Who’s Sorry Now?

Apologizing has become an art form these days, with politicians, celebrities and CEOs saying “I’m sorry” in the public arena for misdeeds. Many times, the sincerity of such apologies are questions, with good cause in some cases. I sometimes shudder to think how all those public mea culpas look to children.
We want our children to apologize when they do something wrong. Usually, they can see—even if they don’t acknowledge—that their actions were not right and therefore an “I’m sorry” is needed.
But what about when the action was an accident, totally unintentional? Then it’s harder for the child to make the connection as to the apology’s necessary, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the apology should still be made.
One way we raise our children to be good citizens is to ensure they take responsibility for both their intentional and accidental actions. Whether they mean to hurt someone—with words or deeds—is not the point, and so many times we as parents get bogged down with the intent of the action. Instead, we should focus on the action’s outcome—hurt feelings or hurt bodies. If our child caused such hurt, whether it’s legitimate or not, whether it was on purpose or not, then the child should apologize.
In our family, we’ve tried to teach our children how to apologize. For instance, “I’m sorry,” isn’t enough. The child must say what he’s apologizing for. The child to whom the apology is given also needs to acknowledge the apology and tender forgiveness—at least verbally—by saying “I forgive you.”
Some wrongs might need more than a verbal apology. I’ve had my girls write letters of apology when they’ve hurt the feelings of a friend. The very act of putting down on paper why they are sorry can help them feel more remorse and also shows the other child their sincerity in the apology.
Children often don’t think to say they’re sorry because they’re still learning not to be self-centered. Helping them follow the Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—is key to them realizing their need to apologize.
It’s difficult to apologize, because we don’t like to be in the wrong. We should remember that our children are watching us as we do—or don’t, as the case may be—apologize for our own wrongdoings. The more sincere and quick we are to say we’re sorry, the better example we’ll be for our children to follow.
How do you handle it when your child needs to say he’s sorry?
Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach through the John Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coaching Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com.

Lessons From Russia Ball

There’s a game I played often as a child called Russia Ball. You could play by yourself or with friends. The basic game followed a set of 10 tasks, such as throwing up the ball and clapping three times before catching it, that the player completed in order. You added an extra bounce with each of the tasks to make it harder.
For Russia Ball, adding bounces of the ball to the various tasks often resulted in wild misses and gales of laughter. In our own lives, we sometimes add too much and the resulting mess is nothing at which to laugh.
At the end of the day, I often wonder how so many things conspired to go wrong or at least not the way I had planned. Most times, I can trace it back to my making things unnecessarily complicated. Kind of like adding to many bounces to the RussiaBall game when you should just stick to the basics.
A recent Monday was a prime example of that. I had my lengthy to-do list for the day and knew what I thought I needed to accomplish. Then one of my daughters needed to go to the doctor, and we all know what a big chunk of the day that will take. In my case, it took two hours plus: travel to and from doctor’s office, wait time at doctor’s office, office visit with doctor, wait for prescription from doctor, delivery of child to school and chat with school nurse about medication, and stop by pharmacy to pick up prescription. Oh, and did I mention I’d have to go back to the pharmacy tomorrow because the cream was not in stock? Add to that Monday’s early dismissal from school, plus piano lessons afterschool, and my available time for “my” tasks just shrunk in half.
But on that Monday, I managed to remember about halfway through the day that this is what God wanted for me this day. These hassles were what I needed today, that I needed more than performing my “Russia Ball” list of things. And Monday turned out to be a better day than it could have been if I had let myself stay in the frustration that had enveloped me early on.
Does it always turn out as well as my Monday ended up? For me, no! I fail more than I succeed in remembering that complications are often my own doing and if I would submit more to God, I would have less of the frustrations and more of the peace.
As I hear my girls laughing and the slap, slap of the ball as they play Russia Ball, I remind myself once again of the joys of less complicated life.
If you want directions for playing Russia Ball, send me an email through the contact page form.
Until next time,

Friend Me (Not)

