Tag Archives: communication

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids: When You Need to AIM [Answer It More]

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids When You Need to AIM

We wanted our children to ask questions–and lots of them! We wanted to be their answerer as much as possible. Thus, we “trained” them to ask questions–by answering them freely and endlessly.

Ray is the best answerer I have ever met (honest!). He is the one who made me come up with the little acronym that we teach at our parenting seminars. I have watched him day in and day out, year in and year out, answer a question. Then he paused and continued on with more answers and more answers and more answers.

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Five Ways to Help Your Son Be a Good Boyfriend/Fiance

Five Ways to Help Your Son Be a Good Boyfriend/Fiance

 

Our son and daughter-in-law whom this post is based on are coming up to their first anniversary of marriage. And we were so thankful that we helped guide them through their dating and engagement years. Thought we would re-run this one as it is almost always pertinent to someone! 🙂
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Four Things Teens and Young Adults Need





I am an experiential writer. I like to write and speak about things only after I have experienced them for myself for a while. I have had the writing/speaking bug ever since our first born (now thirty) was two years old, and I headed up our children’s church department and taught teachers how to teach, manage the group, etc. (based on my credentials as an elementary education major). However, it wasn’t until I had homeschooled for many years, raised a few babies and toddlers, managed a busy household for a decade and a half, etc. , that I felt ready to talk to others about those things. As a learner, I also like to learn from those who have “been there” and “came out to tell about it”! Smile…

My husband and I began talking about raising and homeschooling teens about eight years ago–when our first born was twenty-two. Now I have seven children ages fourteen through thirty–three of whom are in college and living at home. Guess what? I am more than ready to tell the world what I have learned and continue to learn about raising/discipling teens and young adults in this heart-affecting way that we have chosen to live. If there are even a few things that we have found to work, I want to spread that vital info from shore to shore and sea to sea (okay, that’s a little dramatic, but have you ever had seven kids ages fourteen to thirty at various critical stages of life–let me tell you, it’s more than a little dramatic!).

So…with deep affection and emotion, I bring you a few things that we KNOW teens and young adults need from us as parents:


1. Safe place to talk

They need to know that it is safe to tell you whatever is going on in their hearts and lives. They need to know that you won’t completely freak out (even if you don’t agree)–and that you will love them regardless of what they say in these talks. Our oldest son and daughter (30 and 27) were raised in a pretty strict home. We had rules that did not have logical reasons (see our teen posts for Recipe for Rebellion beginning here: http://characterinkblog.com/day-sixty-eight-avoid-the-recipe-for-rebellion-ingredient-i-rules-without-reason/). We were oftentimes lost, exhausted caring for small children and emotionally drained trying to help young teenagers find their way. However, our son told us that he never wanted turn away from us–in spite of our many faults–because no matter what we made him do, wear, or say, we always gave him “intellectual freedom”–freedom to believe and think for himself (with our guidance but not with an iron fist). Fourteen to twenty-four year olds need a safe place to talk that should be found in their parents.




2. Availability

Are you tired of hearing me talk about this yet? One of the most unfortunate things to me in the whole “teen” thing is that parents sometimes think that they are done or at least almost done long before we really should be done. I have often said, and continue to believe, that children between the ages of sixteen and twenty need their parents more than ever. Why would we work so hard to instill in them our beliefs, to teach them character, to raise them with love and tenderness–just to leave them to peers alone during these ages? They need us. And they need for us to be available when they need us. For some of us, this means not going to our own things (shopping, golf, and, gasp, ballroom dancing) many a Saturday for much longer than we originally thought we would have to give up those things. Parents of teens and young adults–you are not done! There are still some more critical years to make yourself available to these amazing people in your life.





3. Time

This might seem like a repeat of number two, but it really isn’t. Yes, we need to clear our schedules not just to watch them play baseball or go to their concerts; we need to clear our schedules to provide times of availability. We also need to understand the amount of time that these ages take. We have had two of our kids get married so far. The amount of time that it took to counsel them, have fun and plan with them, encourage them, and help prepare them was probably more than my many long days of teaching that child to read or working on chores together! We have three college kids at home right now. They need the “normal” time things–help with college math, reviewing class schedules and seeing how they can squeeze in something that is only offered at a certain time during a certain semester, help changing a tire, and the “as-only-Mom-can-do” edits on their big papers. But they need long periods of time for #1 (safe talking place) and long periods of time of just being there—when they feel friend-less, when the stress of going to college and working is taking its toll on them, when they have a broken heart, when they are questioning something that they have always believed to be true, when they are disillusioned with people and this world….time….and lots of it.





