For Kids, Weird is Normal

by Kaye Wilson on May 24, 2020

People are weird. We’ve all thought that at some time or other, because it’s true–sometimes people just do weird things. We don’t really understand that we’re created to find real happiness in union with God, so we use people and things in ways we think will be fun, or make us feel good and keep us safe, or just get a reaction from the people around us. This results in all kinds of “bad behavior” (sin) we’re familiar with: selfishness, pride, greed, lust, deception, etc, which show up in everyday things like rudeness, overeating, avoiding people, “little white lies”, putting ourselves above the rules, and more. We see all of this and we don’t really like it (unless we’re the ones doing it), but it doesn’t seem really weird to us because it’s within the realm of “normal human behavior”.

Children are just small people, and they, too, are weird. They use people and things in ways they think might be fun or make them happy or safe, or get a reaction, or just to see what happens! They haven’t yet learned which bad behavior is acceptable, and they have even less impulse control than we do, so sometimes their behavior seems really weird to us. I mean, we would never think of biting someone when we’re mad, banging our head against a wall, consuming a half bottle of flavored medicine, rubbing poo all over our bed, or trying to drink out of the bird bath, right? But kids do this kind of stuff all the time.

Every day we hear stories of adults who were seriously messed up as kids, about suicides and sociopaths, and we start to obsess:  “What if our kid turns out like that because of something we did? What if he’s biting out of underlying trauma? What if he’s banging his head against the wall because he has a negative self-image? What if he wiped his poo in his bed because he’s got a complex about toilet-training?”

Then we Google the behavior, ask our friends on social media, and read a few more terrifying stories. We jump to the worst possible conclusions, assume the worst is true of ourselves and our children, and put ourselves through unbelievable stress and worry.

But there is an alternative–when our kids do weird things, let’s begin by remembering the truth: People are weird. Our kids are people. Just because they do something we wouldn’t do doesn’t mean they are mentally or psychologically ill. It just means they somehow got an idea in their head that they want to try, just to see how it feels, or even more fun, to see how you’ll react!

The “cure” is annoyingly frustrating but simple: teach them right from wrong, punish disobedience, and the rest of the time enjoy your quirky kids. Don’t compare your kids to other people’s kids. When you have to punish (we don’t like that word, so we say “consequences” but it’s the same thing) remember:

  • Human nature says “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me, you can’t make me, I’ll do whatever I want, so there!” (Tell me this never goes through your mind from time to time)
  • It is impossible to make lasting behavior changes using rewards (this only works with dogs)
  • Children will not choose to obey unless the alternative is something they REALLY  do not want, i.e. is painful in some way (do you?)
  • All discipline is unpleasant at the moment Heb. 12:11. It’s hard.
  • Things will get worse before they get better–kids will test to see if you mean it, and if you can outlast them.
  • Real change will take a long, long time–much longer than you think it should.  (See above)

Our world has become over-psychologized– we’ve come to regard behavior that is disruptive, difficult, loud, resistant, annoying, repetitive, energetic, or otherwise unpleasant as a “disorder” of some kind, something that probably should be medicated (or at least run through a course of probing and therapy).

Let’s remember this: children are childish and honestly, uncivilized. Our job is (among other things) to help civilize them. Correct your children, gently but firmly. Teach them how to behave. Make the lessons stick by demonstrating that when they ignore or disobey your instructions, things will happen that they don’t like.

If you do this with reasonable consistency, while continuing to undergird your relationship with unconditional love, you will see change. Rest in knowing your kids are weird! Just like everyone else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank-You Notes in Three Easy Steps

by Kaye Wilson on May 20, 2020

The dreaded “thank-you” note! As important as I know they are, I’ve often resisted writing them–thank-you notes can seem an overwhelming task, especially after birthdays and Christmas. We are so used to the ease of email that actually writing something seems almost excruciatingly time-consuming.

But I’ll tell you something–they are important. For one thing, if someone goes to the trouble of sending a gift–even if they shopped online or sent a gift card–it means they were thinking about you, AND it means they spent money and time to make sure you were celebrated in some way. At a minimum they deserve to know you received the gift.

Here are some simple steps I’ve only recently discovered that make writing thank-you notes a breeze, even a whole stack of them!

