Tag Archives: talking to our children

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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“Everybody’s Asleep” Talk Time

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids: Everybody's Asleep Talk Time

If you have more than three children, you have probably heard it over and over (and thought of it a lot too): I need to make each child feel special.

We would agree with this concept. What we disagree with is how difficult we sometimes make it.

Sure, there are times for Daughter-Daddy Dances. (Kara was the proudest girl there because her daddy knew how to dance and had taken her to the ballroom for private lessons before the big day!)

There are times for “dinner and a movie” with Mom. There are times for day trips shopping or caving or hunting or crafting or, or, or.

But why wait for those “big days”? Why create this “it has to be big to make my child feel special” idea in your mind.

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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.









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.





Christmas in the Car–reprint

Tonight as we drove home from an extended family Christmas gathering, reading aloud and singing, I was reminded of an old article I wrote for our newsletter several years ago—Christmas in the Car. I will post it in its entirety below—gotta sneak in those family times any chance we get as our kids get older!

Christmas in the Car
From 2004:

If your children are growing up as fast as ours are, and if you travel distances to church, piano lessons, grandparents, etc. as we do, you might want to try some of our “Christmas in the Car” tips. Basically, every year I see the holiday time slipping away from us. The girls are taking college classes; off to Spanish or piano; teaching their own guitar, language arts, and piano students; working at their jobs; and more. Every time I think we’re going to have a sing-along/reading time tonight, someone announces that she has a Spanish test tomorrow and has to study all evening! Thus, our “Christmas in the Car” time was born.

We spend a great deal of time in the vehicle each week—driving to lessons, church, grandparents, etc.—all forty-five minutes away from us minimum. Being the efficiency expert that I am (of sorts!), I began utilizing this time in the vehicle to keep some of our holiday traditions alive. Try some of our “Christmas in the Car” ideas—and keep those traditions going strong:

*Sing carols as you drive.

*Listen to Christmas radio dramas (Focus on the Family has good ones), Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue Christmas stories, Christmas books on tape, Adventures in Oddysey Christmas stories, etc. as you are driving.

*Sing your way through the Christmas story. Start with “Mary, Did You Know?” and move on to “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” then move onto anything having to do with the shepherds (“The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”). Next move into the birth/after the birth with “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and “We Three Kings.” Lastly, sing of the joy of his arrival: “Joy to the World” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

*Tell the Christmas story in one sentence increments as you go around the van, person-by-person. (This gets interesting with the little ones who might have them fleeing Herod’s wrath before Jesus is even born!)

*If a passenger can read without being sick, you might read your way through a favorite (pictureless) holiday book. We enjoy reading Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado and The Birth by Gene Edwards. Everyone looks forward to reading another chapter the next time we get in the van.

*Likewise, we read “devotional” type books about Christmas while we drive. This year, we are enjoying short chapters in the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (see review). We have also enjoyed Christmas Stories From the Heart, The Christmas Reader, and more in years past.

*Use the driving time to memorize the Christmas story from the book of Luke. (We like to assign one verse to each person and go from person to person.)

*We enjoy memorizing all the verses from a certain Christmas song each year. In years past, we have memorized “Away in a Manger,” “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and “We Three Kings.” We can still sing most of the verses today!

*Drive by Christmas lights on your evening travels.

*Go through a drive-through or walk-through nativity while driving by one.

*Deliver goodies to those in route.

*Play “20 Questions Christmas-Style” or “Name That Christmas Tune.”

*New game: A person picks three things about the Christmas story that are really true or just thought to be true (or embellished, such as the little drummer boy playing for Jesus), and the others try to guess which two things are really in the Bible and which one is not. This is eye-opening.

*Sing whatever Christmas song you are reminded of by the decorations you see—stars, snowmen, angels, etc.

*Make up your own humorous twelve days of Christmas song, with each person getting to add their own items to the list as you sing around the van.

*Play the ABC Christmas game—“What I love about Christmas is A for angel, B for baby, C for candy, etc.” Go around and each person starts with A and tries to remember what was previously said. (This is a spin-off of the “I went to Grandma’s and I took A for applesauce, B for blankets, etc.)

