Thursday, June 26, 2014

Missing Parents

All across the globe, parents are missing. It is a horrible phenomenon. Children are being left to their own devices-- literally; they are being taught how to live by Animated Animals , Cars and other Toys. From here to the grocery store they are distracted from arguments ( and problem solving)  or engaging in conversation by movies or video games and a stranger is reading them their bedtime stories via audio ebooks. And may I ask, what was so wrong with playing the License Plate game or the Alphabet Game while on a road trip?
     Why not embrace the techno age? What's the harm in electronic education and entertainment? Nothing when used properly as a tool. Everything when used as a surrogate parent.
      I know, I know, the dishes pile up and the kids get rowdy and all you want to do is check (out) your friend's status or  let your mind wander through all the cool/fabulous/impossible ideas ( that you will never attempt)  on Pinterest. You promise yourself you will only scroll through for a minute. You check your email, your Twitter, your Instagram, and you know you have to Google something. You  wind up on ITunes and wonder what to serve for dinner-- BECAUSE IT IS ALREADY DINNER TIME NOW! ARGH!
     Electronics are a time vacuum and a reality bender/suspender/deceiver.
     Time really does fly when your children are riding on its wings.  In a blink your babies aren't babies anymore.   They go from baby to bride or from colic to college in a minute.

     Your little munchkins are being robbed of Face Time--- not the Face Time on the cell phone or iPad-- but the real-- eyeball to eyeball contact that we used to know and love. Joy, pain, frustration...LOVE, all radiate through the eyes and the expressions of our face. We generate more information through our body language than we ever do through our words.

YOU! Yes, YOU! Put that device down and back away slowly~ turn and look at the little faces around you and say HELLO!

BE THE MOM: Engage with your children. When asked, you will say that there is nothing more important to you than your children. Prove it. Say NO to your electronic distractions and YES to playing with your children.
#parenting  #bethemom

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tell Me That You Love Me

The child petulantly stomps her foot and says " NOBODY LOVES ME!".
     Your first reaction is to regal her with ALL you have done for her lately; " haven't I just taken you to the baseball game? And didn't I just buy you a new bicycle???" You do all you can to talk her out of the way she is feeling-- telling her her feelings aren't valid-- but the cry of her heart is still the same. Nobody loves me-- because it feels that way and her love tank is on empty.
    Step back and look at the bigger picture.  What is truly the cry of her heart? SOMEBODY show me love the way I need it. Pure and simple.
     Our differences are what make us unique and they are also what make us mysterious to anyone who may not be like us. We give what we know. We love the way it comes naturally to us. However, that may not be what the recipient of our love NEEDS.
     You can give an elephant  a rocking chair-- well, enough said.
     Love languages. We give love and receive love in a variety of ways-- there is no one-size-fits-all in the language of love. It just is what it is.
     We are born with a big question in our heart-- Do You Love Me?  We walk through this lifetime posing that question to (most) all we encounter. Not necessarily by words, but most assuredly by deeds. From infancy to death we ask: Do YOU love ME? Sometimes the echo back is a resounding YES! in a language we understand...and sometimes it is so foreign we can only shake our head and walk away-- with an empty love tank and a hunger to fill it. Sometimes we look for love in all the wrong places and find that the interpretation is not what we imagined it would be.
     So-- how do we speak the language of  love to our children so that they skip away full and ready to meet the world? Learn the languages and speak fluently.
       Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell M.D list  the 5 Love Languages as Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch and Receiving Gifts ( detailed in their many books including  The 5 Love Languages of Children).  According to them, children from infancy to about 5 years old need to be spoken to in all 5 languages-- and as they get older you will see that their are certain languages that speak love more clearly/deeply to them.
   There are ways to understand the language the recipient needs to hear, they are usually letting the people around them know by words and actions-- if the giver will just take time to observe and interpret.
     The child who speaks Acts of Service may say: Help me! He may be perfectly capable of doing something, but he wants you to do it WITH him.
     The child who speaks Quality Time may say: Play this with me, or Don't leave me, or may do things that capture your attention ( positively or negatively).
     The child who speaks Words of Affirmation may say: Did you see me do that? Do you like my picture? As much as this child is uplifted by your words of encouragement and praise , he is deeply wounded by your criticism.
     The child who speaks Physical Touch may say: Hold me! Sit by ME. I Neeeed you. Teens may not act like they want your hugs but they secretly yearn for them.
     The child who speaks Receiving Gifts may say: What did you bring me? Lets get Grandma a flower! Look what I brought you!  The receiver of gifts also likes to give gifts-- that is the telltale sign and distinguishes him from a spoiled child!
       We certainly benefit from all the ways love is demonstrated throughout our life time-- but we do have a preference or two that make our heart SING!
     BE THE MOM: Observe your children and listen to the language of their heart. Learn to speak the 5 Love Languages fluently and do it often.



