Gratitude: Beyond “Thank You”

by Kaye Wilson on March 18, 2019

One of the first things most parents teach their children is to say “Thank you”. It’s a small thing, but important– it’s an acknowledgement that the giver was under no obligation give “it”, whether  the item in question is a gift or a glass of water. As parents, we hope that teaching this small phrase to our child will be the beginning of an understanding of genuine gratitude. We know that children are naturally self-centered, and that it takes time to learn to be grateful.

We also know that there are things our children will not be able to appreciate for years–the firmness of a teacher, or the consistent discipline and longsuffering of a parent are things they’ll only appreciate as adults, when they are parents themselves. We send them to school with a basket of goodies for the teacher because we, as adults, now understand something of what the teacher is doing for our child, but the child honestly can’t really get it; not yet.

Here’s the thing about gratitude–it’s something that lives in the heart; it’s a realization that life doesn’t always bring us gifts, that nobody owes us anything–from our daily bread to treats and toys and opportunities to do fun things–and it’s an appreciation for those things when they do come our way.

Gratitude can’t really happen until we’ve experienced some kind of lack. We can teach the fact of gratitude, that we should feel grateful for the gifts of life and breath for example, but we don’t fully appreciate these gifts because they’re always with us and seem unremarkable. It isn’t until we’re struggling for breath, say, in the deep end of  a swimming pool, or are in a car accident and feel a close brush with death that our gratitude becomes really and truly real.

So it is with our children; we surround them with love, we provide them with the food, clothing, and shelter they require, and we shower them with treats, toys, and fun opportunities. They have everything they need, and just about anything they want, to the extent that, in many cases, we cater to their every mood lest they become unhappy. Is it any wonder that they feel no genuine gratitude? We can hardly fault them for being selfish and demanding–if they whine and cry, we present them with a toy or a treat to quiet them. We say “no”, then reverse ourselves at their wheedling and begging–“just this once”. We pacify them with iphones and ipads, movies and TV shows lest they be made to endure a few minutes of boredom.

We should be embarrassed and ashamed! Can we really not see any further than the immediate gratification of a child, or bear to be the object of her disapproval? This is not how parents should behave. We have an obligation to teach our children how to delay gratification, yes–this is part of it. But we also must teach them that we might not EVER get what we want, and that this is okay. We must help them understand that throwing a tantrum is NOT the way to behave when we don’t get our way (in spite of the fact that we see adults doing that very thing on the news every day). Children need to understand that the world is NOT their oyster. Honestly, if parents of a previous generation had seen to this responsibility, there would not be such a problem with student debt, and the shameful college admissions cheating scandal would not have occurred.

So, without being angry with them or making a big deal out of it, here are some things that every parent can and should do for their children, starting today:

  • Give away (or store) most their toys. Limit each child to 5 favorites and get rid of the rest. I’m serious.
  • Stop rewarding them with treats for everything under the sun.
  • Make special things special by doing them rarely.
  • If something breaks don’t replace it.
  • Stick to three meals a day, snack only at set times, and don’t cater to your children’s tastes– if they don’t want to eat what you prepared, fine, they don’t have to eat it, but there should be nothing else offered.
  • Make your children contributors to the family by requiring them to do a daily routine of chores (starting at age 3).
  • Teach them to respect their property and the property of others, with meaningful consequences for being careless or destructive.
  • Avoid the use of technology of any kind to pacify them, teaching them instead to enjoy books or other imaginative options–every person needs to know how to occupy himself during periods of inactivity and boredom without depending on technology (put down your phone!)

 

This will not be easy for most of us, partly because we have an oversentimentalized view of our kids, and partly because indulging them is much easier, and much more fun; it gives US the instant gratification of their momentary delight and approval, not to mention their occupation with something other than whining and complaining. But indulging children is to do them an unkindness. It sets them up for false and unrealistic expectations of the world around them, making them self-centered and discontented in the long run, addicted to the always new and entertaining.

How much better to teach them to work through disappointment, to learn to be content with what they have, and cultivate true gratitude for the people, things, and opportunities in their lives.

 

 

 

Doesn’t Work? Doesn’t Matter!

by Kaye Wilson on January 28, 2019

In the great adventure we call Parenting, most of us want to find solutions that “work”, meaning of course, solutions that will stop the (fill in the blank) tantrums, arguing, fighting, hitting, peeing, not eating/sleeping/listening, etc. . .

