Friday, July 29, 2011

Free E-booklet "Is It Too Late?"

Limited Time Offer!!
Take advantage of receiving a free copy of our latest booklet titled "Is It Too Late?"

In this booklet you will find advice on how to redirect your approach to correct negative behaviors in your children that so far, have seemed impossible to change. No, it is never too late to become that parent your really want to be!

For your FREE E-booklet, please email us at and we will email you your own copy. Be sure to title the email: Free E-booklet "Is It Too Late?". No message is required.

Upcoming offers: Free copies of our book "Kids don't come with manuals" and free educational CDs.  Watch this space for more details

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Strong Willed Child Interview

Here is an interview with our daughter Kristy on the pros and cons of being a strong-willed child.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

How children affect our marriage relationship

Several weeks ago we ran a session at church on "Preserving marriage through our lifetime".  We talked about our relationship prior to children, and then what happened when we started a family, on through the teen years and then the glory of being 'empty nesters' and grandparents.  Of course we are never really prepared for children even if we had brothers and sisters of our own.  There is nothing like 'learning as you go' parenting!  The balance in keeping your marriage healthy and caring for the needs of kids is very tricky at the best of times.
I am planning to offer some tips on this subject over the next week or so......
Watch this space!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kids Deserve A Great Career

It never ceases to amaze me just how many high school seniors say they have absolutely no idea what career they want to pursue when they leave school. To have no such clue at high school graduation is a foreign concept to me and would give me a very insecure feeling indeed.

I knew exactly what I wanted to become when I was about 6 years old and I never wavered from it. I wanted to become a registered nurse because I greatly admired my aunts and cousins who were nurses before me. I thought that helping to heal the sick was a noble vocation and my confidence in being able to pass all the necessary examinations was bolstered by a family who had succeeded before me. Even though my grades through high school did not reflect a particularly bright future, I was determined because I had great role models and I was driven because I wanted to experience their feeling of job satisfaction and success.

So why is it that kids today don’t think about their futures while in high school? Obviously times have changed, but it is our responsibility not the school. In the 60s there were not so many vocational choices. Either we left school and got a job immediately, or we went to university and got a job related to our qualifications directly after that. There was no such privilege as a ‘gap year’. It was school and then work. In New Zealand, where I come from, it was NOT an assumption in those days that the majority of high school graduates would go on to university. In fact, most kids left school and went straight to work. Fortunately, when I left high school there were plenty of jobs being offered and we seemed to get every job we applied for. There were no student loans, so if we didn’t go straight to college we worked and, if necessary, saved up for our tuition. My husband and I both chose long-term professions that paid us for studying. Oh, for those days to return!

I have a theory that in this country, because so many students go on to college straight after high school, and because the first year or two are non-specific, they think there is plenty of time to make up their minds as they go along. There are hazards attached to that! Sometimes such a vital decision can be based on a mood of the moment, the influence of friends or desperation. Another problem is that by not being sure at the outset, students may redirect their studies, sometimes several times, thus ending up taking courses they don’t eventually use. Worse, they acquire degrees that are so generic or commonplace that they have no particular influence in getting a job. I also think that when students don’t pay for their own tuition, they do not experience the consequences of their own indecisiveness. Whether or not students go on to college there are great vocations for all young people.

I do not think that parents should force their children into careers that they themselves have followed, or WISH they had followed. (That is called ‘living out your dreams vicariously through your children’). Neither do I believe that students should be pushed into careers that are beyond their mental or physical ability. That creates certain disaster. I do believe, however, that children should be encouraged to excel in order to reach their greatest potential.

We can help our children discover their skills, abilities and passions by carefully observing them from the time they begin school. It is very easy to see where they shine and what motivates and interests them. They also need to understand that they can’t just concentrate on the subjects they enjoy. They need to be proficient in core subjects so that, by ensuring they do their best in subjects they don’t like, they learn a very importance lesson in life. It is called perseverance and this creates a fantastic opportunity to push through the hard stuff.

Parents play a great part in helping children to work out their life’s pathways. I modeled my life on the relatives I most admired. They were my heroes. You need to be your children’s heroes, too. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful testimony for your children to go beyond anything you ever dreamed of in your life? There are just so many more options these days that make this entirely possible.

