Tag Archives: Parenting

Read The Bedtime Story

Parenting is an exhausting job.

From the minute you wake up, or should I say, they wake you up, to the minute you go to bed, or should I say, the minute they get out of bed for the 15th million time, you are on the clock.

From sun up, until sun down, you’re clocked in as a parent.

Oh and from what I hear, that actually never ends, by the way…



But despite all of that, and all of that work, as you get older and your kids get older, there are going to be certain things that they remember about their childhood. Just like us as adults, our kids are going to look back and remember key moments or traditions that they were exposed to in their lives.

They’ll unfortunately remember that one time you accidently embarrassed them or that one time you were too hard on them for a mistake they made.

They are going to remember that one movie that first scared them when they were little and they are going to remember that time you took them to go do that one thing that they love.

This is because memory is selective, and as our kids get older they are only going to remember certain things about their past. And those specific memories, which ever ones they are, are going to stick with them and be a basis for how they live their lives.

That may be good, or it can be bad.

Advertisements

They may remember growing up and being rewarded for doing a good job and now that they are older and are starting a family, they are going to remember to reward their kids for doing a good job.

Or they may remember that you were always fighting with them and arguing with them. They may remember that you were demanding and unkind. They may remember that you were distant or always too busy…

The things that you do with your kids tend to be things they grow up and do for their kids. It’s something that can be passed down as tradition (creating traditions: The Easiest Way To Leave a Legacy), and one of the best things you can do, to set a tradition, is read to your kids before bed.

Reading to your kids has such an astounding impact on their lives, especially… I’m going to say this twice… especially in today’s world of technology.

In today’s world, reading sticks out like a sore thumb. In a world of screens where the imagery and sound is being provided for you, reading and using your imagination has incredible upside.

Advertisements

Not only does reading allow kids a different flavor of content to consume, it allows their own minds to think and consider what is happening in the story, in their terms. They picture the characters how they want to see them, which encourages their minds to grow on their own terms, in reflection of their own personality.

Reading to your children encourages them to be readers of their own. While many youtube videos can show you how to repair a washer, no one whose read a book will tell you that the big screen adaptation was better than the written word. No one. The book wins every time and it’s because the book is personal.

You should read to your children every night. You won’t be perfect, and you don’t have to be, but you should read to them every night. Read to them because it provides something unique in comparison to technology, read to them because it helps their minds grow, and read to them because it’s something they will remember.


They’re Always Listening, Even When They Aren’t

Sometimes it feels like we tell our kids certain things or give them certain pieces of advice and they just don’t seem to grasp what we’re telling them. This becomes especially true as our kids get older and start to reach the teen years. They become more independent and that mom or dad, “I told you so” becomes more of an annoyance than it does an affirmation.



The interesting thing about watching kids grow is how they wind up doing the things you’ve always told them to do all along. It’s really a surprise twist but our kids actually do listen to us more than we realize. I’m not talking about that one thing you told them to do that one time. I mean the things that you really tried to advise your kids on over-and-over.

Eat your vegetables

Wear your seatbelt

Wash your hands

In these moments, where we are telling our kids to do these things, it always seems like they will never get it. It seems like it goes in one ear and right back out the other. That they’ll never catch on or remember to do the things we tell them. And then you end up feeling like a broken record repeating yourself. However, what actually happens is quite surprising.

Advertisements

As your kids start to get older, they actually start to do those things you’ve repeated to them over the years. It’s almost like they know you’re going to say it anyways, so they try to do it before you can even say it, just so you can’t say it… lol

But maybe it’s also that subconscious part of their mind that is reminding them. That because they’ve heard the advice so much, it sort of sticks with them over-time. And then when that moment comes where you would normally say, “Don’t do that” their subconscious mind just says it for you.

It’s almost like practicing how to do or learn something new. It starts to become a matter of repetition and then before too long the body can just do it automatically.

I think as parents we often feel frustrated that we have to repeat ourselves over-and-over to our kids about things, I know I have, but what we really need to realize is the power that we have in that repetition. If we start to look at that process as practice or training, and not just as us saying something again, we can actually influence our children to a much greater degree than we realize.