Monday, September 23, 2013

What I learned Teaching Parenting Classes In Prison

  What I learned in prison.
     I learned that the women in the prison started out as girls with dreams for a bright future. They are surprised when the first lesson I teach in a parenting class is that you can't give what you don't have--- so you have to love and take care of yourself first. It is thought provoking when I say-- if you are full of anger and bitterness, anger and bitterness seep into your life and into your parenting. They are shocked and saddened when I talk about what healthy parenting looks like. They are women who have been wounded in their upbringing  but are beginning to understand that they can make better choices to influence their own children and change the future. That they may have had a bad beginning, but they can have a better finish. I learned that tears flow freely-- as we touch deep wounds and look to be healed, healthy and whole. And I am blessed that they trust me enough to share their lives with me.

     The ladies that attend my parenting class, in a Prison for Women where I teach, want me to share something with you:
       Ladies, if the man you are living with is abusive or aggressive with you-- and you think it is ok because he isn't that way with the kids---more than likely he WILL flip a switch and be abusive with your children at some point. And if anything happens to your kids-- not only will you have to live with the remorse and guilt that you could have saved your child from that pain or death, you will also be held accountable. It is called "Failure to Protect".
     If he uses ( drugs) of any kind and you know about it and anything happens to your kids-- again, not only will you have to live with knowing you could have prevented a tragedy-- you will be held accountable.
     If the man you are living with is verbally abusive or if he is aggressive in his approach to discipline the children -- locking them in their room, locking them out of the house, failing to provide or withholding food and things they need--and anything happens to them,  you will be held accountable.
      They want you to know: trust your gut and read the red flags--- making sure your children have a house to live in, food to eat and clothes to wear is NOT the reason to stay. It does not make it all right to sacrifice their wellbeing. What your children carry with them-- if they survive-- is a wound so deep it becomes a part of who they are, they will let it become their new normal and allow it to be repeated later in their lives. They will live with it or marry it.
     If your kids have to keep family secrets-- if they can't tell everything that is going on in your home and are forced to believe it isn't sooo bad- if you find yourself making excuses for his behavior----take your children and get out. NOW.
      This warning comes from women who are doing time, not because they abused their children but because they did not get their children out of unstable living conditions and something bad happened. They are doing prison time for "failure to protect".
      They said that if just one of you who reads this gets up, packs up and takes your children to a safer place, they will be happy to have saved a life. 
      One of the things I have discussed with the ladies in the Parenting class is what it cost their children for their mom to be doing prison time. They are quite sure that what their children are going through with their mom in prison is far worse than it would have been to leave an unstable home and start a new life.
      They aren't kidding. Failure to provide is no joke.
BE THE MOM: Think beyond today. Trust your instinct to get out. "Not so bad" IS bad. Protect your children at all cost.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

To the guy in row I seat 14 at the baseball game: REALLY?

