Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever! is filled with dozens of stories praising mothers: happy stories, bittersweet stories, funny stories and zany stories. My story, “A Mom to Many,” is included in this new edition, just out in March 2017.

Order your copy through my website, and I’ll personalize an inscription, plus include a special Best Mom Ever! bookmark. Place your order today, and receive free shipping to an address in the United States. Order by May 5 to ensure delivery by Mother’s Day (May 14).

Only $14.99–includes shipping to a U.S. address. This item will NOT be shipped to an international address. Please enter your inscription into the text box, then click “Buy Now” to purchase your copy. Sarah will inscribe your book before shipping it.


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Entertaining Adults (Even When You Have Kids)

Many parents give up on entertaining adults when their kids are still at home. My articles, “Once kids enter the picture, can parents still entertain?” in today’s Washington Post Local Living section gives some tips on how to have successful dinners, parties and informal gatherings with an adult focus without leaving out the kids.

Here’s some snippets that didn’t make it into that piece.

On why parents give up entertaining.
“There are many reasons parents give up on entertaining. A very common one I have encountered is that not all your guests have children or are comfortable with children being in adult spaces. Or from a different perspective, parents often feel that the event must be all-inclusive and haven’t figured out how to compartmentalize or blend adult entertainment with the kids present,” said Anitra Durand Allen with Experience Bliss Coaching.

“I think the stress of being interrupted and not being able to truly enjoy conversation and adult time with friends leads to many parents thinking they can’t entertain while the kids are still at home. … But, we often forget that it’s really about spending time and connecting with people we care about versus a perfect home or a gourmet meal. Don’t underestimate a surface clean and straightening up of your house paired with food ordered from your favorite restaurant or a stack of delivery pizzas – it’s about having time together versus everything being perfect,” encouraged Jamie O’Donnell with Jamie O’ & Co.

Image courtesy of KEKO64/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On how to overcome fear to entertain.
“Parents know that it’s likely someone will have a meltdown, the house won’t be as clean as they’d like, or they’ll be too stressed and short on time to cook a nice meal. To overcome it, I think parents need to then match those realizations with their expectations and planning. I am an advocate for keeping things simple while entertaining. You can pull together a memorable experience for guests with a few thoughtful touches while keeping everything else simple. … I think as long as parents adjust their host and hostessing style to reflect the current environment in their home they can successfully entertain at any stage of life,” said Tori Tait, founder of ThoughtfullySimple.com.

“Parenting competition exists, and keeping up with the Joneses isn’t just about a better house, car or lawn — it’s about better behaved children. Worried that their kids don’t have the goods to compete and win, they throw in the towel on entertaining to hedge against that type of competition. Overcoming this fear of not living up to community standards is about self-esteem as well as exposing yourself to the fact that other peoples’ homes and families may seem perfect, but aren’t,” said April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert.

Yet God

By Doreen Hanna

Did you feel your dreams came true the moment you held your new born for the first time? Then delighted in their first word or step? Quickly, months turned into years, and those cherished moments seemed to lessen, and now became a lesson because it was more about discipline then delightful pleasures. Did you begin to wonder, “Is this really an honor?”

You are not alone because I believe most every parent has felt that way at some point throughout their journey.

Yet God. At times in my motherhood days, just those two words would take my focus off myself and lead me to remember that he holds this role of ours in his highest esteem. When God led Moses to write the Ten Commandments, he desired to have our hard labor recognized. “Honor your Father and Mother… and your days shall be long.” This is the only commandment with a promise. I believe it comes because it is the highest calling of our lives.

Fulfilling our calling begins with God refining us. Often times that is how he equip us to raise them.

I remember when our youngest daughter, Kamy, was in high school. One day she told me about an essay she had to write on who she most admired. Secretly, I was hoping it might be me. However, she chose her youth leader, Alane. I had to agree. Often Alane’s words of wisdom resonated in Kamy’s heart where I couldn’t reach. I remember helping Kamy list the qualities in Alane that were most significant to acknowledge. She wrote the essay that earned her an A+.

A year later Kamy came home from school and said, “Hey Mom, read this. I got an A on it today.” I began reading. It was another essay, this time about me. I wept, first because I felt so undeserving of the honor that she bestowed upon in her written words. Then remembered those two words… Yet God. By his grace, he gave me one of the sweetest and most memorable gifts I could have ever imagined, discovering the loving and appreciative feelings Kamy had in her heart for her mom. After wiping my tears, I hugged Kamy tightly, then confessed that I had hoped she would have considered me when she wrote about Alane. She replied, “I know mom, but I wasn’t ready.” I recognized then that God had a work to do in my heart before such an honor as this could be bestowed.