By understanding that repeating something, we can help our children actually remember it and actually act in a positive way on it, can be incredibly powerful. And so it becomes very important that we use that power for the things that matter most with our children. Yes we can remind them to pickup their toys or to clean up after themselves but we shouldn’t forget about the things that really matter in life.

Advertisements

We should be reminding our kids, as often as we can, to hold the door for someone, to say thank you, to think of something they’re grateful for, to help a friend out, to say something nice to someone, to work hard on things, to never give up… These are the things we should be repeating to our children every day over-and-over.

As parents, we should remember that picking up the toys is a short-term concept with low value. Yes things look nice, but it doesn’t make anyone else’s life better. It doesn’t make someone whose down, feel good about themselves. It doesn’t help make the world a better place, and as our kids get older, it won’t matter. We should remember to focus on the things that do matter like kindness, hard work, and passion.

So the next time you feel like your kids aren’t listening to you, remember, they are listening, it just takes practice and the question you really need to ask yourself is, are you practicing the right things?


The Easiest Way To Leave A Legacy


I think one of the most human things in our nature is to strive to be immortal. Not so much in the sense that we want to live forever but rather that we want to live on, through others, forever. The Egyptians built massive statues to honor their kings and leaders, and… oh wait… we do that too. Hundreds of years later and we still build statues of great leaders from the past… presidents, athletes, social icons, musicians….

So what is it that made these people so memorable that others would find ways to continue on their life’s image? To create statues or write books about them….

I think it comes right down to how many people that person was able to touch in their life. Musicians tend to have a very wide reach to touching people’s lives but no where near as impactful as a great president but the method is still the same. The more lives you impact in a positive way, the longer your legacy will live on.

Advertisements

Now we can’t all be presidents or musicians, but we can learn from those that have come before us and apply their successes to our own lives. We can still impact as many lives as possible and to do it in a positive way and hopefully, leaving behind a legacy of example that will encourage more people to do the same.

The easiest way to do this, to leave a legacy and touch a large number of lives, is with a tradition. Creating and maintaining positive traditions will create a legacy that will carry on long after you’ve come and gone in this world. So how can we start to build them?

Well a tradition is merely something positive that can be repeated at a certain time or place. It can be something as simple as a prayer before bed or as complex as a family vacation to a particular place. It can be drinks after work on a Friday night or a dinner with your spouse the last weekend of every month.

photo cred: Lindy Baker

Traditions can be big or small but what matters is that they’re repeatable and that they offer a level of positivity. The more positivity the tradition can offer, the more it can impact people’s lives in a positive way, and the longer it will live on.

If you really want to leave a legacy behind you, start creating traditions today. Create them with your kids, create them with your spouse, create them with your friends, and create them with your coworkers. Build little bits of positive traditions into everyone’s lives around you so that they can have that boost that you bring to their lives.

If you have some of your own traditions already please leave a comment on this post and share them. I’m sure many other people could benefit from seeing traditions that other people have and I would love to get some fresh ideas myself!

Advertisements

The Age Transition for Parenting Teens

A house full of boys is a little bit of what you would expect but also a little bit of not what you would expect. There’s bumps, bruises, things broken, and fart jokes, but there’s also everyone being afraid of a stink bug and wholesome full house moments too.

I can’t speak on what it might be like to raise girls but I do have a little bit of experience when it comes to raising boys and am just getting my feet wet in regards to raising a teenager. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned to do differently as my boys have grown older then it’s how I approach my parenting.

When kids are little they often times crave structure. Since they themselves have very little concept of time and no real control over their own lives (like do they even get a choice on if they have to go to the grocery store with you, nope they’re going), a routine and structure helps them navigate their daily lives and know what to expect.

As they start to get a little older there is still a need for structure and routine. Actually, up until they can start to make some real choices about their lives (like if they want to stay home by themselves while the family runs errands) routine and structure are a good way to go.

Advertisements

Once opportunities, like staying home, start presenting themselves in the early stages of teenagerism (yes I made that word up) is when your parenting approach needs to start changing (actually it should already start to transition, slowly, as your kids become more mature).