If your kids haven’t a clue what they want to do with their lives as they leave school, you should be concerned. Help them find their way so they can create a great future without wasting valuable time deciding later. If you can’t do it yourself, arrange for your young person to see a career counselor.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Teasers and taunters

I am sure we have all experienced being teased as children and remember how much it hurt our feelings. Yet it didn’t stop us doing the same thing to others! So why do kids tease one another?

      Teasing, taunting, putting others down, being sarcastic and ‘burning on’ others amounts to the same thing. It is done to degrade another person and it is intended to hurt. Teasing usually takes the form of poking fun at another child’s physical features e.g. their ears or their nose, their height, their weight, a disability, an accent, their clothing, their hair and on and on it goes. Kids will often be given derogatory nicknames such as Porky, Skinny, Dopey, Stinky, Frumpy and Stumpy. These names can stick with them for years and define the way they think of themselves.

      So the question remains. Why do kids tease each other? Often they do it to advance their own standing in a group. It is like chickens in a pen pecking at one another to gain supremacy. They are creating a ‘pecking order’. They want to be at the top of the totem pole. Some tease and taunt out of jealousy, thinking another child is getting all the attention or is the favorite in the family. Children
often earn the art of teasing by the examples they see around them. Most TV sitcoms rely on one line put downs to get a laugh. Sometimes parents are heard making hurtful remarks to one another or to their children, and kids learn to do the same. Hurt people hurt people.

      The Bible tells us that we should love one another, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I don’t see in these statements, that the quality of love should differ between people. Instead we are to accept and love one another unconditionally. We shouldn’t have to prove our worth to be accepted by others. Our worth comes from acceptance. There should be no need to put someone else down to make our selves look superior. In fact, the opposite is true. When we make negative comments, we lower our own worth through our disrespect of others.

      It is vital to teach our children to value one another equally. Just because teasing and taunting is so rife amongst children, it doesn’t mean it is acceptable. When our children learn to be respectful at an early age, they will naturally develop a sense of worth and continue to develop a healthy self-esteem
throughout life. This sense of personal value will negate the need to put others down to enhance their own standing.

      Teasing and taunting is not restricted to children. It continues into adult life. Sometimes we excuse making a hurtful remark by adding, “Just kidding”. If we were just kidding, we wouldn’t have said what we did in the first place. It is like asking forgiveness instead of permission. As adults we also need to consider our behavior in this regard. Do we put others down to create for ourselves a better position on the imaginary totem pole? By respecting one another equally we will negate the perceived need to put another person down. We can upgrade our own self worth.

      I have a friend who I can honestly say has never made a negative comment about anyone in my hearing. Because of her reputation I know that she would never make a negative comment about me. I trust her integrity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a family that was known for its respect and integrity? We should expect nothing less.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Looking after YOU!

We are about to facilitate a marriage session at church on the subject of maintaining a healthy marriage through the various stages – from newly weds, through being young parents, parents of teens, empty nesters and finally grandparents. I am taking this opportunity to share some of our thoughts with

     As soon as we become parents we know our responsibility is to provide a loving, caring, disciplined environment for our kids. But do we ever think of how important it is to look after our marriage during the whole parenting process?

     We didn’t start our family for three years after we were married, and probably, like most parents, we just assumed that since we already had a strong marriage that it would take care of itself. It had to. After all, we were in ‘reaction’ mode just doing whatever it took to feed, clothe and keep our kids happy. It feels like a never-ending cycle of broken sleep, loads of washing, caring for sick babies, going shopping, to coffee group, daycare and school. The more babies, the more work and the less time there is for one another.

     Looking after marriage requires effort and there just doesn’t seem to be any energy left for that! However, by getting into the habit of putting the kids first all the time, we forget to carve out time for our own rejuvenation. Marriage can’t stand being ignored for years.

     So how do you look after yourselves during the parenting years? The first thing is to create a well managed, happy home so you have time to spend with your spouse. To accomplish this you need well-defined family values and routines that your family upholds. You need to stand together and not become divided or one of you be a weak link. Plan together for time away from your children. Yes, they will survive without you! Go on dates regularly – movies, out to dinner or out for a drive.

     Don’t drop everything to always do what the kids want. Have them come with you to events you like. Our children fitted into our lives, not the other way around. We were into singing and recording and they came, too. It gave our daughter the opportunity to discover her wonderful singing ability, and our son took up the guitar and completed a Recording Industry major.

     Stay interesting, fit and vibrant. Encourage one another to reach your potential. I worked to put my husband through University and he helped look after the children while I studied for my Bachelor’s Degree. We helped one another obtain jobs we both loved to do and, by being happy and satisfied within ourselves, we were also happy with one another.

