The reality is, there is nothing we can or should do about what our kids are going through except be supportive and encouraging and pray for them. It is a waste of valuable time and emotional energy that can be useful in our present life when we worry about things we can’t control a thousand miles away.

And, our kids need us to be calm and stable when they do decide to reach out—not emotional messes that stress them out even more.

3. Don’t Ask Them About Their Grades

I was surprised by this one when the Chancellor of the college our daughter attended implored the parents not to focus on our child’s grades. He expressed how many parents continue to helicopter parent about college grades, which is understandable with all the focus on grades needed to get into college!

But now that our kids are IN college, they need to take full ownership of their GPA. “But what if my child is tanking and I don’t even know it?” Yes, I asked this one. Our daughter’s school said they would let us know if she had a D in any class. I would check with your child’s institution and see how you can be informed.

In general it was recommended that we ask not about GPA, but instead questions like, “What is your favorite class?” Or, “Which professor do you like and why?” Or, “Is there any subject that you are struggling with?” I liked the question, “What are learning about yourself academically from your experience so far?”

These are my top three I wanted to pass on to you because I think they are golden.

I don’t know if you noticed, but they all have the same theme: LET GO.

It’s time to let go. It is really really hard. My daughter experienced the biggest rejection of her life this past year. And had days of sitting alone in her dorm room. I desperately wanted her to come home so I could take her away from the pain. The only way my mom heart survived was being there for her on the other end of the phone…just listening. And A LOT of prayer.

God was good. He helped me through it….and my daughter survived, and is thriving.

She came home this summer stronger, wiser, and more confident that I have ever seen her. Something had shifted.

Priceless.

Like I said before, I wouldn’t change a thing. For either of us.

I wish you the very best in this journey of sending your child off to college! I am walking right there with you.

Join me on my Facebook page for inspirational posts, articles on parenting, home design tips and more!  https://www.facebook.com/amyhayesblog/

xoxo,

~Amy

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A few months ago my daughter, Maddie, asked if I could help her with her homework.  I took a screenshot of our text message conversation because it was a painful (but important) truth for me about how she perceived my attentiveness toward her:

 

 

Maddie is my brutally honest child.  And I love her for it.  She felt the need to highlight my history of “un-devoted” or “distracted” homework helping skills in the past.  And she was completely right in asking for my complete attention.

See, I am a distracted mom. Ask anyone in my family.  I am usually thinking of or trying to do five things at once, because I think I can.  But I really can’t, at least not well.

This need to be power productive at all times causes me to forget things my family has said to me because I was half-listening to them in the first place.  They often talk to my back as I whisk around the house with an armload of laundry or watering the plants out back or picking up shredded toilet paper rolls off the floor (thanks to our new puppy).   Often I am on my computer, responding to emails or blogging–and it’s effort to peel my eyes off the screen and shift my thoughts from what I am writing to what they are saying.  I rarely stop and look them in the eye, bend down to their level, put down what I am doing….why? Because I think I can multi-task and meet their needs while meeting mine.

The truth is, I shouldn’t “multi-task” my children.  When I do, I am not fully present with them–they only get a slice of me, and the world gets all the other slices.  And that sends a powerful message to them about their priority in my life.

I remember through my childhood years and even into college when I would call my dad at work, he would always, always take my call.  And he was the president of the company he owned.  He had important things to do and important meetings to have.  But whenever his secretary let him know I was on the phone, he stopped what he was doing and talked to me.  It’s not that I needed to feel loved…I knew he loved me.  I think it meant so much because it showed me I was more important to him than all the other important things in his life.

That’s what our kids want.  They want to know that when they ask for homework, we think that time together is worth a king’s ransom.  They want to know that when they are talking to us, we have eyes for them only, and their words and thoughts they are sharing are more important to us than our phone or computer screen, or the pile of mail to sort through.

It’s not always easy.  There are times when our kids just can’t be our center of attention. Maybe we have an important work project due or need to get the dinner in the oven.  It’s okay, we need to have grace for ourselves, because it is not good for our kids to be the center of attention all the time.

My point is more this…the reality that for many of us our kids are rarely the center of our attention.  At least for me.  My tasking, productive, technology-wooed life is a distracted one.  I am often not a fully present mom to them.

How about you?

The good news is that change is not that hard.  It’s being intentional with some new habits like looking our children in the eye, shutting the computer when they are around or just sitting still and being available. We CAN push past the shiny objects in our day that beg for our attention, and instead give it to our flesh and blood standing right beside us.

I have created a “Distracted Mom Quiz” to help clarify our areas of most distracted behavior and where we are doing a great job.  At the end are some practical tips and encouraging thoughts to help us regroup and find our way back to where I believe we all want to be as moms…present and engaged.