4. To Be Treated Like Adults

If you have been to our parenting seminars or read our parenting book (The Well-Trained Heart), you have likely heard us emphasize the strong link between responsibility and privileges. This point, to be treated like adults, is not to de-emphasize that. We believe that children (and adults!) who show themselves responsible and mature get more and more privileges (hmmm…parable of the talents????). However, many of us treat our sixteen year olds like little kids–micromanaging their school work and homework, following them around to check on each step of their chores, not “expanding the boundaries” of responsibility/privilege in a way that is commensurate with the responsibility and maturity level they are showing. If your teens are still working on that whole responsibility thing and really aren’t ready to have the boundaries widened like you had hoped they would be, at the very least, don’t continue to treat them like little kids in other areas. Give them opportunities to please you and do good things. Set them up for success so that you can expand their boundaries and treat them more adult-like. Quit giving them money for nonsense and toys that keep them playing all the time, and instead provide them with tools–books, computer for school, gas cards, work desk, handy tools, car wash passes, and even fast food gift certificates so that when they are out doing those adult things, they can get gas and a bite to eat. Stop giving them video games, ipods, and individual sports things that twelve and fourteen year olds want/get. Talk to them like adults–don’t ask them where they are going or what they are doing in an accusatory way, but ask them in the same way  you would ask your spouse–in order to determine the schedule and plan for family time. Say, “When will you be home from class–I was hoping we would have some talk time tonight” not “And what time will you be rolling in tonight?” I have so much more to say about treating our teens and young adults like adults, and I will try to address this even more as Ray and I are speaking about some teen topics this summer at some conferences, but I will leave you with this word of advice: The tone in which you speak to your kids tells them right away whether they are being treated in a condescending, child-like way or an adult way. Tone is where I would start.


That’s all for today. I am crying as I finish this article. I have had a couple of weeks of intense parenting of teens and young adults. I truly have the most amazing eighteen, twenty, and twenty-two year old living in my home right now. But their hearts are vulnerable, and they are facing a big scary world. And they need me and Ray to help them finish becoming who and what they are going to become. The needs are so much bigger than getting them to finish their peas and pick up their toys. 

 Our teens and young adults need us! They need our support. They need our advice. They need our encouragement. They need our faith in them. They need our time. They need for us to be available to them. They need for us to treat them with respect. They need us.









Valentine’s Day–Party With Your Kids (All the Time!)

 When we had Valentine’s parties (or any “holiday” party) with our kids, we always did it a few days after the holiday—so we could get the candy and treats for 50-75% off! So…if you are reading this after the “real” holiday, it really isn’t too late to have a party with your kids for Valentine’s Day!

One of the things that we tried to do with our kids for celebrations (or just “anytime parties”) is that we tried to go out of our way to make being with Mom, Dad, and brothers, and sisters cool. Our kids see us go to great lengths to prepare for a Sunday school class party, Mary Kay party, or extended family party. We put thought and effort into having “parties” with our kids—so they wanted to stay home and party with their family–and so that they would know that they are as important (more so!) than the Sunday school class, the gals at the make up party, or the reunion.

We have fond memories of communion nights, footwashings, Valentine parties, Easter celebrations, fondue parties, “flat top grill” parties, and more with our children. Being in our family was just plain fun and way cool! Some times we would just announce to the kids that “tonight, we’re having a movie party” or “tonight, we’re having a chocolate party” or “tonight, we’re having a game party.”

It may have been as simple as frozen pizza and a movie or as elaborate as a fondue meal that Mom and the littles spent the afternoon preparing for. It may have been for a holiday (after the holiday!) or just because we wanted our kids to stay home with us on a Saturday night instead of running around with friends. (We’re not opposed to friends, but the more time we spent with our kids the more WE would influence them rather than peers influencing them.)

I will list some ideas for a homemade Valentine’s Party—some that we have done and some that I have read about or heard of.

1. Write love notes to each other. Okay..I can write this one without crying…I really can. Some of my fondest memories are the times that we sat down and had the kids write notes to each other. Okay…forget the not crying thing. Talk about incredibly sweet and memory-imbedding! We drew names and sat down and listened to the true Valentine’s story on cassette (Adventures in Odyssey) and wrote love notes to each other. I still have some of them! We had the little kids dictate to us. One of the funniest ones: one of the little boys wrote, “Dear Kayla, I love you so much because you have skinny arms.”

2. Have fun foods! This is especially important as your kids get older. After all, what do they have when they go out with friends or to youth group? Pizza, Taco Bell, mall snacks. As our kids got older, we got more elaborate with our party foods. When the two oldest girls were college age and crazy about Flat Top Grill when it first opened in Fort Wayne, one of our Valentine’s parties was a flat top grill night. (It was tons of work to prepare for, but the older kids loved this!) We had meats, veggies, and pita breads all ready—and had griddles and electric skillets all set up on the table. It was quite the feast!

3. Do something for others. Preparing Valentine’s cookie baskets or bath baskets for nursing home residents, etc. is a great way to spend a party—and helps others too.

4. Wait until after the holiday to have your party, so you can get some cool party treats for fifty to seventy-five percent off! With seven children, buying elaborate Easter baskets or Valentine’s hearts was usually out of the question. However, after the holiday, we could go get things for a lot less and still give them special treats.

5. Spend your Valentine’s Day showing love to those less fortunate. For the past several years, we have spent time on or around Valentine’s Day serving a Valentine’s banquet (and sometimes cooking it or helping to cook it) for adults with cognitive disabilities through our daughter’s disability ministry (One Heart). We often do things to prepare for it (cookie making, set up, preparing a special drama, etc.) then serve at it. Valentine’s Day is about love…and what better way to show love than to live out Luke fourteen.