*My personal favorite: Have someone write your holiday cooking and shopping list and holiday menus down for you while you drive and dictate to them. (Be forewarned: No comments about the spelling or penmanship are allowed when the child is done writing for you!)

Twelve Back-to-School Tips for Those Going to School–I of XII: Academic Pressure

                  Twelve Tips for Back-to-School for Those Attending School
                                              Tip I of XII

My husband and I began homeschooling my younger sister twenty-nine years ago this fall. I can hardly remember life that did not include homeschooling as our anchor, our way of life, my daily routine. Homeschooling if life and life is homeschooling around here.

However, for Positive Parenting this fall, I wanted to be able to give tips to those going to school as well as for those who are homeschooling. Since I prefer to write and speak out of experience, as opposed to theories, I don’t have anything to base back-to-school advice for those attending school. So…rather than giving generic advice that might or might not work (I can think of how I THINK I would handle things, but who knows what they would really do until they are in those situations?)….I will be linking you to some pieces of advice I have picked up from other blogs.

I hope that this is a blessing to you–and that your “back to school days” with your kids are wonderful times filled with affirmation, closeness, and success!

Tip 1: Decide What Your Expectations for Academics Will Be–Article about pressuring kids to succeed

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk—ALL Twelve in One Post!

And now…the entire “Twelve Terrific Times to Talk” in one place!

TWELVE TERRIFIC TIMES TO TALK

In keeping with our blog’s themes of TWELVE this year for 2012, we are starting a series called “Twelve Terrific Times to Talk.”  There are so many great times to talk to our kids that it is hard to narrow it down to only twelve! We are so adamant and passionate about talking to and communicating with our kids that we write about it and speak about it frequently. For this series, we will go in a somewhat chronological order—so invite your friends with olders to join us—we’ll get to that age group soon!

#1: BABY TALK

We are the most balanced baby people I know! No extremes here of nursing a child on demand until age three —or of putting a baby on a four hour eating schedule while he’s still in the hospital at two days old! Somewhere between those extremes is an amazing way to parent babies and toddlers in which everybody (baby, parents, and siblings) enjoy each other and fall into a comfortable family rhythm that does not over-emphasize one child’s “wants” over another. And one in which wants and needs are differentiated and met as is appropriate. This is certainly not an article about baby and toddler training (check out our blog for more on that!); however, our parenting of our babies really did have something to do with the deep, communicative relationships that we developed with our children.

Yes, we talked to our babies! Once our children were four to six months old, they were seldom rocked completely to sleep. They learned to go to sleep just like the rest of us—after all of their needs for cleanliness, food, warmth, and comfort were met. However, when we got our babies and toddlers up in the morning, we spent even more time with them. I would get our babies and toddlers up, rock them, read to them, sing to them, walk around their rooms and read their posters and plaques to them, etc.

We began talking baby talk early! Talking to babies and toddlers via books, songs, rhymes, etc., then eventually discussing these things, was the beginning of communicating with our kids. So….go for the baby talk! Start communicating early with your kids.

#2: MALACHI TIME

In addition to talking to our babies and toddlers in the mornings, Dad also communicated with our toddlers and preschoolers at night through what we called “Malachi Time.” Based on the verse in Malachi about “turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers,” Ray would tuck each child (age two or so and above) in their beds and talk to them. Sometimes he might read to them; sometimes it might be a quick prayer time. Other times, depending on the kids’ needs, Malachi Time would be a thirty to sixty minute event. (We often alternated who got short “Malachis” and who got long ones, making exceptions or changes to the schedule based on kids’ needs [and kids’ behavior—i.e. bad behavior sometimes needed even more talk time– that day!].)

Malachi time was such a special time for our olders that they all recall it fondly. They remember that Dad never had to hurry them to bed in order to go watch sports or play his computer game. He never had to rush through their bedtime in order to do his own thing. They knew he always had time for them. (And yes, he worked a lot—had a demanding job working sixty hours a week minimum at that time.)

I have fond memories of our little Cami when she was two years old, chasing Ray around the living room crying out, “Ky ky time! Ky Ky time!”—her way of saying “Malachi time”!  (How many two year olds do we know who beg to go to bed?? Smile…) Truly, Malachi time was the beginning of a long (fifty to seventy year?) tradition of availability for our children.