  • Day 1: Gather your materials: paper and envelope (blank is fine–it doesn’t have to say “thank-you” on the front and it doesn’t need to be fancy), a pen, addresses (I keep most of mine on my phone), stamps, return-address stickers or stamp, if you have them.
  • Day 2: (It doesn’t have to be the very next day) Address and stamp the envelopes.
  • Day 3: (Whatever day you choose is fine) Write the notes–think about the person who sent the gift, think about the fact that they spent time and money and thought on YOU, and think about how you will use and enjoy what was sent. Then just say that: “Thank you for the ________. I will enjoy using it!” or “It is beautiful!” or “It really cheered me up!” or “It was very thoughtful of you!”

That’s it! If you really have lots and lots of notes to send, do them in batches. The key is to just do a handful at a time, and to not try to do everything in one sitting; if you think you have to find your materials, find the addresses, write the addresses and return-addresses, and write the notes all at one go, you’ll just put it off forever, but if you think, “All I have to do is set out the materials.” well, that’s an easy, 5-minute task. You can break it down even further if you want–set out the notecards one day, the next day locate all the addresses, etc.

This is also an excellent way to train your children to get into the habit. To make it even more fun (either just for them, or for yourself as well), order a customized return-address stamp or labels, and buy some stickers they can add to make the message more fun and colorful!

Trust me, sending a thank-you note is one of the most thoughtful things you can do for someone who has been kind enough to think of you and send you a gift. I haven’t always felt capable of this discipline–it’s tough with young children, or just the general overwhelm of life–but it doesn’t take long, and it’s a small thing in comparison to the joy you will bring to someone, knowing they are appreciated.

Get online–find yourself some cute stationery, a cool pen and some fun stickers! Order those return-address labels, even for your kids! Cultivate the lovely discipline of saying “thank-you” in a tangible way.

 

 

Unconditional love

by Kaye Wilson on May 12, 2020

In a lot of what I do as a parent coach, the emphasis is on changing behavior–parents come to me because their child is doing something they don’t like, and they want to know how to make it stop!

With the focus on behavior, it’s easy to overlook the importance of unconditional love. Of course, parents love their children or they wouldn’t be seeking ways to be better parents, but it’s important that we make sure we love them unconditionally–we have to separate the child from the behavior and what it may reflect about us, and make sure they never question our love.

This can be tricky. How do we communicate the fact that certain behavior is not acceptable, but that we love our child no matter what she does? Won’t that be a mixed message, more confusing than helpful?

This possibility is why many people–including teachers, counselors, and some parenting experts–object to the use of negative consequences, and certainly any idea of “punishment”. Their thinking is that negative consequences will make the child believe she is unloved when she does certain things, and that she will have to behave in certain ways in order to gain our approval and love.

But it all depends on how you handle things. If the only interactions you ever have with your child occur when she misbehaves, then of course this would be a big problem! But the fact is that MOST of your interactions with your child have nothing to do with misbehavior!

Think about it: think about all the snuggles, the shared treats, the trips to the park, the bedtime stories, songs, and prayers; think about the hours you aren’t even with your child: when she is at school, when you are working around the house and she’s playing, when she’s sitting asleep in  her carseat–this is how most of your time with your child is spent.

We forget so much of this. We dwell on the times when we’ve had to deal with misbehavior for two reasons: 1-It really bothers us and disrupts our day, and 2-We very often don’t handle it well–we wear ourselves out with nagging and threatening, and eventually lose our temper and yell.

Unfortunately, the bad feelings that come with this tend to hang over us like a black cloud for a good while afterwards. We find ourselves sighing and scowling and snapping at our child out of irritation with ourselves and our short temper, even after the event has passed. Or, we feel guilty and bend over backward to compensate.

But you don’t stop loving your child when you tell her how to behave. Gentle but firm correction is, itself, an expression of love! Our problem is we wait too long to do it, then end up frustrated, and the pattern repeats.

The most effective way to prevent your child getting the message that your love is based on her performance is “clean” discipline: clear instructions, consistent follow-up. You must correct, so be sure to do it quickly, without agonizing over it or waiting until you are at your wits’ end.