6. Get a special movie, audio, or talking books to listen to or watch together for your Valentine’s party. We love Adventures in Oddysey and other radio dramas put out by Focus on the Family; the Christian bookstore (and Hallmark) have some good movies about unconditional love, etc. that are appropriate for this holiday.

7. Write various verses about love on large hearts cut of construction paper, cut each one in half in various zig-zags, mix them up, and pass out a half a heart to each person. That person then finds his other half, reads, the verse, and discusses it with the family.

8. Sing Scripture songs about love. Once we had piano players around here, we loved to gather around the piano and sing. None of us is too musical (except the two pianists), but we all loved it anyway.

Party with your kids—and make them want to stay home more!

Taming the Television Part II of II

“There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, tales to be told, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.”



Today I bring you more tips for Taming the Television. I pray that these will help you to make the most of the time you have with your children. You will never regret the hours upon hours you spend discipling, mentoring, nurtering, heart training, and playing with your kids–take it from a mama with a thirty year old! Smile…


7. Replace television with something else—you!

About thirty years ago we went to a parenting seminar in which the speaker told a story of a dad who wanted to get rid of his family’s television. His children balked at the idea. He told them that he was taking away the television but giving them something else. They asked him what this something else was, and he replied, “Me!”

Everyday his children would call him at work, anxiously awaiting his arrival home. “What are we going to do tonight, Daddy?” And each day he gave his children something far more valuable than television: he gave them himself.

Don’t just remove television, certain nights of tv viewing, or tv time without replacing it. There are games to be played, living room football to be conquered, talks to be had, words of affirmation to be spoken, talking books to be listened to, stories to be read, lessons to be learned, foods to be cooked, lego castles to be built, crafts to be made, songs to be sung, and hearts to be won. Turn off the television and turn on relationships.



8. Have the children earn television hours.

This has been suggested to us many times when we speak about time management and time with your children, so it must work well for some folks! I have heard of various ways to earn tv time—same number of hours reading as watching, getting so many minutes per chore, earning minutes by doing things on time (i.e. homework done by six equals 30 mins tv), etc.




9. Watch out for preschoolers’ screen time!

This isn’t a method for controlling as much as an admonition. Your preschoolers will grow to dislike simple pleasures very quickly if they watch television and movies all day. We had a “no movie during the day period” rule most of our lives. (The exception to this was one hour of educational dvds, like Reading Rainbow, Doughnut Man, NEST videos, etc. for one hour after naps with one particularly trying child.)

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of television for two year olds through preschoolers and none at all for children under two. There are so many more educational, meaningful, physical, and fun things for two, three, and four year olds to do besides watching television!

We teach the concept of “setting children’s tastes” in our parenting seminar–and it is so real and so true and so impacting that we want to shout it where ever we speak. Just like my two oldest kids despise pop because we “set their tastes” by not ever giving them any when they were little, so we set all of our children’s tastes for continual entertainment by bombarding them with it when they are young.



10. Make a “no turning on the television without permission” rule.

 I am amazed when children come into a house and turn on the television. I have seen semi-pornography on commercials for television shows many, many times when we are at someone’s house watching football or in a motel viewing television. I would never consider letting our kids have the remote control to a tv and flipping through the channels. They just see way more than they should see at their ages (or more than I want me or my husband to see!).



11. Be careful not to use television as a babysitter too much.

I know preschoolers and toddlers are demanding. I had six kids twelve and under all at home by myself twelve to fourteen hours a day every day—without television (or even computers!)! However, continually putting little ones in front of the television is simply not healthy for them. Their attention spans will not lengthen like they would if they were listening to talking books, listening to you read aloud, “baking” a play-dough pie, or building with Duplos. Use the television as a babysitter only when it is absolutely needed—and try to find other ways to entertain toddlers as much as possible.




12. Limit daytime viewing for everyone.

 We always told our kids that daytime isfor learning and working—and evenings are for resting, fellowshipping, playing, and family. It is extremely hard to control the number of hours our kids watch television when they watch from seven to eight before school and again from four to six after school—to start with!




13. Pay attention to how much time children spend using all screen media.

In a study recorded in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the hours of actual screen time logged by children versus the hours that parents estimated were significantly different. In our media-driven age, we should be aware of all of our children’s media/screen time—not just television*. In order to control the amount of time our children sit in front of entertainment screens, we must be realistic and honest about the amount of time they truly are being entertained by any screen.




14. Do not put a television set in a child’s bedroom.

The aforementioned study discovered that children with televisions in their bedrooms watch significantly more television than children without. Furthermore, parents monitored television habits much less when there were many television sets in a household—and especially when the children’s rooms contained televisions.


15.  Turn the television off when it is not being used for purposeful viewing.

 The study previously cited found a negative association between the use of television as “background” and children’s time spent reading. Quite frankly, reading is a simple pleasure that many children do not enjoy—background noise of television is not conducive to enjoying this pasttime that takes a great deal more effort than simply viewing and listening.



16. Pinpoint other nonscreen, in-home activities that your children enjoy.

When discussing the idea of reducing television viewing time in your home, you might have a family meeting and draw up a list of other ideas of things the family can do instead of watching television. A website devoted to helping families reduce their dependence upon television, The Television Turnoff Network (http://www.televisionturnoff.org/), lists one hundred alternatives to “screen time” that parents can suggest to their children.