#3: BIBLE TALKS

Bible Talks with Dad were another time to not only talk, but also to teach. They were just as the name suggests—times in which the kids and Dad talked about the Bible.

While Malachi Time was usually one-on-one, Bible Talks with Dad were often two or three kids at a time with Dad. Malachi Time was often picture books or heart talks. Family devotions and family worship were usually the entire family together studying something or reading aloud from a devotional. Bible Talks, on the other hand, were just that—talks about the Bible.

The reason Bible Talks were often two or three kids at a time is because we began Bible Talks with Dad with the boys when there was a big age/learning level difference between the “olders” and the “littles.” Thus, Ray could talk to the kids at their levels.

Another benefit of Bible Talks is that they did not require any books. As a matter of fact, Bible Talks often took place on the road or all stretched out across the bed. Very informal. Read a verse (or bring a verse on a card) and talk about it. No fancy handbooks or concordances—just what do you think this verse means or how can we apply this to our lives?

Bible Talks are a good way to show kids that the Bible is relevant to our entire lives. That it is something we want to talk about, learn about, and live. That we should discuss applications in our lives all the time. Plus, it’s just another “terrific time to talk” to our kids!

  

#4: WHO’S GOT THEIR SHOES ON?

A good piece of advice that we received early in our parenting of many littles was to always take at least one child with us where ever we went, if possible. The thinking was that if we always took a child with us, we could talk and train “on the road.” Thus, we made it a point to always grab a kid if one of us left the house to run an errand—or plan to take one child with us if we knew ahead of time that we were going to be driving somewhere.

Out of this theory came our mantra: “Who’s got your shoes on? Dad’s running an errand!” Or “Who’s got your shoes on? Mom’s got to take a quick trip to town.” The kids would scramble and look for shoes and socks to be the first one ready to head out with Mom or Dad. Of course, who went with us wasn’t always based on who had their shoes on, but it was a little saying that we used to emphasize the fact that we wanted to be with them—and know what was going on in their hearts.

This has taken on different looks throughout our lives, As the kids grew up, if we ever had to take two vehicles someplace (like if Dad was joining us from work or coming later to something), on the way home, one child would ride with Dad alone and the others would ride with Mom.(I had more time with the kids automatically by homeschooling them during the day, so one-on-one time with Dad was one of the things we used this time for.)

 “Whoever has their shoes on” became “whoever was working on learning to drive” starting about twelve years ago as Ray taught each child to drive and took them out on the road a couple of nights a week for a few months. While driving and learning the ways of the road, conversations about so many other things just happened.

And today, it isn’t “who has their shoes on” as much as who might be available to call on their cell phone as I’m driving (talking—NOT texting!).  I always look at the clock when I get in the vehicle alone to see which grown son or daughter is doing what—and who I should try to call to check in with. Ray’s drive time home from work is usually spent talking to an adult child.

“Who has their shoes on”; “Who’s learning to drive”; “Who’s available to call”—all avenues leading to the same goal: for our kids to know, think, feel, and say, Mom and Dad want to be with me and talk to me enough to take me with them when they go somewhere, spend time with me as I’m learning to drive, or call me when we are apart.

#5: TERRIFIC TUESDAY OR WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY

With the addition of another child every other year or so, we knew it was important to spend time with the older children. (We were taught by our early mentors to put as much time and energy into our first two kids as we possibly could, knowing that the “trickle down effect” of teaching would come into play.)

Note: This is another reason we have felt so strongly about not letting an eight month old, eighteen month old, or twenty-eight month old determine the entire family’s schedule [i.e. have a “toddler run home”]—it never felt right to let a toddler’s “wants” override a teen’s needs. Anyway, because of the advice we received to invest significantly in our older kids for the “trickle down effect” (which majorly works, I might add), we always looked for ways to spend more time with Joshua (now 29) and Kayla (now 26). One of the ways I did this was to implement “Terrific Tuesday” or “Wonderful Wednesday.”

One afternoon a week (either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on our schedule) a different “older” child got to have Mom to himself or herself for a few hours. We tweaked our daily schedule (which usually involved Mom teaching/story time/lesson planning,

etc. In the afternoons) so that right after lunch, somebody else did story time with the litttles and got them to bed for their naps (one of the olders not having her “Terrific Tuesday” that day), and I gave my undivided attention to one of the other olders.