Sometimes the consequences we impose aren’t painful enough to get a child’s attention, but often when a mom finds herself grasping for the insta-fix, you can almost bet she’s worn out and has lost sight of the goal. At the moment, she doesn’t care about the goal, she just wants the craziness to stop!

The goal is  that the child sees a mom who means what she says. This is a mom her child can count on to stand her ground and not let the child’s behavior move her an inch. This mom means what she says, and isn’t thrown by a little childish foolishness. This mom knows where she’s going, and is gonna lead the child all the way there: to responsible adulthood.

No technique can force a change of behavior. If a child’s behavior changes, it’s going to be because we’ve imposed genuinely painful consequences for bad behavior, calmly and consistently, and the child has decided the bad behavior isn’t worth it; he’s beginning to understand that there are some things you just can’t do, and some other things you just have to do.

We parents have to keep doing the right thing–making the rules clear, and calmly imposing consequences when they’re broken, over and over again–even if our children choose to do the wrong thing. That’s leadership.

So, the next time you say to yourself, “Why isn’t this working???”, just remember–what your child needs from you is to stand firm. Make sure the consequences are painful enough to get his attention, then keep doing the right thing even if your child keeps choosing the wrong thing.

Why Every Mom Should Stand Tall

by Kaye Wilson on March 13, 2017

B and AshMotherhood is a tough gig. It doesn’t matter if you grew up loving babies and dreaming of being a mom, or if, like me, you never really gave it a thought until you were married, it’s just plain tough in ways other things aren’t.

There are multiple reasons for this: lack of sleep, difficulty balancing responsibilities, temporarily giving up on other goals and ambitions, wear and tear on the bod, and so on. Mainly, though, it’s the fact that our culture isn’t kind to us. It doesn’t encourage us to be moms, and once we become moms it does nothing to salute or commend what we do. We’re constantly faced with images of the young, beautiful, and successful, and we feel pressure to try to be all those things; in fact, the implication is that we should get this childrearing thing out of our systems ASAP so we can get back to being what women are supposed to be–tough, assertive, competitive with men.

Strength is important, as is being able to stand up for ourselves if we’re ignored or treated poorly. But not all of us want to compete, with men or anybody else. We have a strong sense of who we are, and we love what we do.

We wonder if something’s wrong because we don’t have the urge for a career. We worry about “wasting” our college education. We worry about the glamorous, childless women our husbands may work with, and we obsess over an extra inch or two. We are always in conflict; the image in our heads of what we think we should be is always in conflict with the realities of motherhood, and it wears us down.

Well here’s the truth: Motherhood is good, motherhood is natural (in spite of what you may have been told), and it is worth everything we go through to have it. This is not to dismiss or insult those who either can’t or have chosen not to be a mother, it’s Screaming Gwensimply an affirmation of those who are mothers, by choice or default.

Motherhood takes every ounce of strength, perseverance, grit, ingenuity, intelligence, creativity, endurance, and self-sacrifice a woman has, uses it all up, and generates more. Mothers are capable of miracles and magic, in many cases sacrificing time with their children to supplement income by working outside the home, in others, sacrificing dreams of working outside the home because childcare is not affordable. And then there are those like me, who have their dream job–staying home to be a homemaker and mother–but struggle with isolation, and a sense of being looked down upon, being viewed as “less” of a real woman because they choose a life of domesticity.

Whichever kind of mother you are, you should stand tall! Being a mother is not the only valuable occupation a woman can have, but it is one of the most significant in terms of the enduring effect it has on the world. Just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it isn’t true: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Mothers have more impact on the future than any CEO, politician, actor, singer, or cultural icon, of any gender, because they cultivate the hearts and minds of the humans that will be responding to all of the above mentioned leaders. These leaders are constantly sending messages to the world, and how we–and the children we bring up– respond to them determines the course of history.

So mothers, shake off any sense you may be feeling of inadequacy, any embarrassment at not having a “real job”, any shame at “having to work”,  and the burden of trying to be what the culture dictates. Don’t be ashamed of valuing your children above having a career, or of being proud of keeping a warm and welcoming home, or not having time and money for a trainer and maybe being less-than- glamorous. Being a mother is a gift! Only women have the privilege of being mothers! Enjoy it, don’t apologize for it–and stand tall!

Iphone June 2013 322

 

 

 

 

 

The Right Kind of Conflict

by Kaye Wilson on January 27, 2017

with donutI could never understand why my kids wouldn’t just do what I wanted them to do. They seemed to love making me crazy, no matter what I did or said, and it didn’t bother them when I got angry and frustrated!