When you mess up (and we all do!) shore up that foundation of unconditional love by doing the following:

  • Enjoy your child: laughing together, trips to the park, bedtime stories, singing children’s songs, hugs and snuggles, and all the rest. Remember these times throughout your day, and talk about them with your child as you tuck her in at night.
  • Tell your child how much you love her, many times throughout the day. Make sure you say you love her just because she is yours, not because she’s pretty, or just when she’s “good”
  • Commend her for the strengths you see in her–is she learning to be patient, or persistent? Is she learning to overcome frustration? Is she learning new skills like dressing herself or tying her shoes, or listening and obeying? Tell her you see her hard work and are proud of how she is growing!
  • Avoid telling her she is “awesome” or other general, over-the-top words. Instead, be specific–“I love the colors you chose for that picture!” or “I can tell you worked hard to make your bed look very neat!”
  • Don’t talk about her misbehavior around other people, especially if she is able to hear you. Don’t make her and her behavior a joke, make fun of her to others, or compare her to others–especially siblings!–treat her as you would want to be treated.
  • Make sure she knows exactly what you expect of her–teach her how to behave in all the situations you’ll encounter in your day. When she veers off course, gently but firmly correct her. It’s when she doesn’t know what you expect (either because you haven’t told her, or haven’t told her clearly) that she is most likely to behave in ways that are disruptive or inappropriate–and that you are most likely to lose your temper and do or say something you will later regret.
  • Remember–she is a child. She is vulnerable. It may seem as though her misbehavior is designed to upset you (and sometimes it might be!) but you are her mother, you are her father–be gentle, with loving looks and tender hugs.

Unconditional love is the foundation of a healthy parent-child relationship, but sometimes we don’t communicate it very well to our children. Make sure they know they are completely loved, every single day, and that your correction of them is just another way you show this.

 

 

 

How to Handle Bickering

by Kaye Wilson on March 25, 2020

NOTE: This is one of a series of posts on how to help your family actually enjoy this period of open-ended quarantine rather than simply enduring it. I won’t always send out daily posts, and hope you’ll not feel bombarded by them. –Kaye

In this strange season of confinement due to the pandemic, we might all be enjoying a sense of reprieve; we’ve been given a completely unexpected break from our normal routine of work and school!

After the initial sense of freedom and holiday begins to wear off, however, we will probably begin to find ourselves bumping into each other, becoming irritated with people in our space and our face. Kids,even those who love to play together, tend to get into squabbles when faced with hours on end in close proximity.

In my last post I promised to help you get a handle on this, so here goes!

First, a rule for you, the parent: Do not intervene or try to figure out who “started” it. When you do, you set up winners and losers, which will only lead to more strife. Instead follow these steps, recommended by author John Rosemond and only slightly modified by yours truly:

  • You will need a whistle or bell, and a piece of paper for the sign you’re going to make and post in a prominent place.
  • At the top of the paper, write “Disturbing the Peace.” Underneath, write short bullet points, just two or three, describing the things you aren’t going to tolerate: for example, screaming, bickering, physical fighting; customize for your own family, but don’t have more than three behaviors. Under that draw three boxes, or attach three “tickets” (cut out three pieces of paper and write “Ticket” on each).
  • Explain to your kids that these three things are “against the law” and each time you hear one of them happening, you will cross off a box/take a ticket. NOTE: They must understand that each box or ticket belongs to everyone involved in the conflict, whether they “started it” or not, and explain the following:
    • When they break the “law” by doing one of the things you’ve listed you will blow the whistle to get their attention, remind them of the rules, and mark off a box/take a ticket.
    • When all three boxes are marked off/all three tickets taken, they will all be put “under arrest for disturbing the peace,” sent to their rooms for the rest of the day, AND put to bed right after dinner.

If it seems unfair to punish all of them, just remember that it takes two to tango–we’re talking about bickering here, not assault. You want to make it very clear that you will NOT tolerate this kind of nonsense, and it’s up to them to make sure it stops. Seem overly harsh? Don’t do this if you want your kids to continue to bicker and scream at each other, but if you really want to get a handle on this business, there is no more effective way to nip it in the bud.

