Tag Archives: family unity

Summer Is Here—Keeping Skills and Gaining New Ones

Summer is Here--Keeping Skills and Adding New Ones

“One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.” -Unknown

Summer is here! Whether our children attend preschool, private school, public school, or homeschool, there are things that we can all do during the summer to make it an enjoyable, growing time in our children’s lives.

Summer truly proves the quote above–that one good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters. We have our children home all summer–either with us if we work at home or stay home with younger children or at home while we are working. Either way, we have all summer to be their “schoolmasters.”

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Christmas With College and Adult Kids: Family Unity at Christmas

Christmas With College and Adult Kids: Family Unity at Christmas

Christmas with college and adult kids can easily turn into a fiasco if family members are not careful to put other people first. Selflessness is the key to family harmony at all ages—but especially with college and adult kids simply because when someone has a bad attitude or is selfish, parents really have no recourse with grown kids. (It’s not like you’re going to send a twenty-four year old to his room!)

 

My advice for this is not going to be the most helpful for families with grown kids THIS Christmas. But families with younger children really need to grasp the idea that whatever is happening in your home among siblings now is likely not going to magically go away when they are adults.

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When Do I Give My Child a “Mulligan”?

When Do I Give My Child a 'Mulligan'?

Recently when my sister, her husband, and her two young teen daughters were here visiting in Indiana from North Carolina, we took as many from our family who could come and my sister’s family to our local YMCA to play a game called “walleyball” (rhymes with volleyball). This game is similar to volleyball in its rules–with the addition of walls as it is played in a racquetball court.

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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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Ray and Donna on Five Love Languages Promo Video

 

Ray & Donna on the 5 Love Languages

Three years ago we were asked to tell our love language stories on a promo/surprise video that Gary Chapman’s publisher was going to put together for him as a surprise for the twentieth year celebration of his initial Five Love Languages book.  We were excited to do it as his books, including the application of his teaching on love languages, made such a huge impact on our parenting over the past twenty years.

To fully appreciate this short video snippet (our portion of the promo video), you have to hear the darling story of when we first discovered that the five love languages were alive and well in the Reish home.

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W is for Wonderful Wednesday–and Other Special Times With Our Kids!

Piglet sidled up to Pooh. “Pooh!” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. I just wanted to be sure of you.”

                                        A.A. Milne







One way that we have tried to have one-on-one conversations with our children, in spite of there being seven of them, is to take a child with us in the vehicle whenever possible. We began this custom when we just had three small children, making it a point to always “take whomever had shoes on” with us when one of us ran an errand.

Through the years, our custom has become a little more sophisticated (especially now that the kids are older and not always available to go run errands). Now we focus not on who has shoes on but rather on who needs Mom or Dad the most at that time. It is not uncommon for us to discuss the week in terms of kids’ needs and for one of us to say, “Why don’t you have ______ ride up with you to see your mom Wednesday night, so the two of you have a chance to talk about that.” Whatever that might be.



Of course, good discussion can also take place in the vehicle with more than one child with you. We had three girls in a row followed by three boys in a row (after our first child, a boy). This made it particularly good for talking in groups, and it wasn’t uncommon for the boys and Dad to have “Daddy talks” while en route places. (And I could never disclose the contents of those talks!)

Sometimes deep discussions did not take place. Sometimes we just talked about what we saw outside (more on that tomorrow!). Other times, it was just like the quote above by AA Milne—and the child just needed to “be sure of us.”

In case you think that taking a child one-at-a-time is still not that important, let me leave you with this thought: We have had children repent of deceit, cry their eyes out over a broken heart, and even accept Christ as their Savior in a vehicle, one-on-one with Mom and/or Dad. We actually had our oldest child reveal to the two of us whom he thought he wanted to marry (and he did several months later) in the drive-through of a fast food restaurant. Never underestimate time spent with Dad and Mom alone doing something as mundane as running errands!

Our Kids Will Do To and For Other What We Do To and For Them–Reprint

“Throughout their lives, your kids will do to and for others what you have done to and for them.”


In our “Character for Tweens and Teens” seminar, we stress the quote above—because we have seen it over and over in our children’s lives during our thirty years of parenting. And it is truly something to consider in the time, effort, money, and teaching that we invest in our children. When I look back at how true this statement has been in our lives, I just want to tell every parent that there are genuine dividends paid for all of that investing!

I could share examples of this with you from every age and stage our seven kids:

*How Joshua, our first born, would sit in the back of the van and tell his sisters what to expect when we got to our destination, how they should behave and how they should treat others—because his mommy and daddy had done that for him since he was a toddler.