My guess is that your toddlers are like mine were–lots of energy and curiosity, loving the fact that they can feed themselves, use the potty, and run really fast. They’ve figured out how easy it is for them to get into things while you’re busy doing something else, or run away from you, often in public places. They completely understand the power of the tantrum and use it often, also in public places! And they aren’t afraid of conflict.

I used to think all conflict was bad, and did everything I could to avoid it, including using threats (Do you want a spanking?), making deals (If you eat this, you can have that!), and trying to explain (We don’t hit! That’s not nice!). But that was before I understood the right kind of conflict!

Here’s what usually happened, pick any scenario: meal time, the child refuses to eat; I call her to come, she runs away;  I tell her to not touch, she grabs (and often breaks) something; we’re at the store, she throws a fit and screams because she can’t have something. In every situation, I become irritated and flustered. I say “No!” followed by a threat, deal, or explanation designed to get her to do what I want her to do–eat, come here, put it down, stand up and stop crying, whatever. She continues to refuse and resist, so the threats, etc. increase along with the pitch and volume of my voice. You’ve been here before, so I don’t have to explain in detail what happens–it ends, but it’s not pretty.

I honestly expected that after one messy incident like that, my child would understand that I didn’t like this behavior, and never do it again. I mean, who in their right mind would willingly do something she knew was going to result in such conflict, including angry words, tears, and often yanking of arms? Oh right–a toddler!

Here is what I learned to do.

  1. First, decide ahead of time what I will and will not allow. Just a few, basic rules–eat what I give her, stay beside me, keep her hands to herself, etc.
  2. Make my expectations clear ahead of time. “This is what’s for dinner, sweetheart! You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it!” At the park, “You can play anywhere within this boundary, kiddo!” etc.
  3. Be ready with consequences. Don’t fight if she refuses to eat what you serve–smile and say “That’s ok!” If she comes back hungry offer her the same thing, and don’t give in with any alternatives or snacks. If he bolts at the park, don’t run after him and don’t yell–keep an eye on him, and head for the car. When he sees you’re going to leave he’ll come closer, and you can grab him. Calmly put him in the car (screaming and crying) and leave,  explaining (again, calmly) that he broke the rule so you have to leave.
  4. Adjust my expectations. Because toddlers have no impulse control on their own, I learned to expect that at any moment my child could become unhinged. I learned not to be surprised at her refusals and outbursts.
  5. Be absolutely unflappable. Since I was now expecting whatever she might dish up, I learned not to register anger or frustration, but to simply keep calm and implement the consequence.
  6. Be ready for more. Toddlers aren’t rational. They don’t think about what they’re doing, they just act on impulse. For this reason, I learned to expect several repeat performances.
  7. Be a brick wall. Toddlers gain security from knowing where the boundaries are. Don’t move them! If it’s not okay to refuse food today, it has to be not okay to refuse food tomorrow. If tantrums are not allowed today, they must not be allowed tomorrow. What you will or will not allow has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are, and your response to your child’s behavior has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are!

    “What you will or will not allow has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are, and your response to your child’s behavior has to be the same day after day, regardless of where you are.”

Understanding these things, and changing the way I approached dealing with my toddlers changed these episodes from being power struggles where everyone ended up bloody, to a simple test: Mom, are you still in charge? As long as I stayed calm and immovable, my toddlers learned that I was in charge, and that they could count on me to mean what I said. Conflict? Yes. But your toddler’s security and your own sanity depend on it!

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My 4 Steps To Holiday Peace On Earth

by Kaye Wilson on December 1, 2016

babies' xmas

What is it about Christmas that can lead to so much stress?

As a  young wife and mother, I found myself tired, stressed, and often sick by the end of the holiday season. Looking back now, I can laugh about it, but early on I had some not-so-wonderful times.

Growing up, I believed that real women make things, especially at Christmas. I was determined to be the best wife and mother I could be, so one Christmas I headed to the local craft store, baby in tow, to buy something to make as gifts. I wasn’t sure what that “something” would be, but I figured such an enormous store would have plenty of inspiration.

By the time I’d settled on something, my baby was screaming, and I ended up at the car with a couple of items I hadn’t paid for–they’d been in a basket under the stroller and I had overlooked them at the checkout. I just sighed and loaded everything into the car, too tired to get the baby out and make the slog back across the parking lot to the store. It was the first and only time I ever shoplifted.