You can never work out their squabbles, and it’s not your job to do so; simply explaining that they need to work things out won’t do a thing to help. But if you implement this very simple and harmless (but to them very unpleasant) thing, it won’t be long before these squabbles will be a thing of the past. Not only that, but you’ll have convinced them that you actually mean what you say!

Put the responsibility of keeping the peace on them, and spend your days of quarantine in peace and quiet.

It’s Gonna Be A Good Day

by Kaye Wilson on March 23, 2020

A good day begins with you getting in front of it. Instead of waiting for your children to wake you up, get up before they do and think ahead. You know your children–you know how they typically react to things, what they like and don’t like, and what they respond well to. You’re going to take that knowledge and use it to both your advantage and theirs.

First, settle and ground yourself. Before you face the hordes, sit, bow your head and close your eyes. Visualize a few things you are thankful for–your home, the fact that you have food, the spring weather. Remember that God loves you and your children. Tell him thank you for that love, and ask him to help you through the day. If you have time, read the 23rd Psalm and picture it in your mind. Tell God how you’re feeling, no matter what it is–“God, I’m already tired of my kids. Help me not to be crabby.” or “God, I’m afraid of what’s going to happen with this virus. Please help me.” Just tell him. Amen.

Next, think of the day in three segments: before noon, after noon, and after dinner. Jot down a few things your kids could do: play games, color/do crafty things, watch TV, read/listen to audiobooks, etc., things you know they enjoy doing. Include a pretty good chunk of “quiet time” after lunch–if your children are young enough for naps this is a given, but don’t forget that children of all ages need time to be quiet and alone. Plan on AT LEAST an hour, and two is not unreasonable.

By the way, you will need easy access to a timer, something to use as a noise to get your kids’ attention–your phone, a whistle, a bell, or even a glass you can clink with a spoon–and paper and pen.

Now, think of the food you have and what you would like to serve for meals. Write it down. Think about snacks–instead of allowing your kids to graze, set specific times, say 10:00 and 4:00. At breakfast, announce, “Kids, from now on we’re only going to snack a certain times. I’ll let you know when it’s time.” At snack time, use your whistle, etc., to get their attention, and have them come to the table, sit down, and complete a limited portion of a snack, preferably something healthy, but definitely something you’ve already chosen; let them choose between a couple of options if you’d like.

You now have a list of food and activities, as well as a structure for the day. What you’re looking for isn’t a schedule, it’s a resource of ideas for when you are grasping for something to do. If your kids play well together you may not need need to use it much, but with so many days at home stretching out before us you’ll probably need this list at some point.

As the day progresses, use your whistle to announce a change of activity:  “It’s time for coloring!” or “It’s time to go outdoors!” or whatever you’re ready for them to do. Tell them they can only do this until the timer goes off, and set the timer for however long you think they can engage in the activity before it devolves into conflict. This is more manageable and less stressful than saying, “You have to play outside until I say you can come in” and then having to rush out when you hear screaming.

You can insert times when they have to play alone, thirty-minute TV breaks, handwashing breaks, “listening to music” breaks–however you want the day to go. Use the timer in this way throughout the day. Try not to just park them in front of the TV or ipad indefinitely.

Remember:  You do not have to entertain them. In fact, they’ll be far happier if you don’t get involved in what they’re doing, but they will do much better with you leading them through the day in this way than if you ask them “Well guys, what do you want to do?” You will have time to do some things you need or want to do, and you will have less whining and bickering to deal with. Notice I said “less”. You’ll still have to deal with complaining, whining, and bickering from time to time, which is why . . .

Tomorrow, I’ll explain how to deal with complaining, whining, and bickering!

Here’s What Your Kids Need Right Now

by Kaye Wilson on March 22, 2020

This is a strange and scary time. The kids are home from school, and you’re home from work. Even if you’re homeschooling, things are different and your kids know it– they can sense it even if they don’t fully understand what’s going on. Depending on their ages, each of your children will understand things at a different level, but they will ALL take their cues from you. It’s the perfect opportunity to begin or continue to lay a good foundation of faith in their lives.