A comfortable night with a slight breeze, pitchers warming up, vendors hawking peanuts and people, happy for the reprieve from the heat, all a buzz on the long holiday weekend;  it was a great evening to watch a baseball game!  A family friendly event,  kids were excited to be out at the ball field  --some not really sure what all the hub-bub was about , but certainly happy with all the popcorn and cotton candy being passed their way and  some wearing their ball gloves in hopes of catching a foul ball.  A cute  little girl with pigtails was thrilled with her mascot OZZIE stuffed toy while other kids were exuberantly bopping each other, their parents and anyone sitting within reach with the blow-up boppers handed out as we arrived...all in good fun. We were all having a grand old time.
     People watching, I  noticed a 5 or 6 year old on an iphone watching something-or-other with wearing some cushy and cool headphones -- which made me notice other folks occupied with their electronics as well.
     My mind wondered to writing an article about the current preoccupation with electronics for this generation-- especially as a pacifier for young children. We need to be entertained while at an entertaining event??  Is it any wonder that our children have short attention spans-- they watch a piece of a video on the way to school, a piece of another on the way to the store, nothing complete and no time without electronics in their faces. The only electronics we had as kids were lightning bugs in a jar!  I understand the use of  entertainment devices on long trips...but even then, what ever happened to engaging in sing-alongs or counting cows? After all, we traveled as kids with nothing but a coloring book and eager eyes for a good game of "I Spy With My Little Eye......." ........
     My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a choo-choo train behind me. Right behind me. No biggie, the game had not started yet. By the conversation going on behind me in row I,  I surmised that it was small boy, his dad and HIS dad...or, grandpa with grandma next and then mom. Dad and grandpa were in charge of small boy. Small boy was not entertained by the baseball game and wanted to watch something on dad's phone.
     And then watch another game or video. . And another. Dad suggested that small boy might want to put the game away and watch the baseball game like he was. Small boy ( of course) said "no". Small boy continued with his electronics. He was entertained but I was not. But you is what it is. I glanced back a few times and covered my left ear--- as my head was turned to the left to WATCH the game-- to muffle the sound ( and yes, to give a little subtle hint-hint).  At the beginning of the 7th inning, there was some seat switching and small boy wound up in dad's lap directly behind me which put the ipone within inches of my ear. The new game was even louder. So....yeah I did-- I turned and politely asked, "Would it be possible to turn down the volume?". The dad said yes...and I THOUGHT that was that.
      Seventh inning stretch. All is good. I didn't realize right away that the dad had taken small boy off somewhere. And then the guy from Row I seat 14 came back....quite stirred up now, apparently, because  over my shoulder ( not to my face) he proceeded to blast me...."THANKS for having patience with a 3 year old at a base ball game!". Heads turned our way from several rows. Caught off-guard, the only thing I could think to say was, " I asked only that the volume be turned down". Again I got , "THANKS for being patient with a THREE YEAR OLD at a base ball game!!" and he grabs his pack and walks away. All eyes still staring at me. Fun.
     Why are the "could have saids" so tardy? I COULD have said I love kids and have had patience as I raised 5 children of my own-- and never had one problem at this ball field with any of them or complaints from people around them EVER . I COULD have said, I have been teaching Parenting classes for 10 years and I would be glad to give him some pointers.
     But what I SHOULD have said ways "You are SO welcome!".  Because enduring videogames in the ear for 7 innings IS quite patient.
BE THE PARENT: Kids are kids ; be aware of the age appropriateness of  any event to which you take them. They don't want to be bored with what doesn't catch their attention any more than you want to constantly entertain them. If you need to use electronics-- be considerate and pack headphones so everyone enjoys the event!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Check, Please!