The transition itself is one of providing less structure and routine for your teenager and letting them start to grow their own structure and routine. You essentially have to transition yourself as a parent from providing direction and playing Supervisor to sitting back and playing Advisor.

For some parents this is extremely difficult. For others it comes as second nature. Neither is right or wrong but making the transition is what matters. As kids start to get older, as teens start their journey towards adulthood they will have to begin facing a number of life challenges that, as parents, you will have very little say in.

What friends they hang out, what they think is important in life, what choices they make, what adversity life throws at them, and all the hurdles there are to becoming an adult. What’s important as a parent is that you do these two things to make sure that you transition as a parent from Supervisor to Advisor.

Let life dish out the consequences.

When kids are little we dish out the consequences. Timeouts, groundings, forced apologies, and so on. This is how it works when kids are little. As kids approach their teen years and on, this strategy does not work. It’s not to say that your kids should never get in trouble but if you’re relying on groundings aka ‘teenager timeouts‘ as a way to discipline your older kids, you’re doing it wrong.

Punishing your older children will only create a situation where life has already punished them and you’re simply icing on the cake, because that’s what’s really happening. As kids get older, life hands out the punishments. Kids get bullied or teased, they have moments of failure and rejection, their challenged to exceed expectations in school work and sports all while trying to navigate a social life and trying to figure out who they want to be. Trust me, life will dish out the punishments.

photo cred: Joshua Hoehine

Stay involved.

It’s not enough to let life just raise our kids once they become teens though. Yes they are becoming more mature and independent but in no way are they ready to fly solo. This is where it’s important to begin to become the Advisor in your teens life.

Instead of telling them what they should or shouldn’t be doing, or even forcing it, you want them to go out and make some choices on their own. Then let life provide the rewards and punishments for those choices. When that happens, that’s where you want to interject yourself.

You want to jump in right after life has given your teen the consequences of a choice, whether good or bad, and you want to provide some reflection on that point.

Now, some kids may need a little more time before they are ready to talk about something but ALL kids want to talk about their wins and losses. I promise you, ALL kids want to talk about their wins and losses. Most kids just put on a tough front at first.

As parents our job is to always leave the door open as an Advisor. We want to stay involved. You do this by actually staying involved. By asking about school, but also following up on their grades. If you notice them slipping, put some time into helping your teen study. Ask about friends, but also be watchful of the conversations and actions that are taking place. If you suspect something might be off, offer your Advisor role.

This can be done simply by saying, “Hey just wanted to let you know, if you ever want to talk about something you can. If you feel like it’s hard to talk about you can just text me too.

Advertisements

The idea here is to make the barrier to having your child ask you for advice as little as possible. This is what we really want as parents. We want our kids to ask for advice, but that will never happen if they feel like you’re going to treat them like a child and tell them what they should do. If you’re going to go back to being a Supervisor.

So as your kids get older remember that they will begin to change and your parenting strategy should follow. Remember that we want to go from Supervisor to Advisor and that there are two parts to being a good Advisor. Let life hand out the punishments and remember to stay involved. Don’t feel like you have to do these perfectly but rather use them as guidelines. I hope this helps someone with a teenager and Godspeed. 😉

Are Your Mornings with Kids Hectic?

You wake up at the very last minute possible to give yourself just enough time to get ready and then get the kids ready and it seems like you’re the only one with any concept of how time actually works. You’re late, the kids are late, everyone’s late and someone’s probably crying…

The kids can’t find a shoe, still haven’t brushed their teeth, and if any one thing goes sideways the entire morning comes crashing down

And then we send our kids to school. Ship them away for the day (or now maybe we ship them to a computer screen for remote learning) and that’s how everyone’s day starts.

It’s the morning rush. It comes 5 days a week and we fight through it Monday through Friday. What we don’t realize is that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day and for our kids it can an incredible difference in how their day plays out.

Advertisements

What we don’t typically realize is how much of an opportunity the mornings really are (see last week’s post Parenting by Opportunity). We don’t realize that our rushed mornings with quick good bye’s and the go-go-go mentality is the foundation of how we are setting up the days for our kids.