Family time is worth fighting for. The relationships that can be developed when some of the distractions are removed are incredible. The amazing things that we and our children can do with the time that we are not watching television are worthwhile. Don’t let your children set out to spend nearly fourteen years of their lives watching television!

*Jordan, Amy, PhD; James C. Hersey, PhD; Judith A. McDivitt, PhD; Carrie D. Heitzler, MPH. “Reducing Children’s Television-Viewing Time: A Qualitative Study of Parents and Their Children.” Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Feb 2010.

Taming the Television (Plus!) Part I of II**

“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it. “ from New York Times, 1939



With so many new year’s resolutions involving time–family time, controlling time, more time with those we love, less wasted time, etc., I thought I would re-work parts of a lengthy series I did on here a few years ago–this time titled “Taming the Television.”

When Ray and I speak or write about allowing more time to be with your kids, we are always asked how we have so much time for our kids, especially in light of our business and ministry. And the answer lies in not where we get the time (we all get the same amount, remember), but where we allocate the time we have been given.

Thirty-two years ago this summer Ray and I were married in a little country church. The best marriage advice we received (and followed) has also become our best parenting advice: do not get a television. Somebody told us not to get a television set for the first year of marriage but instead spend time together, talking and getting to know one another, developing intimacy and romance. We took that advice—and have been “stationless” for most of the thirty-two years of our family, though we did get a vcr and eventually a dvd to watch movies. (We tried getting stations one year, but didn’t like the way it dictated our evening schedule and stole time from us. We just got a television and Netflix about a month ago–and so far, so good!)

With the advent of computers, dvd’s, i-pads, and other electronic devices, we have other things to contend with for our attention—and our entire family loves movies—however, we have found that by not being able to get television stations (via antennae, box, cable, etc.), we have gained the most-sought-after commodity: time. The latest statistic on television viewing in America is twenty-eight hours per week, per person. Even if we and our children watch three movies a week (which is a stretch many months), we still have twenty more hours every week than the “average” American.

We cannot tell people that they should get rid of television as it is all bad. Nowadays, more than ever before, there are tons of good, interesting, entertaining things to watch. Educational and informative programs abound. Good movies are available at the flip of the remote. However, one thing has stayed the same: television (and now internet or internet television) is the greatest time robber of all things that vie for our attention.

Getting rid of television programming is not an option for most people, I realize. After all, it’s an American institution! However, I propose to you that even getting control of the television could potentially yield you more time than you would know what to do with! And would give you literally hours each week to spend with your kids.

Consider the math for a moment. If a person is the “average” American watching twenty-eight hours a week of television, over an eighty year life, that person will have watched 13.29 YEARS of television—28 hours a week x 4 weeks x 80 years=116,480 hours….divided by 24 hours in each day equals 4,854 hours, which equals 13.29 years of twenty-four hour days. Imagine the relationships we could build with our children; imagine the things we could learn; imagine the good we could do—with even half of that time, say six and a half years—given to us. Makes me want to control my time just a little better!

Today and tomorrow I will give you many ideas and tips for Taming the Television–some that we have used successfully and some that we have heard of others using. Here we go:


1. Set weekly time limits.

 Even with the ability to only watch movies for at least thirty of our thirty-two years, we have had to set weekly limits when it seemed that every day someone wanted to watch a movie! We have usually had the four to six hour movie rule per week—and found that this was enough for the kids to watch a thing or two that they wanted on dvd (currently Monk on dvd) and a family movie or two.

This varies with kids, too. A couple of our kids really like watching movies; our three boys recently went an entire month without watching anything, even though they were allowed to watch if they asked. Now they got a television series on dvd and have watched several hours in one week. It is the spirit of this rule—not the letter—that we try to follow. It is about being in control of your life (and teaching your kids to be in control of theirs)—not about a certain number. We balance this time out so that it is enough entertainment to enjoy being entertained, but not so much that it controls our lives.*

 2. Set television days.

We had a rule for over a dozen years that other than educational dvd’s (we use some teachers on cd/dvd for school), movies could only be watched on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I prefer the #1 idea as sometimes the children wanted to watch, watch, watch simply because it was the weekend.*



 

3. Decide ahead of time what programs/times/days the family will watch television each week.

 Many child development experts recommend this—and call it the “family viewing schedule.” Write these programs/times on a calendar or schedule, and only turn the television on during those times. This method provides you with conscientious, purposeful viewing—not just, “Wow, we’re home, so we should turn on the television.”



 

4. Cover your television or put it away unless it is purposeful viewing time. We have our television on a rolling cart in my bedroom closet.

This worked for us for most of our family’s life because if we had a television to watch movies on, it was not  hooked up to anything to keep it in one place (i.e. cable or box, etc.). I know this might not work if you have it hooked up to receive programming, but our family loved this. We just sat in the living room and talked for hours—no television calling out to us, no “favorite programs” causing us to work around them. If you do have your television hooked up to something, you might consider having it in an armoire or other close-able cupboard. Again, the out of sight, out of mind concept works wonders, especially for younger children.





5. When you do watch movies and television, watch it together whenever possible.

This will allow you to keep tabs on what your children are seeing/hearing, but it will also create opportunities for lively discussions. We love to talk about movies that we have watched. We love to quote lines from them back and forth to each other. Watching together allows you to share the entertainment, not just passively watch shows separately.