Remember, the best way we will influence our children’s behavior is when we change our own. As Proverbs 15:33 says, “Before honor comes humility.”

About Doreen Hanna
Founder and president of Modern Day Princess (MDP), Doreen Hanna travels internationally training MDP leaders and loves to speak to audiences of parents, teen girls, and women of all ages. She is the co-author of Raising a Modern Day Princess and the newly released Raising a Young Modern Day Princess. Books are available at:
www.moderndayprincess.net
www.Amazon.com
www.Christianbook.com.

Is the Pen Mightier Than a First Grader’s Attitude?

Q: My 7-year-old first grader received notice that he did not meet district standards for penmanship/writing the past two quarters on his report card. I have printed out worksheets for him to copy what direction pencil strokes should be made, but he just throws a fit and cries rather than try to work through the worksheets. We practice spelling words 15 minutes a day, five days  a week. He seems to have a laissez fair attitude about most things and seems to just not care. He is a left-handed writer. He could put more care into how he holds his pencil. He could put more effort into it. I ask him to leave a space the size of two fingers between words and he doesn’t. How can I get him to care? BTW, his reading level is ahead of his peers.

Image courtesy of kdshutterman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: I don’t think you’ll like this, but the short answer is you can’t get him to care about something he doesn’t want to care about. This is true of the child who is 7, 10, 15 or 26. You can’t make anyone care about something, so stop trying to make him “care.” He’s not going to, and the more you pressure him to care, the more he will dig in his heels and refuse. Save yourself some angst and quit trying to make the kid care.

Now, about that not meeting district standards. Our school system also has the same “grading” system that you refer to, and I get that you’re concerned about his “failure” to improve his handwriting. But good grief, Mom, he’s seven. He’s left-handed. He’s reading well above his peers. What more do you want from a first grader???

If you want him to begin to hate school and learning, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you want him to love school and learning, I recommend implementing the following changes pronto.

  1. Stop making him practice spelling 15 minutes every day. His time after school would be much better spent playing outside, jumping on a mini trampoline inside, reading for fun, etc. In other words, doing typical boy things (but without electronics) for most of his time at home after school. Don’t think of him as “wasting time”—there have been numerous studies that show the value of free play in a child’s overall mental, social and spatial/motor skills development. This is part of his job as a kid—to decompress, to let off steam, to figure out how the world works, so don’t deny him a good healthy dose of play each day.
  2. Let go of your expectations for “grades” at this age. It sounds like he’s doing very well overall, so please, stop harping about his handwriting! Sure, leave the handwriting worksheets around, but don’t make him do them. Again, at his age, his motor skills have probably not caught up with his brain, so forming proper letters is probably frustrating and hard for him. He’ll outgrow this—but he won’t outgrow the resentment and stress of your standing over him making him do handwriting worksheets.
  3. Get some perspective. He’s not going to fail first grade because he gets consistent low marks in handwriting. My youngest son went through the same thing in first grade and he still gets the occasional low marks related to handwriting in the third grade. While he has improved, we didn’t make it the be-all, end-all of his academic career in first grade (or second grade, or third grade…). We focused instead on helping him to care about doing his work to best of his ability, to follow the teacher’s instructions, etc. In other words, we’re more focused on ensuring he becomes a good student, not that his work receives high marks.
  4. Think of the future. Some people simply don’t have good handwriting. While penmanship is important, it’s not the most important thing your son will learn or accomplish. Think more about the kind of person you want him to be at age 30 than on the fact that he got several low marks in handwriting at the age of 7.
  5. Finally, make it fun. Last summer, I bought my son a handwriting book for boys so that he could practice on his own. Writing things like “Girls are weird” and other boy-things was fun for him. I didn’t hound him about practicing in the book, and I did catch him a time or two doing it on his own. Usually, my kids all participate in a writing club during the summer, where they spend time writing stories together. Those kind of things are low-key and provide practice in a non-academic, low-stakes atmosphere.

Things You Never Thought You’d Say as a Parent

 

We all say strange things to our kids! This month’s original cartoon caption is from J from Kentucky. After J and her two daughters watched a “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” episode, this happened. “Strangely enough, this incident occurred between two girls, with the younger one (age 5) wanting to take a sip,” J related.

Post your “Things You Never Thought You’d Say as a Parent” comment below–yours might be featured as a cartoon!