It is time for a reality check. The distance between your EXPECTATIONS and REALITY determines your level of frustration and pain. What can you do? Either lower your expectations or change your reality.
     As long as you have children in your house ( reality) you will have to give up the idea that your house should look like the cover of House Beautiful (expectation) unless you get a live-in maid (change in reality). The higher your expectation, the more frustrated you will become every time a child leaves a toy on the floor or a mess on the table. Messes in your house mean that people LIVE in your house. Believe me, there is PLENTY of time to enjoy a clean house later,  when your children are grown and gone ( but the empty quiet makes me long for the messes again!).
     Children are active ( reality). They are made that way. They do NOT sit still for long periods of time ( expectation). Please, do yourself and the world a not take small children out to nice restaurants for dinner. You can expect them to sit politely and quietly from now until the cows come home, but the reality is that they are wired to make noise and move around. Why fight it?  Take them out for fast food...they do fast food. Save the restaurants for an enjoyable date night and look forward to the time when your child demonstrates behavior at home that would lead you to believe that he could handle a long meal without having to be scolded repeatedly.
    Children have opinions ( reality). Although you teach and train them, as well as provide what they need, you can NOT make them LIKE every food you put on their plate ( or every cute outfit you purchase, etc) (expectation). So, lighten up. Do your children need to eat vegetables? Yes. But how about this...let them choose between two...carrots OR green beans tonight? Please do not become a short order cook-- making special meals for them beyond what you have prepared for a meal ( because they won't eat it)  unless you want your children to grow up to be demanding adults. I am a firm believer that what mom cooks is what should be eaten, at least a few bites of each item served. However, the reality is-- I hate brussel sprouts-- and chances are there is a vegetable you just don't like. I let each of my children have one vegetable that they just did not have to eat. Some of them loved lima beans and some just didn't. The dinner table should not be a war zone. Children will learn to like new things by trying new things-- in our house you had to try 2 bites-- but don't make a child sit, gagging, being forced to clean her plate. Nobody wins and everyone winds up being miserable. ( Believe me on this one! And again, I am sorry Sarah!)
    Your children love you, really. But they may not demonstrate it in the ways you expect--- until they are older. But I can tell you the reward ( phone calls, text messages, visits, cards and letters etc.) is ohhh so worth the investment in good, peaceful relationships with them when they were younger.
     BE THE MOM: Move your reality and expectations closer together by really looking at the truth of the matter and working with it. Don't  force and rush everything. Take your time and enjoy your children where they are NOW.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Produce of Parenthood

     Walking into the family room, with an exasperated sigh, you stare at the array of toys that have been flung about and wonder if you will ever see your children actually pick up anything and put it away-- without being MADE to. You hear them in the next room yelling at the top of their lungs knowing they are creating more chaos and the thought that they would ever operate in peace is as far flung from your reality as the toys scattered before you.  It just doesn’t look good for the home team, and as the coach,you feel like a failure.
     With all the teaching and training that you do, all the time-outs and the extra choirs that you assign—you would think that you would see the good behavior and character that you were hoping for. That seems to be a fair expectation….after all, you are doing the right things and you expect right results. Right?
      And yet, somehow your experience and reality don’t line up with your expectations.
     Take heart! Just as it takes time for fruit trees to grow and mature before the fruit is produced, such is the way in raising children. We would like to think that we could guide and instruct and then presto-change-o, we would see perfect behavior manifest in our perfect, angelic children. Not so fast. There is a G-R-O-O-O-WING season that requires time to accomplish its good work.
     If you keep doing the next right thing, if you keep pouring into their little lives in a healthy and productive way, you WILL see responsibility demonstrated freely, you will hear love shared and you will experience unity as a family.  The changes will appear little by little and then more and more. As your children grow into young adults you will GO to a movie WITH your child…not just take him to a movie. You will talk WITH your maturing child not just at him. You will enjoy seeing your children morph into young adults….and your heart will be delighted.
     “I have to wait until they are ADULS to realize the fruits of my labor?” you shout.      Although you will witness seasons of growth in adolescence and that progress will be exciting....the basic answer to that question is -yes. You do the work and the nurturing as you lead them through their childhood---aka the growing years—and then you begin to remove yourself from the parenting role and enjoy the results of your years of dedication and diligence.
     My oldest son called me this weekend and offered to drive the hour out to my house to work on my “to do” list. Like I would say NO?!? He came out and fixed my fence, trimmed trees and covered up the pool—all things I can’t do myself. One of the best parts of that gift was that it came unsolicited!! It makes me happy when I get to go out with my adult daughters  and/or sons to dinner or a movie…and I truly enjoy their company as well as watching them in relationships with one another.
     Don’t give up or grow weary in your well doing. Being the parent can seem like such a thankless job as you work 24/7 —without seeing the fabulous end results. But please know there is a lot of internal work taking place while you are waiting for a peek at the yield. BE THE PARENT: Do the work and reap the bountiful harvest! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