Friend me, friend me not. 
Should you or should you not be your child’s friend is one of the biggest modern parenting questions. Many parents use the framework “Will my child still like me if I do X?” before making any decision, whether consciously or unconsciously. And having a child scream at you, “I hate you,” and run off crying to her room can devastate most parents.
Fifty years ago, parents didn’t worry about whether or not their children liked them. Fifty years ago, parents realized that being a good parent wasn’t going to be popular with the kids. Fifty years ago, parents knew that when a child yelled “I hate you,” it generally meant they were doing the right thing.
We need to realize that we shouldn’t worry so much about having our children’s approval. Keep in mind that by not concerning yourself with being liked by your kids, you will be a much more effective leader in your home. Someone needs to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the discipline and decision-making that is part of the growing-up process.  
Remember, the right decisions are not going to be popular. Who ever heard of a child protesting vehemently when you told him he was going out for ice cream? Children only protest when they don’t like the decision.
You as a parent should expect that one day, your child will shout to you the heart-rending words “I hate you”—because that’s what all kids do at some point. Children may say they don’t like you, but if you think about when they utter those words, it’s usually because they disagree with whatever decision (or consequence) you’ve just delivered. The reality is, you are giving them what they need, even though they can’t express it (and probably won’t appreciate it) until they are parents themselves.
Whenever the need to be liked by your children hits you, think about the future. Doing our job as leaders when our kids are under 18 lays the foundation for a lifetime of friendship. We only have a mere 18 years to train and mentor our kids, but many times over to be their friend when they become adults.
My mother and I clashed some during the teen years, and there were times when I—much to my embarrassment now—hollered that I hated her. Today, I’m grateful for the many years we’ve had of sweet friendship, of sharing and laughing and praying together, of being mother and daughter, yet friends as well. Years that I hope will continue well into the future.
So preserve in your calling as a parent, the authority in the home, by fixing your eyes on the long term goal instead of a short-term gain of being liked by your kids all the time. If we focus on raising responsible, caring, emancipated adults, we will have done our job well—and found a new friend in our grown children.
How do you handle unpopular decisions with your children?
Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the John Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coaching Institute. She’s also a freelance writer/editor, author of Hired@Homeand her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach. 

Book Spotlight: The Daughters of Bainbridge House Series by Laurie Alice Eakes

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to take a few minutes today to spotlight a series I’ve been reading, The Daughters of Bainbrigde House by Laurie Alice Eakes. This series is set during the British Regency period, which occurred in England from 1811-1820. While the secular romance market is filled with Regency Romance writers such as Julia Quinn, Loretta Chase, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverly, Eloisa James, and the list goes on, the inspirational fiction market has seen only a handful of authors write about this period.

Julie Klassen is one of the more recognized inspirational Regency authors. Her books have won numerous awards and hit the Christian Booksellers Association’s bestseller list. Laurie Alice Eakes is another inspirational Regency author whose books are quickly gaining in popularity.

In the Daughters of Bainbridge House Series, the three heroines are sisters, and also daughters of a rather controlling and politically ambitious baron, who manages to muck around in his daughter’s love lives a little too often. Here’s more about the books:

Book 1: A Necessary Deception 

 When young widow Lady Lydia Gale helps a French prisoner obtain parole, she never dreamed he would turn up in her parlor. But just as the London Season is getting under way, there he is, along with a few other questionable personages. While she should be focused on helping her headstrong younger sister prepare for her entré into London society, Lady Gale finds herself preoccupied with the mysterious Frenchman. Is he a spy or a suitor? Can she trust him? Or is she putting her family in danger?

Readers will enjoy being drawn into this world of elegance and intrigue, balls and masquerades. Author Laurie Alice Eakes whisks readers through the drawing rooms of London amid the sound of rustling gowns on this exciting quest to let the past stay in the past and let love guide the future.

Book 2: A Flight of Fancy

Cassandra Bainbridge may be a bit of a bluestocking, but when Geoffrey Giles is near, love seems a fine alternative to passion for Greek and the physics of flight. With his dashing good looks and undying devotion to her, the earl of Whittaker sets Cassandra’s heart racing with his very presence. It seems his only flaw is his distaste for ballooning, the obsession that consumes so much of her thoughts.

When a terrible accident compels her to end her betrothal, Cassandra heads for the country to recover from both her injuries and her broken heart. With time on her hands and good friends to help her, she pursues her love for ballooning and envisions a future for herself as a daring aeronaut. But when Lord Whittaker slips back into her life, will she have to choose between him and her dream?

Book 3: A Reluctant Courtship

A Reluctant Courtship releases in October 1213 and will tell the story of the youngest and most beautiful Bainbridge daughter, Honore. Honore, for all her beauty though, seems rather cursed in love and always tangles with the wrong men. It will be refreshing to see her get things right when she finally has her own story!