 

A Manageable Routine for a Teen

Q: I need help regarding the evening routine for my 16-year-old daughter, after she arrives home after her sport, which is usually 5 p.m., during the week. She has ADHD and says she needs to decompress when she gets home before launching into chores/homework. That has translated into procrastination on phone/computer, getting homework done too late, or maybe not completed and getting to bed too late. She doesn’t have a bedtime—as she says, “Mom, don’t you think I want to go to sleep? I will go to bed, when all my work is done.”

I want to take electronics away for a certain amount of time at night. But then she says she needs her devices to do homework. Can I make her go to bed at a particular time? She takes rigorous courses and does have a lot of work, she just doesn’t manage her time well.

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: I can tell by your question that this is a topic that has gone round and round between you and your daughter without any changes or resolution on either side. I do have some advice, but I’m not sure it will be what you want to hear because simply put: The only person in this equation who you can change is you. But changing how you approach this will help your relationship with your daughter and help her to take full responsibility for her time. However, if you follow my advice, you might not see any improvement in the current situation, i.e., how your daughter manages her time, but you will see improvement in your own stress about the matter.

One thing to note first: We all handle transitions differently. Some of us can move smoothly from one task or situation to another, while others need mini-breaks to transition from school to home. You might see her decompression time as wasteful, but it might be what she needs to clear her brain from the school day and focus on the afternoon/night ahead.

Those disclaimers out of the way, here’s what I would do (and do with my own middle schoolers who have homework on the computer): You have an end time when everything electronic is shut down for the night, including personal devices (phones), etc. Decide on what that time will be. For the sake of this answer, we’re going with 9 p.m.

Then tell your daughter that you’re sorry you’ve been trying to manage her time for her, that you are giving that back to her. You will not be asking her about homework or what she’s doing. After she expresses her delight in this, inform her that all electronic devices (computers, laptops, tablets, phones) will be shut down (and turned in to you in the case of the portable ones) by 9 p.m. each evening. Tell her that this is a non-negotiable time. If she hasn’t managed to finish her homework or check in with her friends by 9 p.m., that’s just too bad for her.

Now, be prepared that for the first night (or the first few weeks), she will blithely ignore this and procrastinate as usual. I’d give her a 10-minute warning (maybe set a kitchen timer) at 8:50 p.m. to finish up. Then when 9 p.m. rolls around, you enforce the shut down and confiscate the devices. She will plead, beg, cajole, throw a tantrum, etc., that she “has” to finish XYZ, to which you simply shrug and act very sorry she didn’t have enough time. Remind her she can get up early the next day to finish it before school if she likes, but that’s it for tonight.

The only thing you have to do is brace yourself for the fallout and don’t cave in. The first time will be the hardest but the sky will not fall. Her grades might slip for a short period of time, but you are giving her a lesson that’s worth a few lower grades–the ability to figure out how to manage her time by herself.

I Mix Up Your Name Because I Love You

Finally, scientific studies show that moms—like me!—who can’t seem to spit out their own child’s name have a really good reason: we love our kids.

My mom used to call me Vicki or Shawn, my two older sisters, often when I was growing up. Trouble was, because of the large age gap between them and me, Vicki and Shawn had grown and moved out of the house by the time I was in grade school. To this day, she’ll call me one of my sister’s names (thank goodness, not my brothers’!). So why did my mom constantly get my name wrong?

Of course, I thought it was simply something my mom did—drove me crazy sometimes, but hey, she’s, er, older than I am, so it makes certain sense. Then I had a daughter, then another, and all of a sudden, I’m calling “Leaomi” when I mean to say Leah or Naomi. My two boys have names that don’t roll together so easily, but I still call Micah by his brother’s name, Silas, and vice versa. Sometimes, I can’t even get any name out even though I’m staring right at the kid.

Image courtesy of Ventrilock/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What a relief to know there’s a scientific reason for this! Yep, we massacre our kids’ names because, well, we love them.

A recent Babble article looked at a 2016 review of five studies of more than 1,700 participants on the problem of misnaming (the report was published in Memory and Cognition). Most often, it was the mothers who called the respondents by the wrong name, but those naming mistakes happened in nearly all family members and friends. While sometimes the misnomers were found to be because of similar sounding names, more often, the wrong names were said because of love.

“Overall, the misnaming of familiar individuals is driven by the relationship between the misnamer, misnamed, and named,” the study stated. That means, the closer we are to someone, the more probable we’ll mix up his or her name.

Because our brain organizes material into the semantic network (like a mental filing system—think Inside Out), we group similar information together. Hence, the propensity for moms to mix-up their children’s names or run through the entire list before landing on the right one.