Obviously, we cannot do this all the time. The boys were on a Psyche kick  (on dvd)with one of their sisters. They only watched it when the four of them could all watch it together—and Ray and I seldom joined them. We didn’t have the time then to devote to watching it, and we knew that they were watching it together, so that worked out well.

Family viewing will be more of an event than an everyday occasion if certain shows or time slots are dedicated to family television watching or movie watching rather than just evening free-for-alls.



6. Declare certain days “tv-less days.”

 If you cannot get rid of television programming all together, the “tv-less days” seems to be the next best thing to me. Decide what evenings/days are people’s least favorite days to watch something, and make those evenings no television evenings. Cover the television up—and don’t even consider turning it on. If you manage to have three evenings a week without television, you will likely cut your family’s viewing by one third, at least. Just imagine evenings together without anything distracting everybody. If you do this, follow our family’s “replacement” rule—if you’re going to take something away from your kids, replace it with something else. (More on this tomorrow!)



Well, I am out of time and space. Tomorrow I will post tips for television viewing reduction for children specifically. Same bat time. Same bat channel. (Sorry–I just couldn’t resist.)


*Note: With the ability to watch things online, watch dvd’s, stick a dvd in the laptop, etc., we have found it especially important to include all viewing in these time or day limits. Thus, the four to six hours a week includes anything they watch—unless they watch it at Grandpa’s for an overnighter or go to their brother’s to watch football or something.





“Time in a Bottle”

                                              “Time in a Bottle”
                                                 
                                                               Donna Reish

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go
Through time with

Time. It’s such a precious commodity. Something that those of us who have been parenting, say, for thirty years, with at least six more years of “kids at home” time, have come to  understand the preciousness of.

You know the whole “Enjoy them now ‘coz they’ll grow up too fast!” (Or worse yet, “Enjoy them now ‘coz soon they’ll be preteens back talking you and making your life miserable.” Sadness…) Anyway, I remember people telling me all the time that time would go fast…and I never believed them.

However, during our early parenting years (the first fifteen of them), my husband worked a job that took him out of the house sixty to seventy hours a week at least fifty weeks a year. Because of that, while we didn’t understand that our kids really would “grow up so fast,” we came to put a real value on time. We learned to use it wisely, to be efficient, and to “spend” it on the most important things to us—our kids, marriage, and God.

Time is so similar to money—yet so different than money. Like money, once it (i.e. today) is spent, it is gone—never to be retrieved again. Like money, there is only a certain amount of it—and we always wish we had more of it. Like money, it can be “spent”  foolishly or wisely, invested or squandered, used for good or for evil. Like money, it is valuable and sought after.

 

Unlike money, we all get the exact same amount of it. One of my pet peeves is to hear someone say, “I don’t have time for __________.” Maybe I’m just too literal, but, honestly, we all have the same amount of time to begin with. Granted, some of us have predetermined “time expenses”—such as a large family, an ailing parent, or other way in which our time must automatically be utilized. In that way, we don’t really all have the same amount, of course, because those people’s time is already partially earmarked. However, it is probably more accurate to  say, “I have already allotted my time elsewhere, so there’s not enough left for ______.” (Okay, that’s getting picky…but we all know people who waste A LOT of time—then say  that they do not have time for this or that.)

I’m somewhat of a “time freak.” You know how some people just really seem to love money—and want more and more of it? Well, that is me with time. Every year when it’s time to “spring forward” and move our Indiana clocks up one hour, I go through the house ranting that “someone just stole an hour from me” and “we should do something—I just had an hour stolen,” etc. etc. (To be fair, when we “fall backwards” and gain an hour, I also squeal with delight that “someone just gave me an hour”—“I can’t believe that I have been given a whole extra hour!” And yes, this tradition drives my family crazy!) This afternoon, when my family pulled out to go watch football, I looked at the clock and did my mental math, fell back on the bed and said aloud gleefully, “I have been given four precious hours to do whatever I want to do!” (That’s not really true because this week I start  teaching writing to seventy-four students, so I have some definite “predetermined time expenses” in my life right now!) But yeah, I’m crazy about time.  I love clocks, hourglasses, and time pieces. I have timers in six drawers—and the most used app on my phone is definitely my timer!

Strange time attachments aside, what does time have to do with “Character Training From the Heart” (our new blog name and seminar name) or “Positive Parenting” (our former name)? So many of our New Year’s resolutions, family goals, relationship needs, household jobs, and work tasks could be accomplished much better simply with better time management skills. A funny difference between time and money that we often do not consider is that of “stolen money” or “stolen time.” If someone broke into our car and stole our billfold (and a hundred dollars), we would be outraged. We had been “robbed”—some of our precious commodity of money taken from us. We had plans with that money. We were going to pay a bill or buy some needed item for our kids. But now that money is gone—stolen.

However, we continually allow time robbers to rob us of our time—without being outraged or trying to put a stop to it. We purposely have chosen not to have a television or game system for most of our parenting years. When people asked us (especially many years ago with several kids at home and homeschooling, etc.) how we got so much done, we only needed to say, “We don’t have a television.” And they nodded—they knew exactly how we got so much done.

