A few weeks ago I was sick. I felt weak, lost my voice and had a terrible cough. The nights were not so great either. The cough would get so bad that I was up most of the night and if I wanted to get any sleep, I had to get it sleeping upright. After a couple of nights like this I could barely muster up enough energy to make breakfast. Plus, Daniel was starting to not feel well and had been coughing through the night too. So as I was trying to feed him a bottle while trying to not fall asleep on the couch, I explained to the kids they were going to have to serve themselves their own cereal. Now, I should note that they had never done this entirely on their own before, but I didn't care because I was exhausted and worn out from being sick. Caleb grabbed the cereal and milk, Matthew grabbed the bowls and Helena grabbed the spoons. With a little teamwork, and some guidance from me from across the room, they were in their chairs eating their cereal. Breakfast was served.
It is impossible to know what children are capable of doing unless you give them the chance to do it on their own. Sometimes the fear of having to clean up their "mess" or the frustration of having to come behind them and just do it ourselves prevents us from giving them such opportunities. Yet depriving them of such chances communicates to children in an indirect way, "I know you can't do this without me." It's not that we do it intentionally, it's just that we are unaware of the indirect messages we may be sending to our children.
It causes me to examine some of the battles we are currently facing with the kid's behavior. Are some of those battles because they want to do something on their own and I don't want them to because it will just take longer in the end. Sometimes that is the case. But, is it a battle worth fighting if in the end it is tearing down my child's perception of their abilities? Not really. Should I just swallow an extra dose of patience and let them try? Why not? Worse case scenario, they make a mistake, ask for help, learn from it and try harder next time. Sounds like a win, win to me.
Now I'm finally feeling much better. Being sick stinks. But if it took being sick to remind me how to empower my children, then I'll take it.
School is in session, and our kitchen table is equipped with snacks and homework folders from Caleb's and Matthew's classes. Reading, writing and arithmetic; I find myself sometimes dreaming about it. It has become another opportunity to model patience, persistence, creativity, and endurance. I know the potential my kids have with what they can do and what they can learn. But, try to convince them of that when trying to figure out something difficult. Soon there's whining and eyes welling up with tears. "But mom I just can't do it!" Then I remember the Love and Logic phrase: "Aren't you glad I know you can?" Remembering to stay patient and calm shows them they don't have to cry or whine. It can remind them to ask for help instead. And waiting for them to get to that point rather than rescue them is hard, but it shows them I truly believe that they can do it. If I can show I have confidence in them, they can have confidence in themselves. Homework can then become a positive thing.
A recent trip to the grocery store turned out to be more like a trip to the crazy farm. I know that many moms think I'm already crazy for taking all the kids with me, but the kids actually enjoy helping me, and I enjoy seeing them take pride in helping. The same was true this time except for a couple of extraneous factors. One, about midway through the trip Daniel began crying. He wasn't hungry or dirty. He wanted to be nursed to sleep. So I offered him the next best thing, his pacifier, but he was not satisfied with that. So with one hand pushing the cart and the other hand offering the pacifier, Helena, Matthew and I continued on. Until, Helena's sandal strap broke off making it an ideal flip flop. But it kept slipping off her foot and she began to cry, adding on to Daniel, who was still crying, insisting to be put to sleep. Since I had Daniel and his car seat latched onto the cart, the only other place to put Helena to prevent her from walking around bare foot was in the back of the cart. So I rearranged the groceries to get her in, tried to calm her down from the "tragedy" of a broken shoe, and got to the register as quickly as possible to get Daniel out of his car seat so I could calm him down. He was screaming at this point. As I pulled up next to the register, 3 attendants immediately came to my cart to help unload my things. I couldn't help but laugh and ask, "Do I look that pitiful?" They laughed back and asked if I needed help to my car. I guess things did seem pitiful. I won't lie. Shopping with the kids does get hard sometimes. Helena has knocked down displays and Caleb and Matthew will sometimes get into an argument. Now I have Daniel, who has a pretty good set of lungs on him. And I get those compassionate looks from strangers who feel the need to remind me that I have my hands full. But what a good fullness it is. On the opposite end are the days when my kids have me laughing so hard I cry. That's what makes the crazy days worth it. Being a mother is hard, but what a treasure it is most of all.