This week, at Regency Reflections (where I blog once a month  with the author of the Bainbridge House series), we’re having a giant party to celebrate the release of A Flight of Fancy. The author is giving away a Regency gift basket complete with tea, cookies, and even an amazon gift card. To enter the giveaway, you’ll need to participate in the fun little Regency quiz we’re giving. So if you’ve got a few minutes, head on over and join the party!

Chores, or How I’ve Stopped Cleaning the House

This summer, I revamped our household chores, realizing that it’s high time I stopped doing most of the cleaning around here. With four kids between the ages of 4 and 9, I had a ready and able army of helpers.
I sat down and wrote out all the chores I knew my kids were capable of handling. Then I wrote up specific instructions as to how those chores should be done, leaving nothing to the imagination. Finally, I mapped out who would do which chores on what days, putting in what time said chores must be accomplished. (It’s best to be as specific as possible to avoid “misunderstanding” when kids are involved.)
Reviewing the list, I realized nearly every household cleaning task could be assigned to the children, from washing the kitchen floor to vacuuming, from taking out the trash to doing the dishes. Once everything was in place, I called a family meeting and informed the children of the new chores.
While not exactly excited about the prospect—although my five-year-old did do a fist-pump upon being told his job would be setting the table for dinner—the kids have proved to be fairly proficient at cleaning. Not perfect, but with gentle instruction and encouragement, they will soon be doing it as well as any grownup.
Some parents balk at the thought of having their children “work” around the house. To that, I say, aren’t your children consumers in the family? Are they not part of the family? Then they should contribute to the upkeep of the family.
If you need more convincing, here are some positive benefits of chores.
Chores build confidence. Just listen to my oldest brag to her friend that she’s “old enough to do the dishes.” She has discovered that she’s capable of doing something without assistance, something that contributes to the family.
Chores build character, specifically a good work ethic. Being a good employee when they grow up is started by teaching them how to be a good member of the family through chores. Believe me, your child’s future employer will thank you.
Chores build responsibility. Giving your children the opportunity to serve within your family shapes their sense of responsibility.
One final note about chores and compensation: Well-meaning parents tie chores to allowances, and that can create a world of problems. To wit, if a child doesn’t want the money, then he doesn’t have to do the chore, right? Chores are service to the family—if you pay for the chore, the it’s no longer an act of service. So separate chores from allowances.
So start handing over more of the housework to your children and watch their character, confidence and responsibility grow.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about working from home.

Bad to the Bone

Babies exude innocence. After all, they are quite helpless, needing someone to feed, change, dress and do a host of other things for them.
But contrary to popular wisdom, babies are not all sweetness and light—they are, frankly, bad. They can’t help it because they—and everyone else—are born that way. It’s hard to look at your baby and think of him as a heathen in every since of the world.
Especially as mothers, we learn early on how to differentiate our baby’s cry, classifying it as hungry, sleepy, unhappy and angry. And boy, do babies get angry sometimes. They might not have words to express their angst, but they certainly have a good set of lungs and can fill the air with their angry cries.
I’ve always been amazed by parents who persist in viewing their children as angels who have to be taught to be disobedient, to steal, to lie, to cheat, to do bad things.
If you’re still not convinced, just think about your children when they were toddlers. Did you go around teaching them to scream and throw things when they didn’t get their way? Did you teach them to smack you in the face when they were angry? Did someone teach them to take toys away from other children and hit those kids over the head when they protested?
No one has to teach children to be bad—their sinful hearts can handle that task just fine. It’s our job as parents to teach them how to overcome their bad tendencies. In other words, to civilize them.
As parents, it’s much easier to get past our children’s misbehaviors and to the correction, or civilizing, if we cease to be shocked that they are behaving badly. Nothing our children do should ever surprise us—everything that’s in our own hearts are in theirs as well, and they generally lack the filters that we wear.
If we start every day reminding ourselves that our children are sinners just like we are, we will be able to react to misbehaviors in a more godly manner, and less feeling that we’re to blame for their badness.
Knowing that our children suffer from the same forms of heart sickness that we do goes a long way in helping us understand them. It also can help us stay the course in correcting their misbehaviors as we help them learn self control and to get along with others.
Our children might have been born bad to the bone, but the good news is they don’t have to stay that way.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soulbooks. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about working from home.