From Fairy Princess to Fearless

      So, what IS a mother supposed to do when her baby gets married at 18 years of age and everything changes? I KNOW it was just yesterday that she was twirling around the house in her tutu with her pig-tails twisting in the effort. From white tulle tutu to white wedding the blink of an eye.
     Today, on her 19th birthday, as she has just gotten her first tattoo--- she paid me a wonderful compliment: "Thank you mom, I know you don't like tattoos but I'm glad you are the kind of mom that loves us even when you disagree. I love you". I sniff a little even as I re-type her text. I guess the more obvious statement would be: from tutu to tattoo in a heart wrenching moment.
      As hard as it is to let go and watch from the side-lines, it is rewarding to know that she and her siblings caught my effort to let them "be" and "do"--- and love them through it all. By the grace of God, I taught them Faith and  character; I  trained them in behavior and disciplines,  and they made their choices.
     My 5 children taught me a lot--- about myself and about who they were created to be. It was my job not to squish the authenticity out of them.
   I think I did ok. I always say that I have 5 wonderfully imperfect children. And I love them just the way they are. They have become the adults they were meant to be, sometimes by the hard way, but always with gusto and a command of the world around them. Currently 3 are in college while a 4th is preparing for grad school. The youngest was married in June the oldest will marry in December. THIS YEAR. Note to self: hair appointment to cover the gray tomorrow at noon.
     The happily-ever-after in our story is that they all approach life differently and have individual dreams and talents. The baby marrying first is a testimony to their independence.
     She just text a picture of her tattoo... "intrepid", she had me write the template for her. It is my handwriting on her arm. But it is my heart in her hand.
BE THE PARENT: Listen to your children: they will let you know who they want to be. With some teaching and will guide them there!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cleanup On Isle Three

         You fight the burning desire to look up to see who is watching your five-year-old have a melt down on isle 3-- knowing the judgment that will be evident on their faces. "You come over here lady and deal with this squealing monkey if you think you can do a better job" what you would like to say--- if you had enough nerve. But it would seem that Jr. just stepped on the last one you had. 
      Don't overcompensate to prove to the nosy grandma lingering over the shredded-wheat as if she really was experiencing a dilemma over which fiber  to buy --that you've got this. This isn't about you. It IS about your child. What you do next either works toward changing a behavior or reinforcing it. Pressure builds. What's a mother to do? Breathe. It really is the only thing you can do. Just take a moment and breathe. It is not the end of the world but it is part of the job and a hurdle to be sure. 
     Is all this REALLY about the Choc-O cereal or is it about the time of day? Have you asked too much of your child-- is he hungry? ready for a nap? Have you tried to squeeze a quick-run-into-the-store into an already difficult day? If so, count your loses and make your exit plan.  Deny the desire to just-give-him-the-cereal-so-he-will-shut-up-already. Resist the urge to yell or smack your child.  Tell Jr. that throwing himself on the floor is not acceptable-- in whatever phrases he understands--insist he stands up, take his hand and with as much dignity as you can muster-- walk out of the store.  A store employee will have been watching the kiddie-show and will get the groceries restocked. At this moment, the most important players are your child and you. There is no need to fuss at him about his bad behavior; just put him in his booster seat and drive home. Whatever you thought you had to have will have to be gotten later. 
      When the timing is bad, you can't expect your child to give you the behavior you desire if he doesn't have it in him.
     HOWEVER, if this is not a timing issue, but rather a behavior issue, use it as a teachable moment. With eye-to-eye contact ( and no regard to lingering granny) quietly explain  what is expected. When you get quiet your child has to get quiet to hear what you have to say-- just in case it is "YES you can have what you want". Tell Jr. he can either walk calmly with you or ride in the cart and that throwing a fit will not get him what he is crying for. Stand perfectly still until he contains himself. Yes, even if it takes a few minutes. You are investing in his future behavior here.  When he gets quiet, continue on with your shopping. Now, engage him in some positive conversation. Help him redeem himself and regain some self-control ( both of you). Ask him to point out where the milk is. When there are options--- raisins or applesauce-- let him make the choice. Praise his good behavior and helpfulness. What 5 year old WANTS to be dragged through the boring task of grocery shopping? If it is a big shopping trip, offer a reward for good behavior to be awarded when you are done.. Kind of like a paycheck at the end of the job. Remind him along the way that he is earning his reward by good behavior.
     Timing is everything. BE THE MOM: don't ask the impossible at an improbable time. Teach and train: set your child up for success and enjoy your time with him!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Girl They Sing About