Now I’m not saying that anything fun should be omitted from your life (my family is at our oldest son’s house watching football and when they return, my husband and I are going dancing!), but I am saying that we can’t complain about not having enough time, we can’t wonder why we can’t get certain things done, we can’t wish for more hours with our kids and spouse—if we let time robbers continually steal them from us (the hours, not the kids!).

We would all love to be able to “save time in a bottle” like the old Jim Croce song says. We would all love to “make days last forever” sometimes. But as the song says, that can’t happen—and “there never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do….”

So what do we do to “get more time”? What do we do to get more accomplished? What do we do to have more time with our kids? Tune in later this week—for some “Timely Tips”—things that we have found to work for us in the areas of time management and saving that “time in a bottle.”

 

P.S. For those of you who are nostalgic for old music, like I am, I’ll put the Youtube link below to that song. Take a look at the words—they really are poignant when it comes to parenting. And no, I am not just fond of this song because it is an absolutely perfect Viennese Waltz song! Smile…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyTfbtZeGeU

Holiday Musings

A few years ago I wrote a “Holiday Musings” article for Training for Triumph’s newsletter. It has a lot of the same ideals that you will find in this blog—in season and out of season! However, I want to share it with you this Christmas. I pray that you will be moved and encouraged by it.





                                                       “Holiday Musings”
                                                               by Donna Reish






I love Christmas! I love giving gifts to my children; I love lights and beautiful decorations; I love doing family activities over and over again every year; I love baking goodies and giving them away. I even have a verse to substantiate my desire to give good gifts to my kids at Christmas time: “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). I mean, God knows that even we mere mortals love to give good gifts to our kids!




Although all of the things in my “I love” list above are somewhat “unspiritual,” we have found through the years there are some common threads that we try to emphasize/do during the Christmas holiday—some to remember and ponder what Christ has done for us more fully; some to deepen our relationships with each other; some to show Christ’s love to the world. Allow me to give you a list of my holiday musings.






1. Think about, talk about, sing about, and remember the true reason for Christmas as a family throughout the month. 

We have found many things that help us focus on the birth of Christ more and more throughout December: singing carols together; reading Christmas picture books with the littles in the afternoons; collecting nativity scenes; reading from chapter books that emphasize the birth of Christ, such as Max Lucado’s Cosmic Christmas, Gene Edwards’ The Birth, and Marjorie Holmes’ Two From Galilee; going to community events that point us back to the reason for the season, such as Christmas plays, live nativities, walks through Bethlehem, Christmas cantatas, movies, and plays that emphasize the coming of the Savior.




2. Create family traditions. 

We have too many holiday traditions to list in just one short article, but research has born out the importance of traditions in building a child’s outlook on many things—and it is so obvious when you hear children talk and repeat that mantra: “We always…” There is something about being able to say that “We always …” or “In our family, we… “

 Two of our favorite traditions are decorating the house together and reading inspirational Christmas stories throughout the month of December. Our older kids laugh until they cry as they give play-by-plays of each ornament making ordeal we have gone through. (Our tree is decorated with only home made ornaments—another tradition we have is that of making ornaments together.) Anyway, they have a joke of holding up the sample ornament (one that I bought that we were modeling after) and holding up one of ours and chiming, “Sample ornament; Reish ornament” over and over. Then they tell about the time I threw the cinnamon sticks across the room in a fit of Christmas stress as we tried to make the “ornaments in a minute” out of cinnamon sticks. Then we all laugh some more—and I try my best to keep from crying as I think about Christmases gone by—and wonder where the years have gone and long for just a day from a Christmas ten or fifteen years ago.






Traditions do not have to be elaborate or expensive. Some of ours (besides the decorating night and ornament making) are as simple as watching certain Christmas movies while we wrap gifts; eating shrimp alfredo while we watch White Christmas; reading about holiday traditions each morning; learning a new carol together each year (all the verses!); having the kids exchange their gifts with each other on Christmas Eve; reading inspirational stories each night before bed; reading one of the Gospels during the month of December; etc.






3. Think about Jesus’ entire life—his birth, life, death, and resurrection—not just his birth. 

Linking the Christmas story to the fact that without it we would have no hope of salvation is important, especially with younger children. Two ways that we do this include discussing, reading about, and singing about the names of Christ and what they mean throughout the month; and reading one of the Gospels—not just the Christmas story—during December. This helps us focus on our salvation even more. (Another thing we have done to focus on Jesus’ entire life is to listen to Focus on the Family’s radio theatre “The Luke Reports.” I will put links to some excellent resources throughout December, so check back frequently!)




4. Reach out to those less fortunate—and do so in a way that costs you and your children something.

 I know that doesn’t sound very “Christmasy”—good cheer and mistletoe and all (btw, I love mistletoe if the right “mistletoe-ee” is around!), but taking a can to a canned food drive or parents buying gifts for the children to leave at the angel tree are not sacrifices for our children—and do not do much to teach our children the true meaning of Christmas—and the true meaning of sacrificial giving.