Ever get this great idea about something that you want to teach your children and get excited about the creative way you are going to do it? That was me about a week ago as November quickly crept up for our family. I was inspired to begin this new evening routine with the kids to instill in them an attitude of gratitude. (Side note: if you subscribe to the Positive Parenting Newsletter
then you should begin to notice a theme here.) The whole premise behind this was that I have this desire for my children to always have this sense of thankfulness even when things do not always go their way. As Art and I have become more involved in missionary work I also want our children to have some degree of appreciation for what they do have. So, what this new tradition would entail is letting each child pick out their own spiral notebook and every night we gather together to talk about things we are thankful for. As each child thinks of something they are thankful for, they then draw a picture of it in their notebook. In a sense it creates this habit of journaling on a daily basis things to be grateful for. As this idea began to transpire into reality, I was suddenly convicted of my lack of gratitude, and my current struggle in yelling at the kids more than usual. I can list a number of excuses as to why I have been doing that a lot more lately but that doesn't even matter. What matters is that its enough to where I don't like seeing that in myself and knowing something should change quickly. So my conviction and resolution, in a nutshell, was to say something that conveyed appreciation every time I was tempted to yell. I knew it would be a challenge but I was ready for it. Day one, I bombed. Just about every day I've fallen short. I hate falling short. I'm a perfectionist and I want to do my job well. So, just as consistent I want to be with having the kids journal every night, I want to be consistent in my daily resolution to replace frustration and yelling with appreciation and gratitude. I know the kids need to hear it more than they have been lately, and I want to give them what their spirits need. So, I stay determined. I take it day by day, sometimes hour by hour :) The few times I have succeeded resulted in a much more enjoyable atmosphere. Those few times are enough for me to want to make those instances more than just a few.
I hope that as your family begins to remember the things that they are thankful for, you may become inspired to remind your children your appreciation not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. Showing your child appreciation makes their soul come alive, and they know they are loved. It fuels them in a way that cannot be accomplished by any other means. Remember to take just a few seconds out of every day and tell your children "thank you." Happy Thanksgiving to all of your families :)
I do set an alarm for each morning so I can get a head start before the kids wake up. However, there are some mornings when the children are my alarm clock and we hit the ground running. This past Monday, I was woken up by Matthew at 5:45 am alerting me that my oldest, Caleb had a bed wetting accident. As I rushed over to the boys room to help out Caleb, I learned that he did not wet his bed, but just did not make it to the toilet in time. No head start this morning. This morning, I hit the ground running. As I begin to help him clean himself up, my daughter, Helena, woke up crying "mo-mmmy!" as she was trying to come out of her room. I peeked out the door of the restroom to check on her and she woke up with a bloody nose. No head start this morning. This morning, I hit the ground running. I grab her and bring her to the restroom with me to start cleaning her up as well. Matthew, caught in the middle of the chaos, is begging for breakfast. No head start this morning. This morning, I hit the ground running.
That's the nature of being a parent. Most days, we hit the ground running and when we are ready to put the kids down for a nap, we look at the clock and realize it's only 9:30 am. The nature of parenting requires us to be two steps ahead of our children all the time, and to go at full speed when required with no second thought. The nature of parenting causes us to realize that the following are extremely important to always remember:
- Take it one day at a time. As much as we plan our days, the only agenda item we can rely on is to "expect the unexpected."
- Accidents and mistakes will happen. Meet them with grace, mercy and patience.
- It won't be a matter of "if", but "when" we will feel worn out and burnt out. Take care of yourself.
- Children do not wake up purposefully wanting to make our days difficult and challenging. They are on a constant learning curve and look to us for guidance, teaching and support.
- We will never again get a specific moment in time with our children. Keep your sense of humor and enjoy and appreciate your children through the good and bad.
As you, yourself, find that are hitting the ground running remember these things and take a deep breath when it gets overwhelming. Stay encouraged that eventually the difficulties will pass and good times and smiling children are
If you are in the same boat I am in, you are well into the start of a new school year. This year, Caleb started Kindergarten. With the anxiety of how Caleb would adjust to a new school and new routines, Art asked me the night before Caleb's first day, "How well do you think he will do?" I looked at him and stated quite plainly, "That all depends on us."
Caleb has always been ready to jump into new situations and meet new people. He is not a shy person by any means. Within five minutes of meeting you he will call you his best friend and profess his love for you. I knew his adjustment to school would run smoothly. Add on the desire to please others and do what is best (because he is driven by perfectionism just like me), and I had a pretty good feeling he would do quite well with his teacher. So why add on the comment about Art and I as parents?