Gwen wearing xmas treeThen there was the year I decided the kids would help me make Christmas cards using tempera paint and potato stamps (bas-relief designs cut into a raw potato half). My helpers–an infant, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old–were very willing, but not terribly able, and I eventually gave up. I put them down for naps, finished the cards myself, and cleaned up the mess just in time to get the kids up and start fixing dinner.

My eventual decision to forego craft projects didn’t solve the holiday stress problem, however. There were program rehearsals, special clothes, decorations, relatives, and all of the other holiday delights that so often don’t really delight us at all.

On top of that, I often felt guilty for being so materialistic. My children had more toys than they would ever play with, and yet they were looking through the toy catalogs, making lists for more. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever convey the “reason for the season” to them.

After some soul-searching (and some pretty stressful years), I came up with the following strategies for making this season more enjoyable.

Make a plan.

  1. Take a calendar, a pad of paper, and a pencil to a cafe or coffee shop. If you’re married, make it a date. Mark all parties, programs, and outings on the calendar. List every person or charity you want to give to, list what you plan to buy, and approximately what you want to spend for each. If you’re married, divide the list into who will shop for each item.
  2. Set aside particular times for wrapping gifts, enjoying cocoa by the fire, reading Christmas books to the kids, etc.
  3. Rather than taking the kids shopping with you, plan a trip to the mall only for the purpose of seeing Santa and all the decorations. For all actual shopping, hire a sitter or shop while the kids are in school.

Eliminate non-essentials

  1. Pitch the catalogs. They create clutter, waste time, and give kids way too many ideas. Besides, everything in a catalog is online anyway.
  2. If you love projects with your kids, terrific! If you’re like me and don’t handle that well, give them the materials to make their own decorations, or the ingredients for cutout cookies (assuming they’re old enough). They will not feel neglected, I promise.
  3. Spend a couple of hours gathering toys your kids never use. Bag them and put them in the attic, or donate them to the Salvation Army. If your kids protest, tell them you have to make room for new toys–can’t keep them all! Be firm.

    My daughter's table set for Christmas Eve dinner, 2015. No paper plates this time!

    My daughter’s table set for Christmas Eve dinner, 2015. No paper plates this time!

Simplify

  1. Keep meals simple. If you’re entertaining, it’s not necessary to prepare the most elaborate cocktails, the most hip hors d’oeuvres, the fanciest meal or the most sensational dessert. Even consider buying part or all of the meal–frozen lasagna or rotisserie chicken, bagged salad, frozen pie, etc.–and maybe use disposable dinnerware! The important thing is to enjoy your friends and family.
  2. Use all one kind of giftwrap–all white with red ribbon, all brown craft paper with plaid ribbon, all gold with red, etc. If that’s not to your taste, fine, but it can make wrapping simpler.
  3. Go media and tech free a couple of evenings each week. Go to the library for special holiday books, turn the Christmas music on, let your kids work on crafts, and relax!

Prioritize Your Health

  1. Stress, crowds, lack of sleep, and lots of rich holiday food can lead to sickness. In addition to limiting stress by doing the things listed above, be sure to get plenty of sleep, drink a lot of water, and try to not eat too many sweets. You’ll feel so much better!

I can look back on my early days and laugh at some of the stress I created for myself. I meant well, I promise! But the stress was hard on my health and well-being, and created stress for everyone around me as well.

This holiday season, give yourself and your family the gift of  less stress and more peace and goodwill.

B under tree

Do you have some great strategies for coping with the stresses of the season? I’d love to hear them–share them with me, and I will share them in another post!

 

 

What Did You Expect?!

by Kaye Wilson on November 28, 2016

Mac in kitchen drawerAsk any child-training expert what the key is for training kids, and nine times out of ten the answer will be “consistency.” I was always told this, and it really is true. However, there was one thing that consistently got in the way of my being consistent–my expectations. I expected my children to understand my reasons for not letting them do certain things. I expected them to want to obey me. I expected that they would want to avoid getting in trouble. I was wrong.

My kids hit each other, ate toadstools, lied, threw tantrums, and did just about any other misbehavior you can think of, regardless of the consequences! To be fair, they also surprised me with gifts, hugs, and expressions of gratitude, and provided a steady stream of joy and delight. Even so, respectful behavior was something I was always working to cultivate in them.