Think about it, we start their day with a, “let’s go, hurry up, come on!” and we top it off with a list of directions to get them on track. We shove a bowl of cereal in their face that’s crammed with sugar and then we check in on them every 5 minutes, “Is your jacket on? Did you brush? Is your bookbag packed? Are your shoes on?

What we don’t do is empathize with this situation. We don’t think about what our day would be like if we were in their shoes, what it’s like being rushed around and only having a bowl of sugar to eat before we have to go to a place where we’re told more of what to do, tested for our abilities, and then try and attempt to navigate a forced social life.

photo cred: Haley Owens

As parents we can do so much better if we stop and take a second to do it and it doesn’t take much either. When we really stop to consider how valuable the mornings can really be we realize there is an enormous amount of missed opportunity there, BUT there are some things we can do to really cash in on this time.

For starters, we can wake ourselves up a few minutes earlier. Even fifteen minutes earlier can make an incredible difference in the morning routine and if you really think about it, are you going to be any more rested than you were with fifteen more minutes?

We can also wake the kids up a little earlier. I’ve found this actually works really great even though it seems like it would be harder. When I wake them up I give them time to get up at their own pace. They don’t have to rush out of bed and the first thing they see is me rushing them. Instead they can wake up gently and get moving.

Advertisements

The next thing we can do in the mornings is provide something better to eat than a bowl full of sugar. I don’t see how we can expect our kids to perform at school during the day when they load up on cereal in the morning. There’s better ways to give your kids the energy that they need to stay focused at school if they are going to perform well (read Rocket’s Need Rocket Fuel).

A morning checklist also does wonders for the kids that can’t seem to remember everything they need to do or stay on track. When I have my kids write a checklist the night before of everything they need to do in the morning they typically end up getting it all done with time to spare. For whatever reason, they really focus in on the list and get things done. It’s great!

And finally, the number one thing you can do that is the MOST IMPORTANT thing if you are going to do anything, do this one thing, is to talk to your kids in the morning. Just take a few minutes to talk to them about how they slept. What they think their day is going to be like. What they want to do later that day after school. Just talk to them because while life is long, childhood is short.

I hope this helps give you some fresh ideas on how to make mornings a way to super charge your kids for the day! If you have any tips or advice on how to take advantage of mornings let me know in the comments!

Parenting by Opportunity

As parents we often wonder… “Am I doing the right things? Am I teaching my kids the right things? Am I saying the right things? Am I giving them the right ideas or did I blow it?”

It’s a natural part of parenting. We question ourselves because there really is no right way to parent. What works for one family might not work for the next. The solution for one child is the barrier for another.

Advertisements

And so we are constantly looking around and comparing/contrasting our parenting style with other parents. We’re looking for ways we already do things better to get some form of reinforcement that we’re on the right path or we look at other parents and we aspire to raise our kids like theirs.

It’s all a part of parenthood and raising children. The good news is there is no right way. There’s plenty of wrong ways, but there’s not a sure-fire right way. If you can make sure you’re not doing it the wrong way, then you can be pretty sure you’re doing it the right way.

photo cred: Kelly Sikkema

But there are some things that are more difficult to teach than just how to spell, or do algebra, or drive. Some things you can’t just sit down and study. These are some of the more difficult things to teach in parenting. They are the soft skills.

How do I teach them to share at a young age? How do I teach them the value of saving their money? How do I teach them to be grateful every day? How do I teach them the million things I feel they need to learn that you won’t find in a text book or on the sports field?

I could sit down with them each day and say, “Okay, today we are going to practice and learn how to be grateful….” but that’s not very realistic. If you have to do that you’re going to be spending a lot of time going nowhere.

That type of learning is valuable for hard skills like school, sports, and hobbies, but not so much for soft skills. Soft skills like respect, managing emotions, making healthy choices, and kindness are the ones that require a different approach to learning, and one of the best teachers for those skills is life.

Daily life provides all the opportunity you need to teach these soft skills. This is my approach to teaching these parts of life to my kids and is what Parenting by Opportunity is all about.