Like many parents facing the decision on how to have their child educated, Art and I weighed our options between public, private and homeschooling. For us, sending Caleb to the local public elementary school was the best choice. There was the added benefit of it being rated a good school, but beside that, no matter what option we would have picked, there is still an underlying responsibility on us:
- When Caleb comes home with his folder and assignments to complete, it is up to us on how we are going to reinforce the concepts the teacher is focusing on in the classroom.
- When it comes to prioritizing between school work and play, it is up to us on teaching him how to be proactive, responsible and make good time management choices.
- When Caleb discusses with us how he treated others and how others treated him that day, it is up to us to coach him through what it means to be a good friend and to show respect to others.
These examples and many more are why it depends on us as parents on how successful our children will be in school. The decision on schooling is only half the answer. The other half depends on what is supported by parents at home.
Good luck this school year! Blessings to your families!
Now with Summer in full swing, the kids are getting used to being together just about every moment of every day. Most of the time, they like each other. But just like every group of siblings, young or old, odds are at one point they'll drive each other mad.
Because Helena is still building up her vocabulary, and Caleb and Matthew are learning what it means to share and play games together like good sports, I can ride out these sibling rivalry storms understanding there is still plenty for them to learn about what it means to get along. We go over such things like: using our words, keeping hands to ourselves, taking turns, and asking with manners. There have even been instances where toys that are consistently fought over get a break in my closet overnight till the kids feel they can share it nicely.
Still, fights continue. I get, quite frankly, exhausted. So this morning I woke up with the resolution to teach the kids that those that exhaust me by fighting and arguing can help me feel better by doing a chore (If you are familiar with Love and Logic then you will realize this comes from the energy drain technique).
As fate would have it, the opportunity to teach them this happened by 10:00 am. We had just arrived back from a morning walk, the kids got cleaned up with a bath and had a snack. Then the boys quickly ran to the play room to occupy themselves. Within just a few minutes:
Matthew: "Mo-om, Caleb is kicking my toy!"
Me: "Children that fight will spend their time doing a chore"
Caleb: (Sigh) "Yes ma'am!"
Matthew: (crying and falling to the ground) "I don't wanna do a chore!"
As I've mentioned before in workshops, trying to rationalize and enforce rules during a crying tantrum is not very effective. Matthew went into his room, sat on his floor and continued his crying. Caleb continued with doing the chore he was assigned to do and Helena just followed us around to be part of the group. When Matthew finished crying and came out of his room and said he was ready to listen, I reiterated my point by saying, "Children that fight spend their time doing a chore." He started to whimper. I then decided to give him a choice: "You can spend your time doing a chore or resting in your bed." Some of you may be wondering why I did this so let me explain:
As mentioned earlier, we had already spent two hours in the morning doing a mile walk and playing at the park. Knowing their physical needs we took baths and had a snack immediately after coming home before doing something else. As we were walking in the house Matthew was complaining that his legs hurt. So knowing the possibility that he was just plain exhausted and knowing that might have been a reason he was argumentative with Caleb and me, I decided to give him that choice. He chose to lay down in his room. In less than five minutes he was asleep!
I've mentioned before that every behavior has a reason behind it. Not having physical needs (hunger, lack of sleep, illness, etc.) met is one of them. This is why it is especially important to plan outings around meals and nap times. Was his early nap going to throw off my routine for the day. Yes. However, understanding what Matthew needed in that time and meeting that need made it much more likely to spend the remainder of the day in peace and getting along with each other. That is incentive enough!
There is always that occasional morning in our household where not everyone wakes up on the "right side" of the bed. About a week ago, it seemed not everyone got a good night's sleep and no one could get a good start to the day. I woke up irritated and frustrated from a lack of sleep and the kids woke up weary and whiny. No matter how hard I tried to bear through the cries and whines my ability to be patient was practically nonexistent. The last thing I wanted to do was to take out my frustration and irritability on the kids especially since they needed me to give them a little extra TLC. I knew I needed something to "refresh" my mind and soul so right after breakfast I got them occupied in a cartoon so I could have at least 10 minutes to find a quiet spot and do my daily reading.
On Mother's Day I received the daily devotional, 'Jesus Calling' as a gift and turned to it this particular morning. Each day highlights a specific scripture to read. As a habit, I usually read the entire chapter the highlighted scripture is in to get a full grasp of its context and meaning. On this day, it led me to Proverbs chapter nineteen. In my bible, which is The Contemporary English Version, chapter nineteen contains a heading that reads: "It's Wise To Be Patient". I read the heading and immediately got the spiritual filling I needed. I seek everyday to make wise decisions regarding my children. Choosing to concentrate on my irritability was obviously not a good choice. Concentrating on bearing through my children's specific needs this particular morning was the better one. I realized I needed to be proactive in my endeavor to be patient. There was no other need to continue reading that day. I got what I needed in less than a minute.