When I coach parents, I give them a plan for addressing specific behavior issues with their children, which they are asked to implement between sessions. I always remind them of two things: 1)Change takes a long time–weeks or even months. 2) Things will probably get worse before they get better.

Most parents either don’t really hear me, or don’t really believe me. They expect the same things I did–quick compliance, problem solved. Nearly always at the next session these parents tell me either that the plan “didn’t work” or that this week was unusually busy and they weren’t able to use the plan. The reality is, they tried it a couple of times, their child(ren) tested them, and they gave up. No matter how many sessions I have with parents, if they don’t adjust their expectations and commit long-term, they will never gain much ground.

brook dishwasherNothing in life can be changed instantly; whether it’s building muscle, losing weight, learning a new skill, or what have you, you have to do the work to get the result–no pain, no gain. If you expect to keep doing what you’re doing, you will not see change, period.

Change only happens when you clearly understand what it’s going to take, and commit yourself to it, with the expectation that there are no shortcuts.

Think of it this way: when you enroll your child in kindergarten, you don’t expect him to have a highschool diploma by the end of the year; you know it’s going to take every single one of the years from kindergarten through 12th grade to achieve that goal, so you aren’t surprised when you have to go through the annual ritual of enrolling and buying school supplies each August. You just expect it.

Here is what to expect in the area of teaching children how to behave:

  1. Kids do things you don’t expect, all the time.
  2. Cultivating good behavior (not perfect!) is a long-term process; it’ll take every minute between now and when your child leaves home.
  3. Your child will resist and test you in various ways, all along the way.
  4. If you stay calm and firm, things will be much easier for both you and your child(ren).
  5. If you stay the course, you’ll have done everything in your power to bring your child to responsible adulthood–and that’s all anyone can expect.

There is no magic formula to “getting” your child to behave. Well-behaved children can only be found with parents who don’t make excuses, who have realistic expectations, and who are willing to embrace a steady, consistent approach to a process that will take a lifetime.

Read more about ParentCoachOKC here.

Brook with purse

Take A Load Off

by Kaye Wilson on November 14, 2016

img_1524Five kids. For a young, insecure mom, it was a lot. I felt the weight of their dependence on me, and my responsibility for them, keenly.

I often lay awake at night, worrying: Was I doing enough for them? Was I being too strict? Too lenient? Was I giving them enough individual attention? Was I neglecting anyone?

Homeschooling only intensified this; I felt pressured to get everything right, felt it was my responsibility to teach them everything. As much as I loved it—and I really loved it!—it was a lot. Any academic, social or spiritual lack, any bad attitudes or habits, how well they did their school work or their chores—in my mind it all came down to whether or not I was doing enough, and doing it well enough. There was always more that I could be doing, or doing better.

Outwardly I was positive and cheerful; as I said, I really loved homeschooling, and loved being a mom. But on the inside I was just plain overwhelmed. I would often go into the bathroom to cry, then dry my tears and come out as if nothing was wrong because I believed it would harm my kids to see me crying.

It seemed a cruel twist; the thing that gave the greatest joy and sense of meaning to my life—being a mother—was the very thing that was making me a neurotic wreck.

But was motherhood really the problem?img_1526

As I considered this, I realized the real problem wasn’t simply that my goals were unrealistic—even though they probably were. The problem was that I had assumed full responsibility for my children’s future. Forget circumstances or their own choices—I figured what they chose and how they handled circumstances depended on how well I did my job as their mom.

If you’ve read more of my blog posts, you may know that I eventually put the kids in a private school. In doing that, I had less control over things, and had to learn to trust God, other adults, and my children a lot more, which turned out to be less of a challenge and more of a relief than I had thought it would be!

I wouldn’t be a parent coach if I didn’t believe that a parent’s influence is of vital importance to a child’s future, and I can’t tell you statistically how that influence compares to other influences. But I can tell you this: The ultimate responsibility for any person’s life lies with himself alone.

For me and my kids, realizing this made for a better life. Sure, there were still times when I’d have to fight off fears of the future, or guilt for my mistakes. But having felt the freedom of knowing it wasn’t entirely up to me, I never wanted to go back. The responsibility for  a child’s future is a load no parent is equipped to carry. I took that load off, and it now rests where it belongs, divided evenly on the shoulders of my five grown children.FRANCE 2012 241

An Apology, And Grace

by Kaye Wilson on October 30, 2016

The last post from me was pretty horrible. It was smug, and implied that all you have to do is points 1, 2, and 3 to get some kind of perfect adult child who rightly recognizes it was your selfless wonderfulness that got them to this place of perfection.