When I speak of reaching out to those less fortunate, I am talking about giving up time (a few evenings or days?) and money (money with which a child could buy himself something). I’m talking about doing hard things. I’m talking about getting dirty, being inconvenienced, etc. I know that sounds strange, but honestly, what could we possibly do or give that would be too much for our Lord? Find true, meaningful service projects for your children—extensive time spent at a nursing home or group home caroling, making cookies with residents, reading to them, etc.; earning money to be used to give gifts to truly poor or forgotten people (like county home residents or the disabled); going out into the homes of people who never have a Christmas visitor; serving food at a soup kitchen; cleaning mattresses at a rescue mission. Focus on others more than ever before this Christmas—your children will thank you for it eventually. (For the new year, read the stories written by the author of Mandate for Mercy (also the founder of the Mercy Ship ministry) about how his mom made his family squeeze together in the car every week to pick up poor and desperate people to take them to church—and the impact this had on this man causing him to spend his life on the poor and desolate—this is the kind of reaching out we are purporting here.)




5. Reach out to your relatives.

 Yes, those strangers who are watching “bad” things on television the whole family get together while puffing away on their cigarettes. Teach your children to go to family get togethers to serve—not to judge. Start out teaching your children about this concept of serving relatives with a Bible study (ahead of time) on “being great in God’s kingdom by serving” and “doing for others asking nothing in return” and “being a light by your good works.” 

Then, if it is true, tell your children that you have been more concerned about yourself than you have of others at past family get togethers. And that you want your entire family to change all of that. That you want to “do your good works that others would glorify your father in heaven.” Discuss ways that you can do this during this holiday season: working harder to make good dishes to the gatherings (no lentil casserole, please—bless these people with fat and sugar!); helping with young cousins; encouraging grandparents; helping to set up and take down; being kind to each other as an example of family unity to those who might not have any idea what that looks like. 

(Note: Because I always get asked this, I will put a caveat here—I am not talking about reaching out to relatives in any way that would put your children in danger. We recommend that your children never be left with non-Christians and never be put in situations in which they could be harmed.)




6. Really talk to others this holiday season. 

Your ministry of bringing your relatives to Christ will begin not with your family’s judgment of them, but with your interest and concern for their lives in general. Jeff Myers, leadership specialist, founder of Passing the Baton, and current president of Summit Ministries (as of 2012),  gives the following list of things to discuss this year with relatives young and old. Some are one-on-one types of discussions while others would work well for group discussions**:






Express thanks to someone in the room for something they did for you.


“I’m thankful for…” Finish the sentence.


If you could have the attention of the whole world for 30 seconds, what would you say?


One thing I’m thankful for about our country.


What is the key to success in life? Why do you say that?


Tell about a lesson you learned the hard way.


What are some ways life is different now than in the old days?


Tell a story of a decision your ancestors made that changed the direction of their lives-and yours.


Tell about a lesson you learned by watching someone else.


“A person I would like to honor publicly is…”


“Time and money aside, I would rather be…”


Tell about an experience that changed you for the better.


Tell a story about something that started out bad but had a happy ending.


“My first hero was _________.”

Tell about a time when you showed courage.


Describe a teacher who had a significant influence on your life.


Tell about an invention that made your life easier.


“The most admired public figure when I was growing up was ____.” Tell a story.


Tell about a memorable event in your life.


“A famous person I’ve met is _____.” Tell about the experience.


“I got in so much trouble…” Tell the story!


(www.passingthebaton.readyportal.net/page/68289/;jsessionid=6rj638as0ohf7 )




**Note: These are good to print off and use as dinner discussion for your immediate family, too!






6. Express genuine gratefulness to God and others

December is a month to really display the quality of gratefulness—and to teach your children to do so too. Not just mere ”thank-you’s”—but sincere thanksgiving to God for His Son and for others for everything they do for us. Teaching children to say thank-you, write thank-you notes, etc. is a start. However, gratefulness begins with the realization that everything good we have comes from the hand of God. That we are nothing without Him. And that He knows what we need more than we do. It is deepened when we give up materialism—the idea that we have to have this or that in order to be happy—and focus instead on the good things God has done for us. Thoughts on materialism would require an entire article in itself, but when we have to have things to make us happy, when our mood and outlook change as a result of getting more and more, or when we cannot be happy in whatever situation we are in (materially speaking), we are probably steeped in materialism. Praying through this, sharing with our family the importance of giving up our ideas that we somehow deserve this or that, focusing on gratefulness for all that God has done for us outside the material things we are lacking—these are ways to feel and exhibit true gratefulness.






7. Spend quality time reaching into your children’s hearts. 

That’s a tough one, huh? I mean, the busiest time of the year, and we have to add another thing to the list. I remember vividly eighteen years ago when I had five kids ten and under. I still had younger siblings at home who would come and spend a lot of Christmas week with us. I made four Christmas dinners in a row for various relatives. I got up early in the morning to make home baked bread and rolls and went to bed late at night to get the overnight breakfast casseroles in the oven. I get tired just thinking about it. I was trying to serve others, but found myself distanced from my kids by the time the holiday week was over. I can remember looking at Joshua, then ten, one evening after the relatives had all left, and calling him over to ”sit in Mommy’s rainbow” (my bent legs as I lay on the sofa)—and he seemed so far away. I had been with him all week—I was usually with my older kids all the time as they did not have any older siblings to take them anywhere like my littles now have! However, I felt so far from him. I had let the busy-ness of Christmas keep me from those I love the most. Now I have to remind myself that one more home made goody or one more shopping day is not worth distancing myself from my children. Stay close. It’s Christmas!