I have made the personal choice as a mother to let the Bible lead me on my journey. If you have made that choice too then I hope you will look forward to my new project called Proverb Parenting. It is an in depth look at the Book of Proverbs and how it impacts our decisions as parents. If you do not use the Bible to lead you, then I hope you may have an open mind to at least consider proverbs as wise sayings that may have a positive impact on your parenting style and decisions. I do not know yet what type of format this will be in, but I will keep you all up to date. Right now I'm just focusing on studying and writing.
Blessings to you all and Happy Early Father's Day to all the dad's reading!
My children are constant reminders and examples of how they live under my influence. This past weekend, they reminded me about the strong influence of my words.
Caleb had a violin recital on Saturday and he needed some new clothes and shoes for the occasion. So I took all three children to the mall to find suitable clothes. Now, three children in a department store who have never seen escalators before is an entirely different blog post! But after we had finished our shopping we needed to find an up escalator to get back to the parking garage level. Considering their new found escalator experience and interest they were more than willing to help me find it. When I finally spotted it I explained, "look, there it is to the right." Caleb turned to the right, spotted it immediately and said, "Oh yea, baby" and headed towards the escalators. Surprised and humored by what he just said, I was even more surprised when Helena repeated as clear as day, "oh-yea bee-bee." Never did I imagine that this would be my daughter's first attempt at a three word sentence. Nevertheless I had only myself to blame for this unique language experience. I often say that phrase when I'm excited about something or combine it with a high-five when the kids do something great.
It is certainly a sweet experience to see how our children live under the positive influence of our words when they begin to use that same habit of praising and affirming someone. At the same time, it is an almost shameful experience when we realize our children are living under our negative influences as well; those times when they repeat the things we probably should not have said. When Caleb and Matthew were playing together over the weekend, I heard Caleb shouting to Matthew, "Matthew, you need to do what I said right now!" Again, I had only myself to blame for that one. I certainly did not like it when Caleb said that to Matthew, and so it was obvious that I need to change that phrase when I am speaking to the children. What a reminder for me to remember the influence my children are living under.
In my workshop, "Positive Parenting Practices" I highlight the importance of praise and affirmation towards our children to build up their self-esteem and promote good behaviors. What we say makes a difference and we have that choice on whether or not those differences will produce negative or positive results.
That's how I felt today. It took every part of my being to not say, "If I've told you once I've told you a thousand times!" Caleb comes home from school with the report of doing the same misbehavior over and over. Matthew has been constantly reminded to walk instead of run in the house. Helena loves to put her food in her drink at the dinner table even after I re-direct her. Too bad I don't get paid to be a broken record. If I got paid for every thing I've had to repeat, I'd be a rich woman!
It is very easy in these situations for me to get flustered and frustrated; to lose my patience and scold rather than remember to teach. These are the times when I most certainly do not feel like being "slow to anger." Why can't the kids remember and listen?
But, even as an adult woman, I don't have it straight either. I can think of the numerous times I've locked my keys in the van or car. There have been occasions where I've been tempted to go over budget and do it even though I know I probably shouldn't. Lesson after lesson; consequence after consequence and still I too make mistakes.
So what then? Should I not have expectations for my children's behavior since we all make mistakes anyway? Absolutely not. Children have to learn that every decision they make affects another person in some way. Should I expect perfection at some point in their life? Absolutely not. I am certainly not perfect so why hold that burden over their heads? Where is that balance in between? How can I remain patient when I'm tired of saying the same thing over and over? Remembering to make the effort to remain patient allows us as parents to expect mistakes. Yes, they will come. And if we are already expecting them, then we can prepare ourselves for our reaction: our tone of voice, our choice of words, and our body language.
Does this mean we will never again get flustered or frustrated? No. We aren't perfect and we will continue to make mistakes, just like our children. That is why it is extremely important to take care of ourselves and stay in touch with our physical and emotional cues. Keeping our expectations in check helps curb our natural reaction to get frustrated and angry.
If you are sounding like a broken record just like I can sometimes, find a way to take a break. Clear your mind and reconsider what may be a more positive way to handle things and commit to it. Seek the accountability of a fellow mother to follow through on that commitment. Remember that tomorrow is a new day. We don't have to play our broken record again.