The thing is, if you’re fearful, they will be, too. How’s your own faith? To make a quick assessment, start here:

• Think through all your “what if?” questions, all of those terrifying thoughts that you try to push back but that keep popping up. Go ahead–we’ve all been thinking these thoughts, but we’re hesitant to really confront the fears. What if all those awful things floating in your head were to actually happen?Answer the following, True or False?
o God is Love; God loves me.     T   F
o I am not in control, but God is.    T   F
o I do believe God has a purpose bigger than I can understand, for everything.  T   F
o Even if bad things happen, God’s goodness and love do not change—he is ALWAYS good.  T   F
o I can trust God, I can trust his word, even if I am afraid, and even if hard things happen.   T   F

• Did you answer True to most or all of these? Remind yourself of these truths moment by moment, day by day. If you want your kids to really trust God, you have to start here! If you aren’t sure, the next bullet point will help.

• Read Ps. 107 and Hebrews 12. Both remind us of God’s faithfulness and the fact that we can trust him no matter what. The Scriptures are full of these affirmations of God’s love and care and power for those he loves–don’t leave the Bible unopened!

There is no more important lesson you can teach your children than this! We can’t know what the future holds for our children, but even without things like pandemics we know they’ll eventually face hard times. Use this opportunity to begin preparing them for whatever comes by laying a foundation of deep faith! Make sure your own faith is solid; if you don’t already do it, build yourself up by reading and praying God’s word. As your faith is built, you’ll be better equipped to spend this time with your kids in a way that comforts and strengthens them.

TOMORROW: Specific things to read for yourself, and things to do with your kids!

The Magic Words

by Kaye Wilson on November 26, 2019

Are you familiar with the phrase, “Say the magic words!”? I don’t hear it often anymore, but as a child I heard it almost daily, either from my parents or parents of my friends. It was their prompt to get us to say “please” and “thank-you”, and was every child’s first lesson in manners.

Teaching a child to say those words doesn’t automatically make him grateful, but the words themselves are very powerful, and can work almost like magic—especially “thank you.” The simple two-word phrase, “thank you,” has the power to completely transform reality–or at least, how we perceive it.

In St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church, he urges them to, “ . . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:18 NIV) This goes far beyond the appropriate response for a birthday gift. Does Paul really mean we are to thank God in ALL circumstances?

As crazy as it sounds, what I’ve found is that the act of thanking God even in difficult circumstances works like magic in transforming the way I see reality. When I express thanks to God in the midst of difficult or unpleasant circumstances, I start to see beyond the thing I’m resisting and start to remember something bigger and more important— God made me, knows me, loves me. He uses everything, including this difficulty, for his purpose, which is always good for me. I tend to think something is good if it makes me feel comfortable/in control, but his purpose is to move me beyond comfort to maturity, wisdom, his presence. As I direct my thoughts to his goodness, I remember that all suffering is temporary–I can move forward knowing it won’t last forever. With each step I move closer to the end of my current suffering, whatever it might be, and to God himself.

This is freedom. It’s freedom from my natural compulsion to complain about difficulties, freedom to do the difficult or unpleasant things I have to do without chafing at them or pushing to change my circumstances, freedom to accept and rest in the fact that I’m not God, but he is.

With your children, begin by teaching them to say “please” and “thank you”; it’s an important first step in helping them to appreciate things and people. But let them also see your example of thanking God when things are tough. Explain it to them: “Kids, I am really frustrated. I feel like complaining, but I know God loves me and knows what’s best, so I’m thanking him.” Of course you won’t say this every time, but your attitude grateful acceptance sets the tone for your whole family; your thankfulness, or lack of it, will rub off on them. And, seeing you accept having to do things you’d rather not do will help them as they learn to obey you.

To help the message and the magic of “thank you” really sink in, try these strategies:

  • First, YOU begin to practice giving thanks in all circumstances , especially the unpleasant or difficult ones. Write I Thess. 5:16 on an index card and post it in different places around the house; make it your motto.
  • With your kids, practice the please-and-thank-you pattern for all kinds of things, not just gifts.
    o Would you please pass the potatoes? Thank you!
    o May I watch TV please? Thank you!
    o May I play with your toy for a few minutes? Thank you!
  • Teach children to face the giver when they say “thank you,” to make eye contact, and to SMILE 😊; allow them to receive the thing that’s being given to them only after this process is complete.
  • Set up various scenarios to practice this at home, acting out each one and having each person take turns being the “giver” (the one being asked for something).
  • Teach the “giver” to always say, “You’re welcome!” with a happy smile. It completes the exchange, and it’s respectful; don’t just ignore someone thanking you.
  • Regularly thank God for “ . . . our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life.” (Book of Common Prayer), and gently encourage your children to say “thank you” even in difficult situations.