The child got to choose what we did for our afternoon together (though it couldn’t be expensive—just a few dollars at the most). I spent many a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon at the public library, reading a chapter book aloud at Dairy Queen, playing ping pong in the basement, or challenging a tween to a Scrabble or Rummikub match. And then, of course, as the title of this series suggests, in addition to being a “terrific Tuesday,” it also became another ‘terrific time to talk.”

When kids get their parents’ undivided attention, something happens within their hearts. There is a softening that takes place that doesn’t just happen when you are gathered around the game table or watching a movie as a family. Kids (especially tweens and teens) are very astute when it comes to their parents’ priorities. Showing our kids that they are truly our priorities causes a special bond that doesn’t just happen when we only make time for their sporting events, debates, or concerts.

And yes, it was a sacrifice for me. I used to (and continue to do so today with my writing work) have to work later in the evenings and often after the kids were in bed in order to get all of the work done that is required in raising a large family and homeschooling several children. Our special times with our kids were not just “extra” time that we had waiting to be used. They took conscious efforts and sacrifices to make them happen. But now that our seven children are nearly fourteen to thirty, I can tell you unequivocally—it is worth it all to find as many “terrific times to talk” as you can.

#6: PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS, A NICKEL FOR A HUG, AND A DIME IF YOU TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME


“A penny for your thoughts; a nickel for a hug; and a dime if you tell me that you love me.”

We have talked at length over the past three years of this blog about communicating with our kids. And how communication is a strong form of “teaching when…” The ditty above is a little chant that we used to say to our kids to remind them that we want to talk to them, that they are valuable to us, that we love them “ten million times infinity and beyond.” From this saying, a valuable “object lesson” developed and tied the heartstrings of my son and me in a special way some ten to twenty years ago.

The rest of that jingle (after the infamous “penny for your thoughts”) goes on to offer not only a penny for what the person is thinking, but also a nickel for a hug and ten cents if he or she says “I love you.”

Sixteen cents… a meager amount of change that elicits warm feelings (and, I admit, a few tears of longing) as I write this. Our oldest son and I used to take the “penny for your thoughts” a little further when he was a little boy—and repeat the rest of the jingle to each other, complete with a big hug and special “I love you.”

As Joshua grew up, we would occasionally remind each other of how much we love to talk—and how much we care for each other by giving each other sixteen cents. When he was in high school and worked part time, I would wake up in the morning to find him off to work—with a penny, a nickel, and a dime lying on my desk. When he would open his lunch box, he would sometimes find sixteen cents taped to the inside of his pail. Not enough money to buy lunch, for sure, but enough money to know that Mom will be waiting on him ready to talk when he gets home from work.

What objects might have special meaning to you and your child? Is there a special item that you can attach unique meaning to for one or more of your children? Is there a trinket, heart, words to a song, picture of the two of you, favorite picture book, etc. that can be utilized as an object “just for the two of you”?

#7: “MY DAY”

When I had several young children, I assigned each child “a day” each week. I first got this idea when I was in teacher’s college, and it was suggested that we teachers pick a different student each day to focus on. It was recommended that we write that child’s name on the calendar for that day (to keep record of who got which day and to ensure that each child got a day) and that we try to praise, help, make more contact with, etc. that particular student on that day. This approach would keep the “non-sqeaky wheels” from getting overlooked.

I applied that to my family, assigning each child a day (Monday was Cami’s day; Tuesday was Kayla’s; Wednesday was Joshua’s; etc.). On that day, that particular child got many advantages and privileges, as well as some extra jobs. Here are some of the perks that I instituted for the child on his day throughout the years:

(1) Special focus—I tried to praise, affirm, spend more time with, tie heart strings more, etc. for that child on that day—without the child actually knowing it!

(2) Sitting in the front seat if we went anywhere (Because we only went places one or two days a week during the day during the week when my older children were little, we had to alternate whose day it was each week because otherwise, for example, the Monday or Tuesday child would seldom get to sit in the front seat since we seldom went anywhere early in the week.)