My deepest and most sincere apologies, especially to my own children.

I’m not sure if there is an adequate explanation for that post, but I’ll try, and then I’ll end by saying something a bit more true and less pompous.

What you read in that last post is a pretty good representation of how I viewed life for a very long time. That is, if you do certain things, certain other things will follow.  I can’t blame this thinking on my own parents–I honestly don’t know what their thoughts on this would be, but regardless, nobody made me think in this way. I took on this viewpoint because of certain rules I learned through life experience, and certain deductions I made based on these rules.

Here are the basic rules:

  1. If you do what people in authority want you to do, you will not get in trouble, and you will get good grades
  2. If you get good grades everyone is happy, and you get approval
  3. If you are polite and people think you’re smart, you get respect, approval, and sometimes prizes
  4. All of the above can apply to all levels of education and also to jobs

Here are the deductions that I made from all of these rules:

  1. Everything functions in this way, including relationships: put in a, and b will come out
  2. Following these rules will prevent serious mistakes and large pain
  3. This is the best way to make sure your children end up okay

There is a serious problem here, though: life isn’t school, and you don’t get points for keeping the rules. Children are people to be loved, not creatures to be trained. Relationships are living things, not vending machines that give you whatever treat you want if you just put in the correct currency.

Through failure (which, by the way, I continue to experience fairly often in various ways) and thanks to friends and family who have continued to love me in spite of this kind of nonsense, I am learning that life is not a contest to be won, or something to be mastered. Sure, there are manners and life lessons you can teach your kids, but the most important thing is that they know you love them, no matter what. There is a place for goals, but we should never give our kids the impression that life will be smooth sailing if only we do certain things and avoid certain other things.

I did too much of this with my children, for far too long. They are grown, and by God’s grace, they still love me in spite of my tendency to reduce everything to a formula of rules. My daily prayer for each of them is that they experience grace–from me and from all those they love–because it’s grace and only grace that makes room for real life and love.

 

 

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Three Steps To Our Kids’ Future

by Kaye Wilson on October 27, 2016

 

We conscientious parents take our job very seriously. We understand it’s a img_1574big responsibility, and that we’re supposed to bring up our kids to be ready for the future, whatever that means. If we’re honest, what we parents really want is to enjoy our adult children, and for them to want to spend time with us. We want to get along with them and not have to bail them out of trouble–we want our adult kids to be good people who other people respect and like, with a healthy life of their own. But how does this happen? Our kids are babies, or toddlers, or in middle-school–how do we get there from here?

To get from point A to point B, we have to do three things:

  1. Locate B
  2. Leave A
  3. Keep moving in the direction of B, even if you make stops along the way.

 

The way you locate B, your end goal, is this: Ask yourself how you would describe the kind of person you want your child to grow up to be. I think in the long run you’ll find it has very little to do with attending a particular college, playing a particular sport, or having a particular career. It’s a person’s character that makes their life what it is. That’s the goal–to help them become a certain kind of person. When you’re clear about what that person looks like, do a careful self-examination; is the way you’re doing things in your family likely to cultivate the qualities you hope your child eventually possesses?

For example, say my goal for my daughter is for her to value and contribute to her family, to learn self-discipline and good study habits, and to learn to manage her money well. Terrific goals! However, what if I have given her a smartphone and a car, and each week I give her cash to spend with her friends at the mall? She doesn’t do any chores, I have no idea who her friends are or how she spends her free time; she’s too “busy” to spend time with her younger siblings, and resists joining the family for dinner. Hmm . . . does this fit my stated goal? Definitely not! img_1590

That’s where step 2 comes in–leaving A. There is no way to bring your goals to you, you have to go after them, and you have to lead your kids there. Going toward your goal–B–means leaving behind what you are currently doing–A. The photos here were taken at Bandelier National Monument in NM, a place where a group of people found a home hundreds of years ago. They somehow saw what they were looking for in these forbidding cliffs–not on the ground. They had already walked hundreds of miles from their original home because of threats to their way of life; now that they had found a good location, they had to continue by leaving the valley floor to climb this rock face and others like it for the sake of preserving the things they valued most.