Saying “thank you” is powerful and transformative; it changes the way you see things, it changes the atmosphere in your home, and it changes your heart. Your children will observe and imitate you. Saying “thank you” puts the focus on the giver rather than on yourself.  Of course, the ultimate giver is God, and we never lose when we keep our eyes on him.

Chores: Your New Secret Weapon!

by Kaye Wilson on November 1, 2019

When I got started as a mom, I decided I wanted my kids to be well-behaved, obedient, and ready to listen and learn. There were other things too, like reading a lot and using their imagination, but all of it was intended to serve the ultimate goal of their being well-prepared to leave the nest and live meaningful, productive lives.

Like most moms, I understood that the time I’d have with my kids was limited, and that I needed to make the most of it. I’m not talking about the “treasuring each moment” kind of time, but about the “train them up in the way they should go” kind of time; if they were going to become the kind of adults I hoped they would, I needed tools that would give me the biggest bang for my buck–big results with limited input from me.

My “secret weapon”– the tool that did the most to prepare them for a stable and satisfying adulthood–turned out to be good old-fashioned chores.

Lots of parents don’t require their  children to do any chores at all, or just ask them to do little things from time to time–for example, set the table, take their dirty dishes to the sink, that kind of thing. Often, parents who decide regular chores are a good idea end up completely forgetting about the chore lists they put up for their kids; they don’t check to make sure chores are done, much less check to make sure they’re done well. Sometimes, Moms try assigning chores, but give up, saying it’s just easier for them to do those jobs themselves.

If I’m honest, I agree–it was much easier to do these jobs myself , and I could certainly do them faster and more thoroughly than my kids could, at least when they were little. But the hassle of teaching them to do chores was insignificant in comparison to the benefits that all of us gained from the process!

Here are just a few of the reasons why I believe chores to be one of the most powerful and important parts of family life.

  • Chores bring children fully into the life of the family as participants and contributors, not simply consumers with an entitlement mentality. This one thing alone makes the implementation of chores worth every bit of time and energy you have to invest.
  • If used well, chores teach attention to detail and thoroughness. For this to take place, mom or dad must make clear exactly what they expect the finished job to look like, then inspect it, and require the child to continue until the work standard has been reached, which is an essential part of being a good employee.
  • Chores take up time. Just today I read the results of a study that said the average child age 8-12 spends 4 hours and 44 minutes per day watching YouTube videos! That’s a kid with way too much time on his hands–a kid who should be contributing to the family by doing chores!
  • By the same token, chores also teach time management; kids learn that it takes a certain amount of time to do the work well, and how to organize their time so that they have enough of it left after chores to do more interesting and fun things.
  • Chores teach basic life skills. Every man and woman should know how to do laundry, vacuum, dust, clean the bathroom, and so on. Disclaimer: your child may not actually use these skills while he’s in college, but at some point in life these things will matter to him. Teach him how to do them, regularly and well.
  • Chores are a great antidote to boredom. When your kids say, “Mom, I’m bored! Can I play video games/watch TV/get on facebook?” you can say, “No need! I have plenty of things you can do!” My children learned very quickly to find books to read, games to play (not video), or some kind of outdoor activity to engage in, just so I wouldn’t “find” something for them to do.
  • Chores teach that hard work is not something to be feared, and that the results of it are very satisfying.

Oh, and by the way. Don’t pay them for these chores; there should be no connection between chores and money. Here’s why: with chores, you’re teaching good citizenship, the understanding that everyone in a community has to take responsibility to make things work–take out the trash, pay taxes, keep your home and lawn in good condition, etc.