So kids, it’s just because I love you so much that I can’t get your names right.

Tackling the Small Stuff

Q: My wife and I are discussing smaller issues in our household in which we want to train our children. Examples of these issues are leaving lights on when leaving a room, shutting door during rest time, putting jackets and shoes away when coming home or putting clothes in the hamper. When we talked about what consequence we would give for these minor violations, we discussed giving extra chores. What advice do you have for us in this?

A: This is a great questions, because it’s the little things that can drive us crazy, right? The shoes left yet again in the middle of the living room floor instead of being put away in the shoe basket. The coat draped over the chair every day after school instead of being hung up in the closet. The stack of collectors cards left on the floor each evening in a high traffic area.

Image courtesy of vorakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some of these minor infractions are labeled as such because it bothers us. Some are wasteful (lights left on in rooms with no one present, for example). The reason you want something done isn’t as important as how you present the task and how you motivate their cooperation.

A few years ago, my four kids couldn’t “remember” to turn out a light when leaving an empty room to save their lives. Only when I hit upon the solution of putting the miscreant to bed 10 minutes early did their ability to turn out lights improve drastically. So there is hope, but I wouldn’t have a consequence be extra chores necessarily, unless it’s more of a natural consequence, i.e., the consequence for not putting dirty clothes in the hamper was doing everyone’s laundry that week.

However, since you have quite a list of minor offensives, I would pick one to start with and focus only on that one, such as turning out lights, for a few weeks. Once the kids have mastered that, move on to the next item on your list. (You can order them according to how much they bother you and work on what drives you the craziest first). Don’t try to get all of them at once, or you’ll be policing your kids all the time and they will feel like they can’t do anything right.

As for consequences, think outside the chore box—you’ll want to shake things up a bit to keep the kids on their toes. If you want to have some fun, write down a list of consequences and pick one at random for violations. You could even have a minor violations consequences jar with slips of paper listing punishments. Remember that the punishment does NOT have to equal the crime. Sometimes, you’ll go with natural consequences (doing everyone’s laundry when leaving dirty clothes on the floor), sometimes with outrageous ones (as in you gather all the dirty clothes up and put them in a box for a month, including any favorite pieces of clothing).

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that it’s not so much for the sake of the task (turning off lights) as much as it is to increase a child’s awareness of his surroundings. A child who constantly leaves his bookbag in the middle of the living room floor for everyone to walk around is a child who’s not paying attention to his family. He’s willing to inconvenience everyone else because he can’t be bothered to put his bookbag in its proper place. Think of this as helping a child create more awareness of others (and exhibit less selfish behavior) than as addressing your particular pet peeves.

Just Because It’s the Right Thing

Q: I have a soon to be 15-year-old son in ninth grade. He is in a scholar program at a private school, and he has earned a partial scholarship based on his academic abilities. He also is in his third year of a gifted math program at a local college. His grades have begun to fluctuate. He is not earning good scores in the math program. He seems to only care about playing his computer, the shooting games popular with his age group. He has only been allowed to play on weekends if his grades are up to par (above a 90%).

He is capable of these grades. So now I have taken all technology away for this upcoming quarter. He says that he doesn’t care anymore if he loses everything. He is not going to improve his grades. I am worried that I am being too excessive. Is the consequence appropriate?

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: The short answer is yes, taking away technology for the quarter in order to motivate your son to improve his grades is appropriate. However, what your worry indicates is that you assumed that would “make” him change his tune about his grades/schoolwork. He’s doing what any teenager does—testing to see if you’re really serious by saying “he doesn’t care” about the consequence.

You’ve run into the paradox that is parenting: A parent can do the right thing and the child can still do the wrong thing, but that doesn’t mean the parent stops doing the right thing.

You are doing the right thing by taking away his electronics. Now he has a choice—he can continue to thumb his nose at schoolwork and fail even more or he can buckle down and get back to business. He might *say* he doesn’t care, but stick to the plan and he might come around on his accord. Fold now, and he’ll know that you don’t mean what you say or say what you mean. That will cause many more problems in the future than a few dismal grades in the present.

And be prepared that he might flame out entirely. But at 15, he’s old enough to face the academic consequences of that choice. Yes, those consequences could be far-reaching at this stage in his academic career but again, that’s on him, not you. It’s his life and his choice to do the best he can with what God has given him—or to waste it all by not applying himself.

I know this is tough for you to watch, but you’ve done the right thing. Now it’s up to your son.