(3) Sitting closest to Mom during morning read aloud and afternoon story time

(4) Saying the prayer during breakfast and lunch

(5) Getting to choose two stories instead of one at story time (and getting their stories read first and last)

(6) Getting to have a longer talk time (Malachi time) with Dad that night before bed

(7) Helping Mom cook dinner that day (before they could cook meals entirely by themselves)

(8) Doing an extra job from the job jar

(9) Taking a morning or afternoon “twalk” (talk and walk) with Mom

My kids loved having their special day. It meant more responsibility and work, but it also meant more heart-affecting time—and they were keenly aware of that.

#8: DADDY TALKS

When our “little boys” were tweens, we wanted them to learn about/hear about sensitive things from their daddy—not from Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, movies, television, or peers! It was about that time that we instituted “daddy talks”—times in which the boys (one at a time or in pairs since they were close in age) would sit down and talk with Ray about these types of things. We called it “daddy talks”—and they knew that if they ever had questions or heard things, etc., they could call a “daddy talk” and Ray would be available. (Have I mentioned here or in our blog how crucial our availability for our kids really is??)

 I can remember that we started going to a different church about the time one of our boys was eleven and going into sixth grade. At this particular church, there was a special class that took place for that age kids—boys went into one and girls went into another for a couple of weeks to learn about “the birds and the bees” and purity. A boy at church told Josiah that he had to go to the “sixth grade” class—that all kids at church had to if they wanted to go to Royal Rangers. Josiah puffed his chest up, marched right up to that boy, and said, “I don’t have to go to that class. I have “daddy talks”! Too cute!

Sweet stories aside, there was (and continues to be) something powerful in a young  boy’s life when he has “daddy talks.” Something about those talks and that availability keep that boy from straying too far—keep his heart in check and his activities and motives pure.

#9: CALENDAR MEETINGS

The scene was the same for our three girls and Mom and Dad—time to gather in the living room with calendars in hand, ready to go over the upcoming weeks and months to be sure we have everything down on the schedule—and to be sure that we have plenty of time set aside for each other and our family. What wasn’t the same was the addition of our future son-in-law—a sweet, amazing young man who has no need for meetings, sitting for long periods of time listening to three teenage/young adult girls and their parents gab. His response to our “calendar meeting” was hilarious as he put a pillow over his head and kept coming up periodically to ask if it was almost over!

As our kids turned sixteen to eighteen (depending on gender, maturity, and where they were in their education), their involvement in outside activities increased exponentially—from doing school at home with Mom and Dad full time and spending most free time with family and close friends to college, more ministry activities, etc. It was extremely important to me and Ray that we stay close to our young adults. Calendar meetings helped make that happen.

If you have kids who are not yet teens, do not believe the falsehoods about how older teens and young adults do not need their parents. It has been our experience that they still need us greatly—but the roles change drastically. They still need our continual input in their lives—but in the role of counselor, mentor, help, and sounding board. But they still need us! And calendar meetings helped make all of that talking, time together, and counseling more of a reality in our young adults’ lives.

#10: HALF BIRTHDAYS AND OTHER “DATES”

When our older kids turned twelve (girls) or thirteen (boys), they began to have a special privilege known as “half birthday dates.” At the 12 ½ (or 13 ½) year old mark, that child got taken out to dinner with Mom and Dad for a unique dinner date. The first date was a time for the son or daughter to re-committ to purity (and for the girls, included a purity/promise ring)— and included a long conversation affirming all of the teaching that they had received up to this point about our relationship standards. (For our family, this has included a commitment not to “date around” but to only begin seeing someone when he or she is ready to get married and thinks the person might be “the one.” Of course, there are many more details that go into this (i.e. getting parents’ approval on both sides, establishing a relationship (that we called “courtsthip,” etc.).)

Beyond that first half birthday date, our kids’ “half dates” have included the child choosing a restaurant and a night out with Mom and Dad to talk about goals, friends, siblings, academics, ministry, and more. It was a novel idea that we carried out for many, many years.