Summertime Blues

School is ending across the country, and with it, wails of distress from parents as they scramble for ways to fill their children’s time during the hot, sticky days of summer. I’ve heard numerous parents express dismay at the end of school, and have felt in the minority that I don’t feel as miserable as they do about having my children around all the time.
For families with both parents working, or for single parent households, I can well understand the need to find adequate childcare or camps in the summer. But for families that have one parent at home, summer is a wonderful opportunity for you and your children—and it doesn’t have to mean you are responsible for entertaining them day in and day out.
Fighting chants of “I’m bored,” or “I don’t know what to do,” or “I have nothing to do,” can be downright exhausting if you hear those or similar phrases as soon as your little darlings wake in the morning. But do not despair! I have a solution that, if followed to the letter, will ensure a summer filled with innovation and inspiration, all with just a little bit of work on your part.
First, draw up a list of things your child or children can do on their own. This can be as simple as play with a certain toy or read a book. Tailor it to the age of your child. Write down as many things as you can think of that require a minimum (read barely any) assistance from you. Type it up and label it “Things to Do When You’re Bored” or something equally catchy.
Note: Your summer will go smoother if you limit electronic screen time (TV and video/DVD watching, computer, and hand-held electronic games, etc.). Studies have shown—and, if you have ever interrupted a child involved in one of those activities—that screen time is highly addictive. Better to encourage your children in other pursuits in their leisure time. This is not a popular view, I know, but I think you’ll find it’s worth the hassle to get your kids disconnected for most of the summer.
Second, write down a list of extra chores not included in the daily or weekly list for your children. Cut into slips of paper with one chore on each slip, fold and place into a jar or other container and label “Chore Jar.”
Third, on the first day of summer vacation, sit down your kids after breakfast and hand them the “Things to Do When You’re Bored” list. Tell them that this is what they can do when they’re feeling bored or have nothing to do. Inform them that if anyone utters the words “I’m bored,” or “I have nothing to do,” or any variation thereof, that child picks a chore to do from the Chore Jar. That chore must be completed immediately to the parent’s satisfaction. Failure to do so will result in being confined to his or her room for the rest of the day and to bed after supper. This is called “making them an offer they can’t refuse.”
Fourth, follow through. When I introduced this last summer to my two older girls, they immediately said they were bored to see what kind of chores were in the Chore Jar. After completing a particular onerous task, I didn’t hear “I’m bored,” the entire summer.
For those of you who need ideas, my booklet Boredom Busters has dozens of ideas for children, as well as some chore ideas for the Chore Jar. Boredom Busters is available on Kindle and Smashwords (for the Nook, iPad, and other e-reader devices, as well as in a PDF) for only 99 cents. Leave a comment under this post for a chance to win a copy of the Boredom Busters.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about working from home.

Do Not Disturb the Family Peace

As I sat down at my computer to write a blog post for this site, I heard a ruckus upstairs. Sounds of screaming that didn’t sound quite so happy. With four children between the ages of 3 and 9, one gets used to a certain amount of loudness, but my mother’s radar detected something different in these sounds.
I followed the source to my girls’ room, where the 9-year-old was attempting to drag the 7-year-old out of the room because she “wanted her room to herself.” Never mind that the room was both of theirs, she wanted to be alone. I separated the pair for a cooling off period, thinking that a 9-year-old was a little too young to pull a Greta Garbo.
Sibling conflict can be overwhelming, especially when you have a mix of ages and genders. Most of the time, my children do play well together with a minimum of fuss. But it’s inevitable that conflict will raise its ugly head at times.
The way you as a parent handle sibling clashes can help—or hinder—how your children interact with each other. Here’s how we handle sibling clashes.
We decided that we would not play referee. It was not our job to intervene when the wailing started out of sight. We would not judge who was right and who was wrong. No assigning roles of victim or villain for us. If we happened to actually see the wrongdoing, that was another thing. But we would not participate after the fact in their disagreements. We would give kisses, but would not encourage tattling.
To enforce this, we created a chart and stuck it to the refrigerator. Titled “Do Not Disturb the Family Peace,” the chart outlined what would earn every child a ticket:
  1. Keep it down. (Do not become too boisterous or noisy.)
  2. No hurting each other. (Do not hit, punch, push or otherwise maim your siblings.)
  3. No tattling. (Do not become a snitch on your siblings.)
Clipped to the fridge beside this chart are three tickets, pieces of laminated paper. For each infraction, the entire group loses one ticket. If all three tickets are lost, the entire group goes directly to their rooms for the rest of the day and directly to bed after supper.
This eliminates the problem of trying to figure out what happened. It doesn’t really matter who was at fault, does it? What this system is doing is putting the resolution of conflict onto the children, where it belongs.
When I heard my two girls going at it, I simply walked in, said they were disturbing the family peace and directed one to get a ticket. No arguing, no drama. Then I walked out.
So far, in the two months we’ve had this system in place, they have yet to lose all three tickets. And if they do, I’ll enjoy a nice day without kids underfoot, and a more relaxing evening with my husband.
Now, would it be terrible of me to wish they would lose all three tickets one day….?
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginiawith her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about working from home.