So, are you a distracted mom?  Maybe ask your kids.  Have a conversation with them and listen to their perspective.

Technology and busyness are our greatest barriers to being fully connected with our kids.

How are these getting in the way of your best parenting goals?

I’ve created a quiz to help us figure out exactly where we struggle.  I’ve included some tips on how we can start being less distracted moms right now:

And please, don’t be discouraged!  This is a tough one friends, but it’s never too late to make changes.

xoxo,

Amy

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This week our family practiced saying sorry to each other, a lot. Always so much fun.  We had some words and attitudes and tones flying around that stung and caused mis-understandings.  Between my husband and me, between our children and us.  Between siblings.  Chalk it up to hormones (not just teenage ones) and stress and a lot of time together over spring break.

Words can be full of life and beauty and yet can cause deep pain.  We can talk so sweetly to a little child in a stroller passing by and then bark at our own children two minutes later. We want to be good, but our words and tone often betray what is in our heart…impatience, annoyance, selfishness, control, pride. God knows this and speaks in his word of how our tongue often plays two roles:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  James 3: 9-12

Why is this?  Because we are human and life often wears down our ability to respond kindly and with self-control in every situation.

So how do we tame this rouge tongue of ours? Especially when we use it in negative ways towards those we love the most?

BE AWARE 

Awareness.  We often have feelings and stress and fatigue and hurt from the outside world that we carry around like an overstuffed trash bag.  When someone close to us pushes on us or responds in a way that prickles our nerves we tend to dump the trash, all over them.

We are trying to learn as a family the ability of being in tune to how we are feeling.  When we are in touch with our stress or fatigue or sadness, it can help us and others to understand where our reactions are coming from.  Often our words tumble out before we even realize we are stressed or tired, but if we can take a minute to reflect on where the intense emotion came from, then we can communicate with others and seek reconciliation.

This one example of how it played out in our family this week:

One of our children over-reacted in anger towards me over a situation with our puppy. Our child’s emotion caught us off guard and the situation escalated.  When we were able to discuss and resolve it later, we found our our child had had a very difficult day of rejection from friends.  Upon hearing this we immediately moved from frustration to compassion towards them.

We coached our child on learning to be aware of when they are feeling sad or hurt and how that might come out sideways towards others.  And if it does, to apologize and communicate the deeper issue going on at that time.  This child took the coaching to heart and two other times last week apologized for a negative tone with an explanation of, “I’m sorry I spoke that way, I was really tired,” or, “I was stressed because I was running late.”   If a teenager can learn awareness, I can too.

 

BE PREPARED

In an ideal world, we become so self-aware that we are continually in tune to our feelings and have the ability to control every reaction and word no matter what comes our way….I’m chuckling as I write that.  Pretty impossible.

But not completely.

I have found something that helps me again and again to control my tongue (most of the time) no matter how stressed or tired or weary I am feeling:

I prepare my heart and mind before the day starts with spending time with God.

I have learned that spending time with God in the morning and asking him for wisdom and self- control with my tongue that day can help so much. When I invite God into my day, he takes the wheel.  He gives me strength and peace and perspective in each situation.

I especially need to ask for help when I know my tongue might get me into trouble because of life’s stresses.  Times for me that need extra preparation:

~When I have a very busy day with a lot on my to-do list

~ When there has already been conflict and my heart feels wounded

~I have a presentation or am leading something that day (needing to be “on”)

~ When I am weary of life, going through a tough or busy season

All of these situations can cause me to be sharp with others. When I am aware of these triggers, I can be all the more prepared for the day by spending crucial time with God in the morning.  I can ask Him for peace, self-control in my responses, and a gentle tone in my words no matter what comes my way that day.

It’s one of those miracles that seems to always provide when I ask.

It is inevitable that we will mess up, and when we do a heartfelt sorry is often an instant and healing salve on the wounds we have created.  We must use sorry without hesitation and with reckless abandon in our relationships.

To think about:

What situations/circumstances trigger your emotions? How can you be more aware of what is behind the angry feelings or words?  How can you prepare your heart and mind for your day?

I am thinking a lot about words and how I use them because our bible study group is reading the book Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman.  It is full of wisdom on this subject.  I will be creating a video on what we are learning each week and will post it on my Blog Facebook Community page.  Here is my video from last week:

FACEBOOK VIDEO ON USING OUR WORDS WISELY

If you haven’t joined our group on Facebook and want to hear more on this subject, CLICK THIS LINK and “like” the page to see posts.  I will be posting a new video this Tuesday on why sometimes it feels so good to lash out, and the one perspective check we all could use.

Here’s to taming our tongue, being aware, prepared and ready to say sorry.

~Amy

 

 

 

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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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