"Be the girl they sing about" -- a great catch phrase on a billboard in Nashville. For a split second I thought "ahhhh, how sweet";  love songs flashed through my head...the I love you, gotta get close to you, gotta show you--- won't you be mine--- kind of songs. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine....And~ I will always love you......songs. Images of  wholesome girls with sweet smiles twirling in fields of flowers danced in my head. But those thoughts came to a screeching halt when I saw the dim product image on the left side of the billboard--- some kind of vitamin water and the word that was most notable --- ZERO. As in zero calories. I was crushed. I have no idea about the original intent behind the ad campaign but I can tell you, the quick message I took from it as I flew by was...... ZERO calories. Count the calories.  You can be the girl that men sing about IF you LOOK right; IF you are skinny enough.   You can be the girl in the love songs IF you do whatever it takes to take the weight off or keep yourself in a size zero jean. ZERO. You can be the girl wooed and pursued IF you count those calories and perform to media expectations.
It just crushed me for every young girl who would see that advertisement and hear the message that they are not desirable, not candidates for THOSE songs unless they are counting those calories.
Mom, make sure that you are doing what it takes to counter the information your daughter is bombarded with each day~ via electronic media, print media,sports and movie stars, visual advertisements ( which are also in schools) peer pressure etc. It seems that no matter where they turn, the message to our daughters is they  don't measure up to the perceived perfection of their generation as they are: changes must be made.
You really will have to go above and beyond the call of duty to shout louder than the media frenzy. You have to help them  know their value from the inside out. That counts for the girls who are size zero too. The Zero girls think they have arrived and that nothing more is required of them; they may feel as though they are better than those who don't look as good as they do. They can be Empty Beautiful Shells. I am not saying ALL skinny girls are shallow, I am saying that the girls who WORK at being size zero at all costs, are striving for the wrong goals.
We know that the heart of a woman and how she relates to the people around her are her most beautiful assets with no calorie counting required.
BE THE MOM: monitor your daughter's self esteem....make it a topic of conversation.Make SURE she knows that she is beautiful for who she is and that is what makes her the girl the world sings about.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Believing is seeing...

     One of the best lines in The Santa Clause movie is , "Seeing isn't believing, Believing is seeing" -- isn't that true in many aspects of our lives? If we believe something -that is how we tend to see it. Take our children for instance; if we believe our children to be perfect little angels, that is all we tend to see ( often times to the chagrin of others). Conversely, if we see our child as a "devil child" ( I have heard more than one person say that of their child), THAT is all we see.
     The trouble with either or both of those scenarios is that we tend to feed what we believe. Little "angel" can walk from table to table at a restaurant -- disturbing others' dinner-- and angel's parents just think it is sooooo cute. Thus feeding the precociousness of said child rather than teaching and training about manners and boundaries.  Likewise, parents who only see the bad in their child, will miss great opportunities to praise him or her and reinforce good behavior because they are too busy yelling and smacking at the little "devil"
      You can guarantee that if the nursery worker at your church sees your little angel hording all the toys and taking what she wants from others...they aren't going to laugh it off as him or her being a little "organizer". . And if you keep stomping on your monster child, he or she will do all they can do to live up to that reputation and all the effort of his or  her school teacher to "do" anything with that child will be short lived because the teacher will believe what he or she sees too. Seeing will indeed be believing for those working with your children
     Maybe it is time for a vision exam.  You really have to be ready for this reality checkup-- ready to hear the truth and ready to act on it. Ask someone near and dear to you-- someone you can trust to tell the truth without sugar coating or being brutal-- to tell you what they see when they are with your kids. Especially if you think you are SURE you know the answer!! This kind of hard truth can be life altering....for you and your child. But how much better to make parenting adjustments now to see more clearly what your child's behavior is telling you-- rather than dealing with major issues and regrets later!
     Great adults start-out as kids with imperfect parents willing to do what it takes...believing that their children will grow into kind & caring, productive, happy adults while seeing them for what they are- kids who need the help of parents to get there!
     Be the parent! Do the hard stuff like looking at your children with clear vision and loving them enough to do the work it takes to teach them and train them to be the adults that you want them to be!