     There is life after children and the empty nest period is the best time of your lives. It is a time when you are usually more financially secure, make wiser decisions, are better planners and, most of all, you have the uninterrupted time to enjoy one another’s company.

     We now have time to enjoy our children and their families. Our daughter has been married for 11 years without children. She and her husband have just adopted a little boy from Korea who is now 13 months old. Not only is she a new mother at 35 years-of-age, but also she is now 20 weeks pregnant. It has been very interesting watching them manage their time and now it is our turn to give them some time off to look after their marriage. When we go to New Zealand our son and his wife book us in for a weekend to look after the grandchildren so they can have some quality time, too.

     Nobody is going to look after your marriage but you. Neglect sneaks up on you with the distraction of family and work. You literally have to be proactive by creating opportunities to be together. When you walk up the aisle it doesn’t occur to you that you will ever split up. To stay together and be happy empty nesters, you need to nourish your marriage through all its stages.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shifting gears

It won’t be long before school ends for the year and some children will be going to new schools. I vividly remember changing schools. It was exciting and yet a little scary. Each school level change brought excitement as well as challenges.

       What is exciting about going to a new school? There’s meeting new kids, having a different school to explore, experiencing new teachers and learning new stuff. There are also scary aspects to starting at a new school. Being in a new place and a new situation takes a child out of their comfort zone. There is the fear of the unknown. Previously they were familiar with ‘the program’, the teachers and friends, but now they have to face new routines, new schoolwork, new teachers and new friendships. All of these things bring the fear of not meeting expectations - expectations set by their teachers, their new friends and sometimes their parents.

      Most children become very stressed over too much change all at once. While parents anticipate their kids will be excited about going from elementary to middle school, or middle to high school, they often forget their own anxiety as their children face drastic changes.

      These kids have to learn to change gear as they progress through grade levels. They are expected to grasp concepts more quickly. With less personal coaching they are expected to keep up with the rest of the class. There are less second chances, and much shorter grace periods for making mistakes. They
have to learn to work on their own, be self-motivated and self-sustaining. With new friendships they have to establish their place in the group, and that often challenges their self worth. Teens in particular are very sensitive about how they appeal to others, so they measure their worth on what they perceive others think about them. They may have been big fish where they came from in the last school, but suddenly, in a new group, they are the minnows.

      Shy children find it particularly difficult to approach new situations. It takes them a long time to feel confident. A child has a real advantage in being an extrovert. Such children find friends quickly whereas kids with quiet, reticent personalities find it much more difficult.

      It is very important to prepare your children for major changes in their lives. Tell them what they are likely to experience in a new school. Suggest ways they can make new school friends and what kind of friendships they should foster. Encourage them to work independently and to finish projects. Ensure they are in the habit of doing homework.

     Show your kids how to research subjects on the computer. Be a constant learner yourself so you are an example to your kids as to how much fun it is to learn new stuff – at any age. Be interested in their new school experiences and praise them for their successes. Help them through their concerns. Observe them carefully for signs of undue stress and address it immediately.

      School days hold treasured memories. We can help our children traverse their educational years successfully by preparing them for changes through our constant encouragement and continued support.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When parents don't know anything

You know the story. When your kids are small, they hang on every word you say as being right. Then, as they become more aware of the world around them they realize there are various views to the mysteries of life and that yours is but one of them. By the time they are in their mid teens, you don’t know anything. Then again, when you look at those same teens you wonder whom that imposter is
living in your home.

      My husband’s theory is that when a child reaches 13 years of age, aliens come down and remove their brains. He has no idea where those brains get stored, but they cannot be located anywhere on planet earth. You cease to have any sensible conversations with your children until they are around 21 years of age when the aliens quite suddenly return their brains. You just hope they get the same ones back that they started with, unless of course, they fortuitously get an upgrade!

      Ah, yes! Our children are indeed perplexing creatures! My daughter was an extremely strong-willed child. Many a time we got the ‘stink eye’ or the ‘roll eye’ from her because her will clashed with ours. How could we possibly understand her or her friends? After all, we were millenniums older than she was!