Advertisements

When something happens, say one of my kids has their feelings hurt at school because someone teased them, I take that opportunity to teach them how to manage those feelings. We talk about it, right then and there. We don’t wait to talk about it that night at bedtime or brush it off and wait to see if it happens again. We address it right then and there, in the moment of opportunity.

When we go to the store and my kids want to buy something, I use that opportunity to either explain to them that we need to work for things and that they need to do some chores (age appropriate) and earn that money OR if they already have money, I let them go through the line and pay for themselves. We use that opportunity to start teaching the value of hard work, money, and independence.

When my kids come off the field after a baseball or football game, win or lose, I take that opportunity to ask and teach them how to reflect on their performance. Did you give it your all? What did you do well? What could you build on and do better?

And it’s a balancing act too, right? We can’t be 100% serious, it’s important that we understand that we’re taking advantage of an opportunity but not to become clouded by what we want to teach versus what our kids want to experience. So make sure you ask about how that post-game Rice Krispy tastes too.

photo cred: Jon Tyson

When I hear them talking negatively about themselves, maybe just because they are cranky that day, I take that opportunity to teach them about how negative talk and thoughts can be poison for our minds.

Because the reality is, these things that kids do, that might seem like kids just being kids, end up becoming a part of who our kids grow into. What starts as innocence turns into habit and as adults, we know how hard it can be to change our habits, especially the toxic ones.

So I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities you see around you when raising your kids. While you’re going through your daily lives, look for little moments where you can teach your kids something that has long-lasting value. Spelling tests and algebra will go away after the first quarter of their lives, but kindness, gratitude, and hard work can change the world.

The Value of Sign Language at a Young Age

Sign Language is one of the most effective ways to communicate, not just with the hearing impaired, but with children too.

Children have this amazing ability to pick up on body and visual cues far before they are ever able to articulate their thoughts into words. Not taking advantage of this feels to me like you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table with your kids.

Most kids don’t start speaking, at least some form of complete sentences, until around the age of 2 (give or take a few months). At this stage they can at least speak enough to tell you that they want another cookie (too bad they won’t tell you when they’ve crap their pants and they’re about to take their diaper off….).

Advertisements

As many parents know… those first few months and years can be extremely difficult. No sleep, no understanding of what baby wants, and you’re basically just winging it and trying shit until something works. Now you’ll still have to do that from time-to-time but why not make it a little bit easier? Sign language can do just that.

I’ve found my kids were able to pick up on sign language from somewhere between 6 to 9 months. They couldn’t tell me they needed a diaper change but they could tell me when they wanted more milk. This doesn’t seem like much but consider this.

Your kids have 1 of 2 ways to tell you that they want or need something. They can:

A) Scream their heads off until they turn blue in the face and you play the guessing game for 20 minutes trying to figure out that they just wanted a drink of water.

OR…

B) They can sign it to you.

I preferred not to be yelled at by a tinier version of myself…

So here’s a couple of signs we use most often in our house. I’ll share them in the order my kids were able to learn them. The key trick to teaching these is repetition.

You sign it, you say it, and then you take their fat little hands and you make them do the motion while you repeat saying it again. That’s it. If you do that every time, over and over, they’ll pick it up within a couple of weeks and, oh praise the Lord!!, no more screaming.

More (as in give me more of that cookie):

My kids don’t actually bring their fingers together like this BUT they do it in a clapping motion. As long as your child knows he is saying more and you know it too, it’s good enough.

Milk:

Very easy, just like milking a cow.

All Done:

This one is great and we use it most often to know when our little dude is done stuffing his face and ready to get out of his high chair.

Advertisements

Book:

My youngest really picked up on this one. He loves just thrashing through the pages, but hey, at least he’s into books.

Eat:

When we do this one. Baby loses his freaking mind. If he’s hungry and he sees me do this he is ALLLLLL about it.

So these are the ones we use most commonly. Again, the trick is just repetition. You do it, say it, and take your child’s hands and have them do the motion.

The best times to practice these isn’t in a sit down and let’s practice style. The best time is when you actually need to use it.

Keep at it and you’ll thank yourself later, when instead of screaming in church or at the dinner table your little guy just signs for milk.