In the example above,  A –the way I’m bringing up my daughter–is comfortable, it’s easy, and my daughter and I both are used to it. Not only that, but there is very little conflict–she’s pretty much free to do whatever she wants. But I want better things for her; I want those things I listed as my goals. To get those things, I have to leave behind this easier way–I can’t have both. Like the settlers at Bandelier, there are things more valuable than comfort, things I’m willing to work to achieve. Because I want more for my daughter, I’ll commit myself to putting up with attitudes and dealing with the conflict that will inevitably come as she tests my leadership. The easy way doesn’t lead to what I’m really after.

Look around where you are–are you in a bog of things and ideas that are keeping you from moving toward what really matters to you? Are you hanging on to relationships, jobs, habits, or ways of thinking that you’ve grown comfortable with, but which are ultimately harmful to your family? Are there fruitless ways of parenting that are easy–being too indulgent, making excuses for bad behavior, too many electronics, and so on–but would be better left behind for your kids’ sake, even though they may resist the change? Turn your eyes to that lofty goal, and leave what’s easy and comfortable behind.

The third step is to just keep moving in the direction of B. Your progress may be slow, the path may become obscured along the way, and you may even come to a halt and have to re-establish your bearings. In fact, sometimes you may think you’re on the clear path to B when you realize you’ve become disoriented, or simply that you’ve dragged too many things from A along with you–toss them and move on. If sometimes it seems it would be better to just go back, to head in a completely different direction, or to simply stop and stay indefinitely, especially if the way has been rough and you are weary, pause for a moment to remember the long view–remind yourself of what’s really important, and that it really is worth whatever it takes to get there.

Never lose sight of your goal. You will fall and you will fail, just don’t quit. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, grabbing that next handhold up, and don’t give in. Eventually you’ll be there, looking back at where you came from. Oh, and your children will be standing next to you, thanking you for getting them there.img_1600

You Can’t Lead From Behind

by Kaye Wilson on October 18, 2016

gramma brookI am a Leadership Parenting Coach. I coach parents through the process of leading their kids to adulthood.

The operative word is “lead”–it means to get in front of someone and start moving in the direction you want her to go so that she can follow you. If you’re standing behind someone (see picture at left), you can steady her, encourage her, push her, or chase her, but you can’t lead her.

You’d never think about going somewhere with your child without taking extra diapers and a snack and/or bottle, would you? And yet most of us do nothing to get ourselves and our kids ready for the situations we face every day. When the meltdown occurs in the checkout lane of the grocery store, we try snacks, toys, distractions, blankies, anything we can think of, while trying not to get too angry and embarrassed. This is an example of trying to lead from behind–trying to get your child to behave in a certain way after the trouble has already begun.

Leading from the front means teaching your kids in advance how you expect them to behave. I don’t mean a stern warning of punishment just before entering the store, I mean really instructing them how to behave. When you’re at home with no time crunch or agenda, take your child(ren) aside and explain something you plan to do in the next few days–go the store or the mall, visit Grandma’s house, go to church, whatever–and the reason for the excursion.

Then explain how “we” behave in this situation. “We keep our hands to ourselves at the store” or “We sit quietly in church” or “We give Grandma a big hug and ask permission to play outdoors” or whatever it might be. Add the negatives as well:  “We don’t whine or beg for toys or treats at the store” or “We don’t go into any room where the door is closed at Grandma’s house” or “We don’t run in the hallway at church.”

Next, you act it out for them. Show them what the behavior you want looks like, and show them what the behavior you don’t want looks like. Then, tell your child(ren) to join you in acting it out–this is nothing more than practicing! Practice two or three times that day, then a few times the next day, and the next. When you’re ready to actually embark on your adventure, tell them where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing, and ask, “What do we do at Grandma’s house?” “What do we not do at Grandma’s house?” Ask your child(ren) to act it out one more time, then, just before you get out of the car turn and say, “Remember how we behave at Grandma’s house!” or something similar. When you go home, look your child(ren) in the eye and tell them how well they did and how pleased you are!

This won’t guarantee you will never have an issue with your child in the situations you’ve practiced, but it really, really helps. See, nobody wants to go into a situation unprepared. When you go someplace without preparing your kids, you can’t expect them to behave a certain way and then get angry and embarrassed when they don’t! However, if you get out in front–if you lead your child–he learns how to behave! It gives him confidence and a sense of being more grown-up. (It also brings compliments to you and your kids, which is a nice reward for all your hard work and practice!)

Terrific Mac!

Give your child the gift of confidence, and yourself the gift of enjoyable outings (and compliments)! Lead from the front!