The family is it’s own community; in the family, someone prepares meals, someone takes care of the lawn, someone sees to the maintenance of the car, etc. Nobody in the family gets paid to do these things, it’s just part of being in a family; it’s your responsibility. Paying a child for chores takes away this sense of responsibility and obligation, making the chores negotiable; “You want me to clean the toilet? I don’t need money that badly!” If you want children to learn the value of money, give them an allowance and teach them to give, save, and spend wisely. It’s a different lesson altogether.

Each of my five children started their chore careers around age three, with folding diapers and finding spots on dirty laundry to squirt with stain remover. Eventually, they did all of the household chores except meal prep, and that was just because I enjoyed it. This left time for me to do other things! Yes, it took a lot of work up front, especially with the first couple of children, but once the routine was established, chores were a given. My five all learned to appreciate order and hard work, enjoyed a sense of cameraderie and shared “suffering”, and gained a sense of pride in contributing to and being a part of something bigger than themselves–our family.

 

 

 

But What If My Husband And I Aren’t On The Same Page?

by Kaye Wilson on July 5, 2019

Many experts emphasize the importance of parents being united regarding parenting strategies. While there’s no doubt that this kind of solidarity can provide a strong sense of security for kids, we all know how hard it is to find two people who agree completely on anything! Being married doesn’t magically make our differences go away, especially when it comes to our own children.

There’s a lot a stake here–our children’s physical and emotional well-being, their behavior, their education, our finances, and their ultimate ability to function as adults, not to mention our own reputation as parents–all of these things are tied up in the seemingly endless ways of looking at the way we bring up our kids.

Often, when moms come to me for help, they start by saying, “My husband and I aren’t on the same page when it comes to the kids. What do I do?” While each situation is different, there are some things that can help, no matter what you disagree about.

First, sit down and talk about your family. You should each consider your thoughts on questions such as these:

  • What are your goals as a family?
  • What are your hopes for your children?
  • What are the concerns you have regarding your children’s behavior?
  • What kind of education do you want for your children? etc.

It is essential to be clear about what your own desires are, to communicate them to each other, and to listen to each other regarding your hopes and dreams. Write them down. Find areas you have in common. Discuss the differences you have. There are probably things you assumed about each other that are wrong! Talk through these things, apologize where appropriate, and work toward clarification.

Second, write out some details of how you think your family ought to function, expectations you may never have expressed:

  • Family dinners together
  • Regular chores for the kids
  • Good table manners
  • Regular family game nights
  • Limited technology
  • Friends over for dinner regularly, etc.

As you write these things down and begin to get a better idea of your expectations and which of them you might have in common, it will become clear that you might have to make some changes for them to become reality. For example, if you want your kids to have good manners, you’re going to have to teach them. If you want a family game night, you’re going to have to do some scheduling, etc.

Third, talk through the changes that may need to be made; honestly assess whether or not they are doable and, more important, whether you are able and willing to make them.

  • Is dad able and willing to be home in time for family dinners?
  • When will the children do their chores, and who will oversee their implementation?
  • What, exactly, does “limited technology” mean? Does it mean dad needs to limit his own gaming? Does mom need to curb texting? Will we let the kids watch TV? How much and which programs? What about phones?

Each of these areas leads to multiple questions, and you won’t be able to solve everything in one discussion. Agree to set aside time for several such discussions until you work through everything, or if possible, plan a weekend away to work through it all.

As you dig deeper, you will run into things either you or your husband are not willing to do–maybe he’s not willing to schedule a regular game night like you want, or maybe you aren’t willing to have people over for dinner as often as your husband would like.

What to do?

Here’s what I recommend. Wherever you disagree:

  • Honestly recognize it and accept it. Do not even think of trying to change your husband, and do NOT accuse him of selfishness, not caring about the family, etc.
  • Look at your priority list and see how many of these things you might be willing to let go of. For example, could you be happy with the occasional spontaneous game night, trip to the park, or evening walk rather than a scheduled “family game night”? Can you let go of family meals every night and instead maybe plan on two or three?
  • If necessary, take care of things you view as vital on your own! If the chore thing isn’t important to your husband, but is to you, just do it yourself! Start teaching them a few daily chores, and make it part of the routine. If dad inadvertently undercuts what you’ve asked them to do, don’t get mad at him, just talk with him about it later or make some other adjustment.