*How Kayla, our second daughter, took it upon herself at age fourteen to do all of the cooking for a long period of time during my grief after our stillborn daughter’s birth and my life-threatening ruptured uterus—because her parents had served her, fed her, and taught her everything she needed to know in the kitchen.

*How Cami, our third child, started a ministry for the disabled when she was a senior in high school (that still runs today seven years later and ministers to over a hundred disabled adults every week)—because we taught her to look into people’s hearts to see their deepest needs, and we looked into her heart.

*How the girls planned a special meal for their brothers and even called and invited their grandparents to their “Silly Supper” while Mom and Dad were out of town—because Mom and Dad had always tried to make things special for them.

*How Kara, our fourth child, listened intently night after night to the needs of the teens on the traveling drama team that she led—because her parents had listened to her needs late at night for twenty years.

And on and on and on and on. Our children are far from perfect—as are their parents. But there is one thing that we can be sure they will always do: serve, love, reach out, touch, help, and communicate with others in many of the same ways that they have been served, loved, reached out to, touched, helped, and communicated with by us, their parents.
We have an example of this hot off the press that is so incredibly cute I just had to share it with you. Our almost-eighteen  year-old Josiah (sixth child of seven living)  asked a few weeks ago if he could surprise his younger brother Jacob (our youngest) by taking him to visit their oldest sister near Chicago where she is in grad school at Wheaton College (a four hour drive from us). We discussed it and decided to let him do it, so he set about planning the trip.

He must have talked to me about the “unveiling” of the trip to Jakie no fewer than a dozen times over the three weeks prior to the trip: “Should I drive home with him from my drum teaching and ask him to tell me where the gps says to turn?” “Should I take him to Cami and Joseph’s (our daughter and son-in-law) and make him think we are spending the night there but then take off from there?” “Should I pack all of his stuff while he is at piano then act like we are going to run errands?” On and on. He had a new idea everyday it seemed.

He set aside two hours the night before to go over directions with his dad, talk to us about details, call Kayla (whom they were going to see), and pack/load the car while Jacob was at the YMCA exercising with Kara (our fourth child). He gassed up his vehicle. He packed snacks. He gathered story tapes. He went to the bank and got cash. He packed Jakie’s things and hid them in the trunk.

At one point in Josiah’s preparations, he said, “Don’t you think this is the best surprise that any of the siblings have ever done for another one?” To which we just smiled and nodded. (Our kids have had a sort of unofficial “best sibling EV-ER” contest going on for many years.)

And then they left. His idea to take Jacob to Cami and Joseph’s and go from there, telling him only when Jacob noticed that they were not taking the route that led home, won out. 

And Jacob called us to see if it was really true—“are we really driving to Kayla’s for the weekend?” We could hear Josiah laughing in the background—one happy big brother.

Josiah’s idea wasn’t quite as original as he thought—but we didn’t tell him that, of course. For Josiah had just done nearly everything that we had done for him eight years ago when we took him and his siblings on a surprise weekend trip—right down to hiding packed things in the trunk, packing good snacks, sneaking out story tapes and games,  and taking a strange route to confuse them. Because by that time, we knew that  “throughout their lives, our kids will do to and for other whatever has been done to and for them.” Smile…

Q is for QUIT FIGHTING–Start Out Right With Siblings/Littles With Behavior Absolutes

Kara (4.5) and Jonathan (almost 3) doing their sibling Bible verse for a special at church: “How happy it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” 



The next tip after trying to set your toddler’s taste for kindness is the following: Decide ahead of time what your “behavior absolutes” are going to be. 


1. These are the behaviors or negative character that you absolutely will not allow in your home. What you allow now will become the “acceptable behaviors” to your child. These seemingly innocent actions include “fibbing,” hitting, being mean to others, running the other way when called, etc.


2.  For us, these “behavior absolutes” included the following:

a. Talking back (no toddler saying “no” without being punished)
b. Lying or deceit
c. Temper tantrums
d. Striking (hitting, pulling hair, throwing things at someone, etc.). 
e. Being mean

Obviously, we wanted our kids to learn to obey and submit to us and to learn the many character qualities that are crucial to living a Christian life, but these five things were things we never wavered on—and things that we made huge deals out of when they were not adhered to by the toddler/preschooler.

Kara (now 23) and Jonathan (now 21) have been best friends since they were very young.–honest! 😉


One question we frequently get when discussing the idea of behavior absolutes is “How do we make a certain behavior an absolute?”