      So what do you do when you cease to recognize your teens? The best thing is to be prepared. Just remember when you were that age. What was going on in your world that made your parents’ thoughts and values seem so outdated? Talk to your children about the fact that there are many opinions and
views on every conceivable subject known to Man. Explain why you believe what you do and the benefits in following the values you have set for your family. This way they can more easily process others’ opinions and make informed decisions for themselves.

     Talk to them about the changes they will go through as their body matures. Tell them about mood swings and explain how to handle them. Be careful not to make so many rules that your teens just want to rebel.

      Don’t sweat the small stuff! Do not become the enemy! The idea is to NOT create distance between you and your teens. Make sure you keep a positive, upbeat attitude and a positive home environment. Stay involved with your kids.

      Create a safe haven in which they can make mistakes. Prepare them for the challenges and choices they will be faced with. Encourage them to just talk about their feelings and what is going on in their lives. They don’t always want an answer. They just want you to listen and be supportive.

      I was thrilled to hear my daughter tell me yesterday that she didn’t have a clue about what we went through as parents until she had a child herself. Now it has all become abundantly clear. Our parenting skills were challenged many, many times over with her, but what a privilege it is to have her as my best girlfriend now and for my husband and I to be given an open invitation to positively influence her children.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boys in tights

I couldn’t help noticing the big debate that is going on at the moment about the young boy being photographed with his toenails painted pink. I am not sure whether it was an advertisement or a story, but it sure seems as though it is raising a lot of viewer response.

      Back in the day when we were growing up there was a very clear line that separated boys from girls. It didn’t matter whether it was in clothing or in toys, girls were pink and frilly and played with dollies and boys were tough. Boys played in the mud, played with guns, hammers and toy trucks. Boys were called sissies if they cried and when girls cried their mommies came running. Everything children played with emulated where they were headed – into a rough and tough workman’s world or into a mothering role.

      As time has gone by our style of toys has changed dramatically. Whereas boys wouldn’t be seen dead playing with dolls in the past, we now have boy figures created from loved cartoon characters. It started with Ken and then moved on to action figures like Batman, Superman and Spiderman, and more recently the little skinny legged ‘Woody’ from Toy Story.

      The hard-core line between frilly and pink and tough and blue has greatly diminished. In my mind I think that is great. Not all boys are tough and macho by nature and not all girls are gentle and sweet. Justin was about two years old and loved purses and little fairy dresses. His father was quite concerned about this, but decided not to make a big deal of it. As time went by Justin, quietly encouraged by his dad, became interested in Meccano sets and Buzz Lightyear. His little brother loves to watch the TV show “Strawberry Shortcake”. While shopping with his mom a few weeks ago, he decided that he wanted the little doll ‘Lemon’ from the same show. He made a wood-block house for her and took
her to Kindergarten. When he got home he said to his mom, “Lemon is a girly doll, isn’t she!” He put ‘Lemon’ away and that was that.

      There is never any fuss made about little girls wearing boyish clothes or playing cowboys and Indians yet there is a very negative attitude towards boys showing the least bit of femininity. Young women always appreciate men who show sensitivity. Guys don’t learn to be softhearted by constantly displaying a macho attitude and throwing their weight around. That is very unappealing to girls.

      Remember the movie, “Billy Elliott?” That poor lad was so terrified of his father’s response to him wanting to be a dancer that he hid the fact that he was going to dance classes for a long time. Eventually his father, a coalminer and very gruff man, came to terms with the fact that his son was living his passion and with great difficulty accepted his chosen path in life.

      It is vitally important to allow our children to develop their own characters and find their own identity. In no way am I supporting gender transfer, but by demonstrating extreme opposition to boys showing any feminine tendencies or sensitivity it can cause the child much stress and confusion. Instead, it is way more productive to gently guide them towards activities that are more male oriented without necessarily being tough and gruff.

      Children face all kinds of pressures as they grow up. As parents, we need to choose how we will deal with issues. The fact that two and three year olds may like dressing up in clothes of the opposite sex is hardly a big deal. They love to dress up. Hey, even adults like Robin Hood, Batman, Spiderman and Superman all wore tights and they were manly men! Lighten up and let the kids enjoy painting themselves and dressing up as they like. Life is short! What is a tutu between friends?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Your reputation can bless or bite you

Reputation is an extremely powerful thing.  The dictionary defines it as ‘the estimation in which a person is regarded by others’.  A person of good repute (or character) is one who is esteemed, respected and trusted.  A person of ill repute may be known to disregard authority, be dishonest, disrespectful, immoral or unethical.  Either way, every individual has a reputation.