This tradition has gone by the way for us today—as it served its purpose in establishing times away for one child and Mom and Dad during the child’s teen and young adults years. However, it is no longer needed in a formal manner since we have “dates” with our teens and young adults much more regularly than at the half birthday mark today. As a matter of fact, as I type this, we are driving home from South Carolina to bring our son home from his internship with the Academy of Arts. We just did a “dinner date” with our daughter and son-in-law the night before we left to come to SC. The night before that found us eating dinner alone with our seventeen year old after his first day of college classes. As we drive home today, we will sit down with our son at one of his favorite spots. In a few days, one of our daughters will be home with her “court friend,” and the four of us will sit down alone one evening. A few days after that, another daughter will be home for a short visit, and Mom, Dad, and daughter will go to her favorite spot. (Yes, it costs money and calories—both of which we save just for these occasions—time with our kids is more of a priority to us than a beautifully decorated house or expensive vehicles.)

When our olders were younger, we would sometimes do “dates” one on one with the little kids, too. These could be as simple as getting an ice cream cone at McDonalds and going to the park to walk and see the buffalo or taking a bike ride. Time with our kids one-on-one doesn’t always have to cost a lot. Once again, the point is that each child knows that Mom and Dad want to spend time alone with that child—and we will go to great lengths to be sure that happens.

#11: WHEN YOU “SIT” IN YOUR HOUSE—PREFERABLY IN A TECHNO-FREE ZONE

Out of all of the times/places that we are told to teach our children diligently in Deuteronomy, “when you sit in your house” has got to be the most challenging. Over twenty years ago, Gregg Harris gave us the greatest advice in his parenting seminar (that we have used weekly and teach others to do the same): Whatever is important to you to do with your children should be attached to something that is already in the schedule. Thus, we attach reading together to rising/going to bed; we attach family prayer to meals; etc. However, finding time to “sit in your house” is another matter—and one that I would like to address as a talk time in this blog post.

How many of us “sit in our houses”? That is, we sit—not to watch television, pay bills, surf the web; play computer games; read the paper, etc., but just SIT. With my AOADD (Adult-Onset ADD—self diagnosed!!!), sitting is not one of my favorite things to do—unless I am doing something else at the same time (i.e. working!). However, this is an often-overlooked period of time that we truly need to tap into in order to talk with our children.

We have to force ourselves to “sit” with our children. We need to make it a habit to just take a seat next to one or more of them each day—no electronics, no work on our laps—and just “be.” These moments are when great communication times as we are “sitting in our house” will occur.

Not necessarily formal teaching, though there are definite times and places for that. But just “being.” Just saying, “Tell me about your day.” And truly listening. Times to listen to their hearts sing the “talking song” that our family adopted as a parenting cue many years ago: “Talk to me; show me that you care. Talk to me; listen to the words I say. Talk to me; there’s so much we can share. I know you love me when you talk to me.” Times to really look into their faces and observe their countenance—to read the signs that show that deep within that son or daughter is an ache, a question, an apprehension, an issue that needs Mom or Dad time.

Recent statistics indicate that teenagers spend an average of less than thirty minutes a week in a “meaningful relationship” with their mothers and fifteen minutes per week with their fathers. Fifteen to thirty minutes a week with Mom or Dad during some of the most critical years of a person’s life! (We have said for years that ages sixteen to twenty are the highest need years for our kids in terms of parental time and support.)

Another recent study of parents and children by an insurance company said that children WANT their parents to spend time with them. Eight out of ten said they resented being put in front of a television (instead of spending time with Mom or Dad); sixty percent said they wished their parents spent more time with them and worked less.

Parents who bring work home (instead of being available for their kids), put their own hobbies and interests before the kids; and are consumed with their home and possessions more than their kids are being coined as “Maybe later” parents. As a mom of six grown kids (ages seventeen through twenty-nine) and one younger (almost fourteen year old), I can tell you for sure that “later” never comes.

So…the first piece of advice we have for establishing talk time when you sit in your home” is to “sit in your home”! Set aside other things and make the time. Fire pits; bonfires; electronic-free rooms; porch swing moments; Mom & Dad’s bedroom for midnight meetings; family meals—all of these give opportunities to sit with our kids. Let’s make it happen!