Before I delve into a couple specific tips for this, I do want to say that keeping sibling fighting to a minimum, helping brothers and sisters love each other, and instituting and enforcing a no striking policy is more a way of life than it is a list of do’s and don’t’s. 

Obviously, we believe that there are some key things that accounted for our children’s very limited fighting and not harming each other, but more than that list of things we did is the idea of being “that family.” Not weird or trying to outdo others with our “uniqueness”–but rather our children knew that though others might fight all the time, we were”that family”–the family that doesn’t allow that. Though other children may raise their hands to harm their sibling, we are “that family”–and we do not permit hurting each other.

A way of life–one that begins with “setting tastes” for kindness and good character and one that has certain expectations always in place. Not expectations that “do this or you’re toast” but expectations that Mom and Dad taught us this way, and this is how we live. 

But on to that list–a few things that we think can help a family develop certain behavior absolutes (including loving and being kind to siblings):


1. Behavior absolutes begin with a mindset. 

This mindset is one with faith in what you are doing. Faith that making behavior absolutes that our children will learn to follow is what is truly best. Faith that these things that we are saying are not allowed in our home are things that God would have us do. Faith that God will bless our family’s consistency, efforts, and desire to please Him. Faith that consistency and godliness in our home really will work.

It is also a mindset that says, “What I am trying to do here is so important that I am going to put the time and energy into it that it takes to accomplish it. I am not going to let things slide that I know will cause us not to meet our goals for our children’s behaviors. I am not going to look the other way when I know something is not right. I am not going to downplay something that we have deemed as important from the beginning.”

That is a tall order. But it is one that can truly be carried out. When we go into this parenting endeavor with an idea of what we truly want our homes to look like–and the determination to follow through on it–it is very possible.




2. Your reaction to behavior absolutes being broken is crucial. 

My husband has an annoying saying (it used to be; now that our kids are mostly grown, I agree with him!): “We are getting the behavior that we want. if we wanted something different, we would do something different.”

While that isn’t one hundred percent accurate, the concept is true. If we want our children to be kind to each other and not strike each other, then those behaviors have to be treated as terrible behaviors. We can’t just say, “Be nice” and hope that their behavior changes. 

We liken behavior absolutes to sitting in a car seat. We can say over and over, “I just can’t get him to quit hitting his sister.” 

However, we somehow (eventually) get our child to quit screaming in the car seat and sit in there until he is five or six! How is that? It is because sitting in the car seat is a behavior absolute.  We would ever consider letting a child have his own way and sit up front between Mom and Dad. It is the law. It is the way it is–and it can’t be changed.

So it is with behavior absolutes. We have to feel so strongly about those behaviors that we will not budge on them. When one of our kids is mean to another one, we will not just say “Be nice” and send him to his room. We will instead respond as though he just did something very, very bad. Because if meanness is one of our behavior absolutes, it is a very, very bad thing.

I have to inject a note here about spanking–because many “modern moms” are either against it or believe that it doesn’t work. Or buy into the philosophy that spanking a child will make him mean or will make him strike others. 

I know that a family of seven children is not a full-blown case study. However, I don’t see how the whole “spanking causes children to be violent” could possibly be true when all of our seven children were spanked (not carelessly; not in anger; not for frivolities or childishness) for the Four D’s –and yet they are seven of the most peaceable adults you will ever meet. As children, they didn’t often fight with each other–and seldom (if ever) struck another child (or bit, pulled hair, pushed, hit, etc.) after age two or so. (I’m sure they probably did as toddlers–but we treated it very seriously and nipped it in the bud.)

So yes, we spanked our children if they were mean or if they hurt others (as well as for other defiant behaviors). But we didn’t have to do it often. Peace with each other and not harming others was a way of life, so it didn’t take a lot of discipline for it. 

Thus, the way we respond to our behavior absolutes will have a huge bearing on how “absolute” these behaviors become. Don’t take them lightly. Don’t put kids in their rooms with video games or televisions because they were unkind. Don’t tell children who hit that they shouldn’t do that–and they should be nice. Respond with the level of unacceptability that you would for something really bad–if you think it is really bad.




3. Don’t make too big of deal out of things that aren’t important.

If we truly want to develop behavior absolutes in our homes, then things that are not that big of deals can’t be made into big deals.

We see this all the time. A parent responds to a child leaving his socks on the living room floor in the same way that she responds to his backtalking or being unkind to his sister. While we recommend that the things you feel are behavior absolutes be given a high priority and level of response, we also believe that in general parents need to “lighten up” when it comes to childish behaviors (being too loud, making a mess, forgetting to pick up his socks, etc.) and focus on behaviors that are truly important (and from the heart)–such as direct disobedience, meanness, disrespect to parents and other authorities, etc. 