     Developing a good reputation is similar to a credit score.  To have a good score we have to earn it by being diligent in paying our bills on time.  This is a proactive process, requiring careful budgeting and not spending more than we earn.  There are major advantages in having great credit.  If we do not, or cannot, pay our bills in a timely manner our credit gets dinged. This results in a low score, whereupon our spending options become restricted.  It takes time to eradicate a poor score and it takes hard work to re-establish good credit.

     Our reputation comes from learned behavior.  Initially, children are most influenced by those nearest to them.  They do what their parents do more often than what their parents tell them they should do.  They adopt their parents’ attitudes, beliefs and ethics.  As they grow, children continue to be influenced by those they admire, often outside the home or on the media.  This may be a great thing, but sometimes not.  I think most parents become concerned over their child’s behavior when it contravenes the training they have received at home.

     So, how do we cultivate an excellent reputation?  The secret is in establishing strong family values.  Parents need to decide what principles or standards they wish their family to live by.  These values need to be written down and explained so that all family members understand the expectations.  The family home should be a safe environment where the children can learn, make mistakes and be encouraged in all their efforts to demonstrate the values set by the family.  Reputation begins at home.

     Not only do individuals cultivate their reputation at home, but families collectively also develop a reputation.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear that your family is known for its great volunteer spirit, its pursuit of excellence, its kindness to others, or its concern for homeless animals for example?

     It is very important for parents to consider their own reputation.  How do people describe us?  Is it favorable?  Should we make some changes?  If we want our children to develop an excellent reputation, then we must demonstrate the very same thing ourselves.  It is often a good exercise to think about the attributes of people we admire and work towards being like them.  We can even ask them how they ‘do it’ and request their help if necessary.

     So what can one do to restore a tarnished reputation?  It may require asking forgiveness.  It might require asking for help in making wiser decisions or in better managing personal negative traits.  It might require getting a second job to repair financial damage.  It often involves working through the consequences of poor decisions and earning others’ trust.  This doesn’t happen overnight, but when people can see positive change occurring they are much more likely to be receptive to your advice or efforts.

     It is essential to be positive role models to our children and to give them the tools, training and the practice to establish an excellent reputation.  It is never too late to change our attitudes, beliefs and ethics.  It is not a bad thing for your children to observe how you make positive changes in your life to restore your reputation.  We are all on a journey.  Let’s set our children on that road towards an outstanding reputation so that they can influence generations to come.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Incentives really work

It doesn’t take long for the home atmosphere to become negative when we spend so much time correcting our kids.  Negative vibes fueled by rebuke, frustration and tension replace fun and joy.  It is up to us as parents to monitor the home atmosphere to prevent it turning sour.

     Many parents train their children by correcting them when they do ‘wrong’ rather than explaining what their expectations are first.  A simple training plan is the first step to making training a positive rather than a predominantly corrective experience.  These are the steps.  Decide and write down the values or principles you want your family to live by.  Explain your expectations to your children (making sure you only work on a few at a time).  Show them what the expectation will look like (role model it).  Work with them and then let them practice, allowing time for mistakes.  Praise them for getting it right.  Correct them if they get it wrong. Give them responsibility for that skill or activity once they have mastered it.

     Creating an incentive scheme is an excellent method of avoiding constant rebuke and replacing it with the opportunity for praise.  When you think of your own training experiences I am sure you recall responding willingly and with confidence when your efforts were recognized and praised, rather than your mistakes being ridiculed.  Incentive schemes really do work.

     Many years ago my husband, Brian, discussed using incentives with a woman whose daughter had a very negative attitude towards them as parents and was starting to get into trouble at school.  The mother’s response was absolute refusal as she considered incentives were merely a bribe.  As a result her child continued down a negative path until she was made a ward of the State.  The daughter eventually ‘divorced’ her parents, and then her daughter, in turn, also became a ward of the State.  History repeated itself.  If only they had concentrated on the positive aspects of her behavior and given her incentives to make changes, we feel she would be in a very different situation and state of mind now.

     Creating an incentive scheme has many advantages.  It requires that parents first explain what they want their child to achieve.  It requires the child to make choices.  Something good is going to result if they do what is required of them.  A negative choice will yield a corrective result.  The parent is not the ogre here.  The child makes the choice and the parent is merely responding to the child’s decision.  Life is full of choices.  Why not learn to make the right choices by the reward of a positive response from those in authority over you.