#12: DRIVE TIME

Besides the “techno free” zones and “sitting in your house” that I described in Talk Time #11, drive time has come to be a meaningful talk time for our family. (See Tip #4: Who’s Got Their Shoes On? for more one-on-one vehicle talking tips.) In this final post of this talk series, I just want to encourage families in general to reduce the “independent” times in the vehicle and make drive time more “community” time.

We could never afford newer vehicles, complete with game systems or televisions (we don’t even have game systems or televisions in our home either, come to think of it). Thus, our drive time for many years included reading aloud, listening to audios, playing road games, and, of course, talking. (Now with computers, the kids sometimes write papers, watch movies, or play games while we drive.) As is the case with most things that families cannot afford, not being able to afford newer vehicles with electronics built in has had an immensely positive result: community time in the vehicle vs alone time.

We have had literally hundreds of hours of teaching and talking time with our kids in our van through the years. We talk one-on-one if it is just Dad and child or Mom and child, but the majority of our times in the van have been community—times to read aloud and discuss what we are reading; listen to an audio and share in stories and teachings together; and talk about family history, our beliefs, current events, church sermons, family standards, personal goals, ministry goals, relationship issues, and much more.

If your family drive times are more like “islands in the stream” than “group hugs,” we would encourage you to declare certain drive times as family times. Just announce that on Sundays, for example, no games or independent activities will be allowed but instead family time will be instituted. Buy some new audio series’ that will interest everybody. Get some “Ungame” cards out of an old “Ungame” in your closet or from Goodwill and read these allowed and discuss them. Do whatever it takes to make drive time more family time—and more talk time.

It has been a joy to share with you our Twelve Terrific Times to Talk. There are so many other opportunities that we need to take advantage of in order to get into our children’s hearts. We just encourage you to do it! Talk. Listen. Share. Teach. Our kids will not be here at home with us forever. Let’s make use of the times that we have to share with them—and see if we can increase that “fifteen minutes of meaningful time with a parent” per week statistic to hours each week instead!

Thanks for joining us int his Twelve Terrific Times to Talk series! Watch this blog for Twelve Back to School Tips for Those Attending School AND another series of Twelve Back to School Tips for Homeschoolers! Coming up starting in a week or so!

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#12: Drive Time

#12: Drive Time

Besides the “techno free” zones and “sitting in your house” that I described in Talk Time #11, drive time has come to be a meaningful talk time for our family. (See Tip #4: Who’s Got Their Shoes On? for more one-on-one vehicle talking tips.) In this final post of this talk series, I just want to encourage families in general to reduce the “independent” times in the vehicle and make drive time more “community” time.

We could never afford newer vehicles, complete with game systems or televisions (we don’t even have game systems or televisions in our home either, come to think of it). Thus, our drive time for many years included reading aloud, listening to audios, playing road games, and, of course, talking. (Now with computers, the kids sometimes write papers, watch movies, or play games while we drive.) As is the case with most things that families cannot afford, not being able to afford newer vehicles with electronics built in has had an immensely positive result: community time vs alone time in the vehicle.

We have had literally hundreds of hours of teaching and talking time with our kids in our van through the years. We talk one-on-one if it is just Dad and child or Mom and child, but the majority of our times in the van have been community—times to read aloud and discuss what we are reading; listen to an audio and share in stories and teachings together; and talk about family history, our beliefs, current events, church sermons, family standards, personal goals, ministry goals, relationship issues, and much more.

If your family drive times are more like “islands in the stream” than “group hugs,” we would encourage you to declare certain drive times as family times. Just announce that on Sundays, for example, no games or independent activities will be allowed but instead family time will be instituted. Buy some new audio series’ that will interest everybody. Get some “Ungame” cards out of an old “Ungame” in your closet or from Goodwill and read these allowed and discuss them. Do whatever it takes to make drive time more family time—and more talk time.

It has been a joy to share with you our Twelve Terrific Times to Talk. There are so many other opportunities that we need to take advantage of in order to get into our children’s hearts. We just encourage you to do it! Talk. Listen. Share. Teach. Our kids will not be here at home with us forever. Let’s make use of the times that we have to share with them—and see if we can increase that “fifteen minutes of meaningful time with a parent” per week statistic to hours each week instead!