This Christmas I pray that all of us can ”keep Christmas” in a way that glorifies God and teaches our children deep Christmas truths.


*Copyright TFT 2008

Those Attending School–Tip VIII: Good Morning Routines


For Those Attending School (and homeschoolers!)–Tip VIII: Establish Good Morning Routines*

“Our children are not going to be just ‘our children’—they are going to be other people’s husbands and wives and the parents of our grandchildren.”
Mary Steichen Calderone

I think of the quote above often when I am working with my eight to eighteen year olds on “life skills.” All of the character, skills, routines, relationship abilities, work ethic, and education that they develop now will follow them all throughout their lives—and will have a profound influence on the kinds of spouses, parents, workers, citizens, and Christians that they will be as adults. Every life skill that we teach our children—and better yet, model for them—has the potential to help them be successful in many areas of life—even the morning routine.

If you find yourself chasing your preteen around with a toothbrush and hair brush or following your teen around, helping him find his shoes and stuffing things in his backpack every morning, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! Again, a huge part of successful parenting is being a problem solver. We can continue chasing every morning, or we can implement routines and schedules that help us “prevent” that morning chaos.

Here are some tips for developing morning routines with older children (beyond preschool):

1. If your family has been of the mindset that chasing, stuffing bags and backpacks, cajoling, etc. are part of Mom’s job description, you will want to change that way of thinking quickly! Allowing our children to be irresponsible because we feel guilty if we do not do everything for them is not going to help us parent our children to become independent.

2. Partner with your older child to decide what he needs to do each morning. Let him suggest a doable list with your input.

3. Make a chart or list on the computer—or have your older child do that, so he can monitor his own progress on accomplishing his morning goals.

4. If mornings are extremely hectic now—with older kids on the computer, rising late, etc. and part of the family waiting in the car beeping the horn, etc., you will want to be firmer about establishing the morning routine and what order things are done, etc. We have done this for so many years that our boys, for the most part, know that this is what you do in the morning. When these items are done, I can do something else I want to do, start my school, etc.

5. If your children go to school, I recommend just putting in the morning routine those chores that pertain to that child, such as making his bed, straightening his room, putting his pajamas away, cleaning up messes he made, etc. Save other family chores for after school or before bed. (More on chore charts, appropriate ages for various chores, etc. in upcoming posts!)

6. If your older kids are poor prioritizers, you will want to use this opportunity to help them learn the art of prioritizing. If they consistently make bad choices when it comes to getting things done, you might have to “bring in the boundaries” some and give them step-by-step instructions on what to do for now. Once they gain responsibility and diligence, you can broaden that and give them more leeway. For example, if they get on the computer, text friends, etc. instead of getting their routine done, you might have to institute a “no electronics” rule until they show themselves more faithful. Remember, this entire process is a teaching opportunity—and some of our older kids need more lessons than others!

*Re-print from 2010.

For Those Who Go to School–Tip IV: Start Tomorrow Tonight

Twelve Tips for Those Whose Kids Go to School–Tips IV of XII: Start Tomorrow Tonight

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”

                                 Winnie the Pooh

Here are just a few ways that we have implemented this or heard how others have:


1. We start the next day’s laundry the night before. (We do one or two loads a day now; we used to do two or three loads per day.) The “little laundry lad” (many years ago it was the “little laundry lady”) starts his first load any time during the evening the day before. If it is a “fold up” load, he even puts it in the dryer before bed. If it is a “hang up” load, he leaves it in the washer and in the morning, runs it through rinse again then pops it in the dryer.* This way we have a jump on the next day’s laundry. (It’s even better if his fold up load is in the dryer dry and his hang up load is in the washer, ready to re-rinse and move first thing!)


2. We do not leave dishes to be washed tomorrow. We run the dishwasher after dinner and the dish person the next day just has to unload it and load the breakfast (and last night’s ice cream!) dishes in it.


3. Everybody goes through the house and picks up his or her things before going to bed. We do not have to start the day tomorrow with messes from the previous day.


4. If we have to get up earlier than usual the next day, we adjust our bedtime accordingly. This has had various levels of success—as it is easier said than done. But generally speaking, if we are doing something the next day that requires our getting up one to two hours earlier, we try to get everybody to bed an hour earlier or so.


5. If we have some place to go the next day, we get the things out, bags packed, etc. the night before and have them ready to load or already loaded. This has eliminated so much early morning hassle on “going away” days.


6. If we need a packed lunch for some reason the next day, we pack it and put in the fridge (the entire cooler in the extra fridge in some ways).


A huge part of being organized in home management is warding off problems before they start—seeing potential problems and solving them immediately (or even ahead of time). Starting today last night is one way we have found to do this. There are probably many things that you already do to make tomorrow better—think about these and see if there are others that might help your family, as well.




*We don’t iron much here. I have taught the kids to move hang ups directly into the dryer when the washer is done spinning, then to pull them out of the dryer when they are still hot, shake them, and hang the up. Eliminates most ironing.