     There are many types of incentives.  Money should not be one of them!  Why?  Daily chores are part of family life and responsibility.  Each family member needs to learn to do their part willingly and not because they are paid for it.  This also teaches children the value of performing acts of kindness for no monetary reward.

     Small children tend to respond well to a rewards board with stars.  When they complete a task they get a star.  After so many stars they get to choose their favorite dinner, maybe watch a cool movie, or have extra playtime and so on.  Older children may have a chores list which details the chore and when it is required to be completed.  Their reward might be extra computer time, time out at the movies or more time doing some other favorite activity.  You may want your child to reach for higher grades at school.  In this case, you first need to do some homework.  Research why the grades have been low.  Check with the teacher.  Ask your child.  Check the homework plan.  There could be a combination of reasons, but it is important to rule out any negative outside influences or physical reason for low performance.  It could be that your child is actually working at their highest level already.  If so, be satisfied!

     You should have high expectations of and for your children.  They rise to high levels if they know they are pleasing you.  Help them to make goals and also help and encourage them to achieve greater heights.  A happy child is: one who knows their parents are proud of them, who has learned to make wise choices through positive training experiences, and who has a sense of purpose in life.  Training by way of incentives greatly enhances this outcome.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Addictions can be sneaky

When we think of ‘addictions’ our minds immediately go to the ‘biggies’ like drug and alcohol abuse, gambling, pornography, nicotine, caffeine, sugar or general food abuse.  You might be astonished to know just how many addictions there are. Addictions are subtle in onset and many of us have them without even realizing it.  Ask yourself, “Is there anything that I just can’t live without?  If that thing is denied me, do I become anxious, fidgety, depressed, frustrated, angry, or get headaches?  Will I do anything possible to get or do that thing?”  If you could say yes to any of those questions, then it is likely to be an addiction.  It might be internet games, chat-rooms, texting, social networking, video games, TV soaps, sports, shopping, fitness, competition, collecting, hoarding, cosmetic surgery, sex or work, just to name a few.

            Did you know that talking can become an addiction?  There are people who will not stop talking.  They are usually not interested in what anyone else has to say because they are thinking about what they want to say next.  In fact, they can think and talk at the same time.

            Addictions are rife when we consider all the activities that we think we just can’t function without.  The question is how do addictions affect our families?  When it comes to the most commonly considered addictions like drinking, smoking, gambling, pornography and overeating, we know how they threaten family well-being.  They may lead to domestic violence, child abuse, trouble with the law, depletion of family finances, loss of jobs and health issues.

            Unrecognized addictions may also threaten family life.  Constant communication via texting, phone conversations or Internet chatting can drastically cut down the one-on-one, face-to-face communication between family members and friends.  Already the family table is almost extinct as people eat and watch TV at the same time.  What happened to the very fruitful family communication that starts with, “How was your day today?”

            How have we allowed our kids to text their friends during meal times?  Where is the casual conversation when we are standing in line at the Post Office or at the grocery store?  Does anyone see, let alone care about someone struggling with too many parcels?   No!  Why?  It is because, too often, our noses are pointed towards a hand held device.  Why is it that we have allowed ourselves to believe the lie that ‘we only need to look after number one’ and that ‘other’s stuff is not our business?’

            A person with a talking addiction is often self-absorbed and does not develop good listening skills.  The effect is that other family members will feel that their opinions don’t matter and therefore their contribution is worthless.  While there is nothing wrong with activities like sports, competition, TV soaps, hobbies, video games and fitness, when these activities preoccupy us to the extent that we neglect our family responsibilities, then there is a major problem.

            As parents, our families come first so we need to monitor them carefully.  Each family member needs to contribute to the family as well as having their own interests. This is made easier by creating and maintaining routines where there is time for chores as well as time for fun like hobbies, sports and vacations.  When the routine activities are compromised, then some changes need to be made.  When a family member demonstrates irrational behavior when denied a particular activity, this also needs to be investigated immediately.  We need to protect and encourage face-to-face communication with our kids as well as our spouses.  If a preoccupation becomes habitual, then we need to deal with it by setting boundaries and monitoring the situation.

            By ensuring that you are living a balanced lifestyle, you are training your children not only to better manage their own lives, but also that of their future families.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Time for you

“What? Time for me? That went out the window once I started having kids!”