When everything our kids do is the same level of “wrongness,” they will not learn the difference between sins and mistakes. When everything our kids do is punished in the same way, they will feel that they can never please us–that no matter what they do, we will find fault in them.

I won’t spend a great deal of time on this as we have several posts about this under the character training label and we teach about it extensively in our parenting seminar, but just examine your parenting and see if you are placing too much emphasis on the wrongness of a behavior that is just a kid being a kid and not enough on something that is coming from a child’s heart.

I will move on to older kids–including punishments that are appropriate for fighting, helping kids learn how their behaviors affect others, and teaching our kids to love and respect each other–very soon. Thanks for joining us!


And here is the sweet sibling pair when they were teens–Jonathan (17) and Kara (19). The cute thing about this pic is that it was taken when they were traveling on a summer drama team together–and they both kept it as their profile pictures on Facebook for several months. Sweet!






Shopping Day: Stir Fried Veggies Side Dish and Fruit Salad


One of our many traditions/housekeeping rituals is that of cleaning out the refrigerator on grocery shopping day (which now with six “adults,” ages fourteen to over fifty living here is twice a week!). Everybody starts carrying in groceries, and as they are carried in, I sort them and bark out orders: “The SMALL deep freeze; not the big one. I need to be able to find this on Wednesday!” etc. etc. Also, while they carry (and I sort), I clean out the inside refrigerator and have people bring things in from the garage refrigerator. (Yeah, I am a mean multi-tasker after thirty years of homemaking/parenting/homeschooling/working!)

Anyway, all of this is going in WITH teenage boys talking about their day, our college age daughter going over her schedule with Mom or Dad (“Is it okay if I leave in ten minutes to run, so I can get five miles in before it gets dark?”), the dog pulling things out of the trash can as I put things in, and, of course, a radio drama playing in the kitchen cd player. (Yes, I can work with a lot of noise too, another survival skill developed through the years!)


Usually, one of these shopping days falls on “leftover night,” so I start organizing food for that night’s meal, “re-loading” (as my kids call it) some of the leftovers so that they look new, and cutting up old fruits and veggies  before we put away the new ones. Someone will be called upon to make a quick fruit salad out of leftover fruits–and somebody will often start chopping leftover veggies to create a quick side dish to go with the main entree leftovers that we usually have.


We have gotten pretty good at throwing together fresh vegetable stir fries fairly quickly. We have variations on this side dish another night–we almost always have a chicken-veggie stir fry or beef veggie stir fry as one of our main entress each week. That night is is more involved and time consuming (cutting up meats, marinating meats, all the chopping and dicing and stir frying required for two huge pans of main dish meat/veggie stir fries). And, unfortunately, I don’t have much help on that night!

However, for “shopping day stir fried veggies” as a side dish, it is literally anything available chopped by whomever is available. I’ll give you some steps on tonight’s version, though it changes according to what’s left in the fridge on shopping day, who is home to help prepare veggies, and how many are there to eat it. (Leftover stir fry is not one of my family’s favorites!)




Tonight’s Version:

1 lb baby carrots
1 small zuchinni
6 oz snow peas
1 large green pepper
1 onion
1 lb brocolli
garlic
Mrs. Dash
oyster sauce
soy sauce
beef or chicken broth*

*Note: I seldom use oil to make a stir fry. If I do, it is just a little olive oil or coconut oil. I usually use broth to “fry” my stir fries

+I am a big pre-cooker. And I precook in the microwave, despite what some say about the microwave. It steams brocolli perfectly, and it is fast. So…

1.  Steam carrots in micro. (I put carrots with a tablespoon or two of broth in glass measure and cover with plastic wrap. Then I steam for three to six minutes, depending on how many carrots I have and how done I want them before I add them to the stir fry pan.)

2. Heat small amount of broth in skillet while chopping onions, garlic, and  peppers.

3. Stir fry aromatics (the three in #2) while you pull out the carrots.

4. Clean and chop brocolli and start steaming it in the micro in the same way as the carrots.

5. Slice zuchinni in thin rounds.

6. Add carrots, zuchinni, pea pods, garlic, Mrs. Dash, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and more broth, as needed and turn fire on medium high. Stir frequently as they cook.

7. When stir fry has just a minute or two left of cooking time, fold in the brocolli. (My guys do not like mushy brocolli, so I fold it in at the end.)

8. Continue to add more broth as needed while cooking.

And it looks like the picture below! 🙂



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.