You and your husband, while united in many ways, are still individuals with different ways of looking at things. Instead of ruining your life together constantly trying to change him and continually resenting him for what he’s doing or not doing, just accept it. No, it’s not ideal–I wish every family had a clear and unified purpose, and that all parents agreed with each other regarding how things are done.

But the reality is that we are flawed, selfish, and short-sighted. Agree where you can, do things on your own where you have to, talk through the things that you believe are essential, and compromise where possible.

Show grace to each other, and trust that your husband truly has the best interests of you and your family at heart.

 

 

5 Keys to a Happy Day With Your Toddler

by Kaye Wilson on June 27, 2019

Anyone who has a toddler knows that they’re unpredictable; one minute they can be humming and as happy as can be, and the next they become little Tasmanian Devils, screaming, throwing, hitting, biting, and rolling around on the floor. There are reasons for this, and you probably are not surprised by it, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. The fact is, toddlers can ruin your day, and fast.

Here are five things I’ve discovered as a mom that may not make for a perfect day, but can certainly make for a much happier day, for both you and your toddler!

Number 1: Lead from the front. You’re the boss, the leader. You have to be in front!  Be awake and dressed before your toddler. This is really hard sometimes, especially if you are not a “morning person” and your toddler is an early bird. However, anticipating when your little one will wake up and greeting them from a position of caffeinated clarity  puts you at an advantage from the very beginning. When it’s time to do the next thing, simply say, “It’s time for breakfast!” or what have you. Whatever you do, DON’T say, “Well honey, what do you think? Do you want to eat now? What sounds good to you?” You’re the leader–lead!

Number 2: Think ahead. Plan what’s going to happen, and when: meals, naps, appointments. If you haven’t done it already, establish a regular time for meals, naps, and bedtime. Keep this rough schedule in your mind; it gives you structure, and helps keep you from acting impulsively, or just reacting to your kids’ whims, which usually leads to cranky children and frazzled mom.

Number 3: Music and cardboard. I know, it sounds odd. Here’s the thing: most of us agree that we let them watch too much TV, and that phones and ipads are not really great for them, even if we may not view them as truly harmful. But what are toddlers going to do all day without those things? Let them play! If you give them something made of cardboard–an empty cereal or oatmeal box, an old wrapping paper tube, a shoe box, all of the above–throw in some measuring cups and spoons, maybe an old deck of cards–and turn on some music, you’ll be amazed at their ability  to entertain themselves! Music provides a background to the story they’re acting out–and trust me, there is ALWAYS a story going on in those little heads!

Number 4: Outdoor play. Here again is a perfect alternative to technology and TV. If you are fortunate enough to have a fenced yard or patio, or even just a porch or deck, let them take some toys outside to play by themselves. A small plastic container of water and an old paintbrush are terrific for “painting”. Of course, you should be within eye and earshot, and not engrossed in technology yourself–but with a few toys or a couple of those cardboard containers, a toddler can play happily for quite an extended period of time. If you have swings or a sandbox, even better, but they are certainly not required.

Number 5: Quiet time. Has your child outgrown naps? You must make daily “Quiet Time” an institution. Here’s how it works: Tell your child it’s just “Quiet Time”–they are not required to sleep at all! They can play quietly however they like but may not come out of their room until you come get them. Show them on your watch how long it will be; they don’t have to understand it, just that it’s a set amount of time. If they come out early, tell them you’re sorry but quiet time is not over yet, and you will have to add five minutes every time they come out early. You’ll be amazed at how much they learn to love this time; they will have time to think, to look at books (maybe read aloud to their toys), act out scenarios with all of their stuffed animals, build things, and so on; very often, they will even fall asleep. During this time, you can sit with your eyes closed (aka take a nap!), or read something, or enjoy a hobby. Gradually increase the allotted time as they become more used to it.

Toddlers can be challenging and exhausting, but with foresight and planning, most days can be satisfying and happy for you both.  Don’t try to do too much, know your limits and those of your children, and always return to structure when things go crazy! Take advantage of kid swaps with friends, or mom’s day out, but don’t feel like you’re doomed to stress when you have to be home alone with them. Here’s to many happy days ahead!