      Most parents feel they have barely enough time to fulfill the fundamentals, let alone think about having time for themselves. I remember when I had infants at home. If I could get one task done in the day I thought I had really achieved something. I don’t know where the time went, but ‘went’ it did! Our daughter and son-in-law have had their lovely little 9 month-old boy from Korea for 4 days now and they are both already exhausted. His sleeping schedule means he is sleeping from about 6 a.m. till 2 p.m. and the rest is short sleeps. Needless to say between about 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. he is having a lovely time playing while bleary eyes watch and wish he would just go back to sleep. His bio clock is way out of kilter!

      Once children come along, it seems that parent needs shrink to the size of a pea. The more children you have, the less time there is for you. It makes sense, after all, because there are only 24 hours in a day and that doesn’t change. Yet, I can still distinctly recall a particular time when I had my second child. I was sitting on the couch with my son on my knee. My daughter was squeezing as close as she could beside me, when suddenly this thought came into my head. ‘Wait a minute! I have to have time for me, too!’

      We slide so easily into the role of taxi driver, cook, bottle washer, laundry maid, nurse, shopping cart and holder of the purse – in fact the provider of all things. Isn’t that the parents’ role? We believe the myth that truly great parents put all personal wants and needs aside for the sake of their children. I don’t consider this to be healthy thinking. Families need to be balanced.

      Forefront Families believes that a successful family is one that is God-centered, parent directed, family-oriented and outwardly focused. Nowhere in that statement does it imply that kids should rule or come first in everything. We believe that each family member should be given the opportunity to develop their own skills and abilities and ultimately discover their own destiny. We believe the
parents’ role is to be effective role models and to train their children to become productive, educated, caring adults and parents. Our kids learn from what they see us do, not just what we say. If we are leading a balanced life, and creating and achieving goals, they will learn from us. I am not saying that we should do our own thing to the detriment of the rest of the family. What I am saying is that each family member should have their needs met. If individuals are leading a balanced life then the family together is more likely to be balanced.

      So what is a balanced life? It’s one where there is a time for work, for play, for study, for sleep, for devotion to other family members and friends, AND a time for self and spouse. It is vital to make time to nourish and replenish your own relationship on a regular basis. It might mean having someone look after the kids for the weekend so you can go and just have fun together. It is not only beneficial to you, but also good for the kids to be without you for a day or two. We have had weekly date nights for many years and we also go away for a weekend once a month now we have no children in the house. It is important to encourage one another to create or continue hobbies and interests and to go out with the guys or the girls on your own. The rich input and encouragement that others have given me has opened my eyes to opportunities I may never have realized.

      Don’t get stuck in isolation or in a work/home/work/home cycle. Remember your kids are learning from you. Do you want them to lead a similar life to you? If not, then live like you want them to. Do activities on your own, with your spouse and with your children. You do have family responsibilities, but as long as what you do is not upsetting the family balance, then it has got to be good for you now and in the long term. Look after you!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Learn to live

Our Pastor read this quote from Dorothy Law Nolte yesterday at church and it was so insightful I thought I would share it with you.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

            There is so much truth in the words above that a cursory glance would be doing them a great injustice.  This is a working tool and an excellent framework to teach and model from.  How we act as parents is more than likely how our children will behave.  If you don’t want to replicate yourself as you are now, then perhaps this list will help you make the necessary changes in your home environment from negative to positive.

             It would be a really good idea to print this list off, enlarge it and place it in clear view for the family to learn from.  You can discuss it as a family, choosing just a few at a time or one a week, then after a few months go back and practice the ones that have not been mastered yet.  Not only do you decide what you want to change and why, but also how you will change it.  If you or other family members are critical, explain what that means.  Being negatively critical means that you always see the bad side or poke holes in what someone else does.  That makes those criticized feel worthless and not want to try anymore.  To make them feel good about themselves or about what they are doing, you need to use positive words to encourage them instead – words such as, “I like that!”  “You worked hard and finished it!”  “Well done!”

            As well as choosing a negative statement from the quote by Ms. Nolte choose a positive one as well e.g. kindness.  You could say to the family, “Let’s practice being kind.  Kindness means doing thoughtful things for another person.  If we don’t show others that we are thinking of their needs they feel left out.  We can be kind by offering to help one another or by saying kind words.  This makes us feel loved and cared for.”

            The positive traits on Dorothy Law Nolte’s list are valuable and we do well as parents to teach our children by word and by demonstration how to make a positive difference in the world around us.