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#11: When You “Sit” in Your House

#11: When You “Sit” in Your House—Preferably in a “Techno-Free” Zone

Out of all of the times/places that we are told to teach our children diligently in Deuteronomy, “when you sit in your house” has got to be the most challenging. Over twenty years ago, Gregg Harris gave us the greatest advice in his parenting seminar (that we have used weekly and teach others to do the same): Whatever is important to you to do with your children should be attached to something that is already in the schedule. Thus, we attach reading together to rising/going to bed; we attach family prayer to meals; etc. However, finding time to “sit in your house” is another matter—and one that I would like to address as a talk time in this blog post.

How many of us “sit in our houses”? That is, we sit—not to watch television, pay bills, surf the web; play computer games; read the paper, etc., but just SIT. With my AOADD (Adult-Onset ADD—self diagnosed!!!), sitting is not one of my favorite things to do—unless I am doing something else at the same time (i.e. working!). However, this is an often-overlooked period of time that we truly need to tap into in order to talk with our children.

We have to force ourselves to “sit” with our children. We need to make it a habit to just take a seat next to one or more of them each day—no electronics, no work on our laps—and just “be.” These moments are when great communication times as we are “sitting in our house” will occur.

Not necessarily formal teaching, though there are definite times and places for that. But just “being.” Just saying, “Tell me about your day.” And truly listening. Times to listen to their hearts sing the “talking song” that our family adopted as a parenting cue many years ago: “Talk to me; show me that you care. Talk to me; listen to the words I say. Talk to me; there’s so much we can share. I know you love me when you talk to me.” Times to really look into their faces and observe their countenance—to read the signs that show that deep within that son or daughter is an ache, a question, an apprehension, an issue that needs Mom or Dad time.

Recent statistics indicate that teenagers spend an average of less than thirty minutes a week in a “meaningful relationship” with their mothers and fifteen minutes per week with their fathers. Fifteen to thirty minutes a week with Mom or Dad during some of the most critical years of a person’s life! (We have said for years that ages sixteen to twenty are the highest need years for our kids in terms of parental time and support.)

Another recent study of parents and children by an insurance company said that children WANT their parents to spend time with them. Eight out of ten said they resented being put in front of a television (instead of spending time with Mom or Dad); sixty percent said they wished their parents spent more time with them and worked less.

Parents who bring work home (instead of being available for their kids), put their own hobbies and interests before the kids; and are consumed with their home and possessions more than their kids are being coined as “Maybe later” parents. As a mom of six grown kids (ages seventeen through twenty-nine) and one younger (almost fourteen year old), I can tell you for sure that “later” never comes.

So…the first piece of advice we have for establishing talk time when you sit in your home” is to “sit in your home”! Set aside other things and make the time. Fire pits; bonfires; electronic-free rooms; porch swing moments; Mom & Dad’s bedroom for midnight meetings; family meals—all of these give opportunities to sit with our kids. Let’s make it happen!

Twelve Terrific Times to Talk–#8: Daddy Talks

(Sorry it has been a while since I posted. I have been busy with my dad who has been sick. The rest of the Twelve Terrific Times to Talk coming soon!)

#8: Daddy Talks

When our “little boys” were tweens, we wanted them to learn about/hear about sensitive things from their daddy—not from Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, movies, television, or peers! It was about that time that we instituted “daddy talks”—times in which the boys (one at a time or in pairs since they were close in age) would sit down and talk with Ray about these types of things. We called it “daddy talks”—and they knew that if they ever had questions or heard things, etc., they could call a “daddy talk” and Ray would be available. (Have I mentioned here how crucial our availability for our kids really is??)

 I can remember that we started going to a different church about the time one of our boys was eleven and going into sixth grade. At this particular church, there was a special class that took place for that age kids—boys went into one and girls went into another for a couple of weeks to learn about “the birds and the bees” and purity. A boy at church told Josiah that he had to go to the “sixth grade” class—that all kids at church had to if they wanted to go to Royal Rangers. Josiah puffed his chest up, marched right up to that boy, and said, “I don’t have to go to that class. I have “daddy talks”! Too cute!

Sweet stories aside, there was (and continues to be) something powerful in a young  boy’s life when he has “daddy talks.” Something about those talks and that availability keep that boy from straying too far—keep his heart in check and his activities and motives pure.