The Myth of Free Time

In the fall, all four of my children will be in school, albeit not all full-time (my youngest will be in a three-day preschool program). Whenever this comes up in conversation, the enviable response is, “What will you do with all of your free time?”
Ah, free time—that mythical land to which every mother longs to go. As someone who currently works part-time from home, I rarely have free time now, and I don’t anticipate that changing once the children are in school.
I think the bigger question is what does this say about the current view of mothering. My mother stayed at home, but her time wasn’t consumed by doing for—or entertaining—me. Sure, household chores ate up some time, but once we were older than three, time spent in childcare dropped considerably for women of my mother’s generation.
That kind of mothering has fallen out of favor, and with it the rise of no time, free or otherwise. I am grateful for my mother’s example, for it gives me the fortitude to follow in her footsteps. Direct care of my children has lessened as they age; correspondingly, time I spend taking care of the household has also dropped as the children have picked up more of the cleaning chores.
In turn, that has allowed me to pick up some of the things that I put on hold when the children first arrived: reading, writing, knitting and sewing, for example.
While I’m looking forward to a quieter house next fall, I won’t have to worry about how to fill my suddenly “free time” since my time has always been mine to fill. I’ll take the 24 hours given to us each day and try to use it wisely—just like I do now.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about working from home.

Merry-Go-Round: Old Fashioned Fun

With March proving to be delightful in the weather department, we’ve been visiting playgrounds recently. On one visit, for nearly the entire half hour or so we were there, my three oldest children played on one piece of equipment: the merry-go-round. Laughter, squeals of pretend terror, sheer joy on the faces of the children hanging on for dear life as other kids ran as fast as they could in the grooved circle—what could be a better picture of childhood?
Nearly every non-preschooler who came to the playground made a beeline directly for the merry-go-round. I sat on a nearby bench and watched the interplay between the kids, and was heartened to see everyone getting along. Chants of “Push us, push us,” were answered by someone leaping off and racing around. When my youngest son (age 3) got on and then decided he wanted off shortly after the rotations began, a kid yelled, “Stop, someone wants to get off,” and they slowed to allow my son to slid off.
What other piece of equipment can teach children how to get along with one another better than a merry-go-round? There’s so many life lessons to be learned while spinning until you’re dizzy.
But we adults have over-reacted to the merry-go-round’s potential harm by suing playground equipment manufacturers, and cities and schools that had parks with merry-go-rounds installed. Sure some kids have gotten hurt on merry-go-rounds, but what I find more disturbing is our increasing desire to wrap our children in cotton wool to avoid any booboos or skinned knees (hence the tendency to make them wear knee and elbow pads while bike riding or rollerblading).
No one wants our children to get hurt psychically, and we should put a stop to obviously dangerous things. On the other hand, giving children the freedom to spread their wings and fly around the world on a merry-go-round can be wonderful to their own development.
Let them see the world outside is to be explored and conquered, not feared and avoided. Let them experience the joys and pains of mastering things like bike riding and monkey bars. Let them view the world from a different perspective by climbing trees or hanging upside from the swing set.
Sure, you might have to stock up on band-aids and kiss a few more hurts, but if you can resist the urge to place your children inside a bubble, you might just find out that they are tougher than you think. Hearing your children describe their outdoor adventures can be a priceless experience in itself.
So keep the cotton wool safely tucked away, and go find a park with a merry-go-round, but I’d avoid jumping on board unless you have a stomach of iron. Some things are better left to the kids.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and editor, and author of Hired@Home, a guide to unlocking women’s work-from-home potential now available on Kindle. Her stories have appeared in previous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about working from home.