3 Ways to Not Be a Drama Mama  

By Cindi McMenamin

Would you classify yourself as a Drama Mama?

I don’t think any of us sets out to be high maintenance or over-emotional when it comes to parenting.

But we can be drama queens when our kids are hit with unexpected circumstances and we’re unprepared to handle them. We can be drama mamas when we come up against other moms with different personalities who carry with them their own set of emotional baggage, learned behaviors, expectations, and an ability to misunderstand, misinterpret, exaggerate, gossip, disappoint, and act selfishly and inconsiderate. Just being around other people can elicit drama in any of us.

I’d like to think I’m never the cause of anyone else’s drama. But in reality, I can play into unnecessary drama at times without even realizing it.

Whether our drama is the petty stuff (like being gossiped about by another mom) or the truly painful stuff (like our child being bullied, left out or diagnosed with a medical condition that presents a challenge to the whole family), how we respond makes all the difference – or all the drama – in the world.

Here are three steps to help you NOT be a drama mama – to save your children from embarrassment and for your own sanity:

  1. Consider the bigger picture. Life–and therefore every circumstance you encounter–is meant to conform you to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Once you consider this, you can relax and realize God knows what He’s doing in the circumstances He’s allowing. And you can focus on passing the test, rather than failing it through unnecessary drama.
  2. Capture your thoughts. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we are instructed to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ because we are in a spiritual war in which the enemy of our souls will do his best to run rampant through our thought life, creating doubt, fear, and confusion.

To take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ means capturing or binding them with the truth of God’s Word. Instead of entertaining a loose thought like “I can’t get through this situation” capture that thought with the truth of God’s Word: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Or instead of entertaining the thought “I’m alone in this,” capture that thought with the truth that Christ has said He’ll never leave you nor desert you (Hebrews 13:5). The more we know of God’s Word, the better we will be able to tame our reckless, wild thoughts.

  1. Correct Your Thinking. When you begin to feel overwhelmed by life and start to freak out, ask yourself: “What is true about this situation?” Instead of focusing on the “what ifs” or your feelings or fears, focus on the facts. As yourself: “What am I believing about God that isn’t true?” or “What am I fearing as opposed to what is really going on?” When our feelings lead us down a dark tunnel of despair, we need to switch on the facts of what we know about God–and the situation–to direct us back out.

When we know Who God is and what He is capable of, our worries, fears, and freak-outs can be stilled.

About Cindi McMenamin
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. For more on balancing your emotions and being the best woman, wife, and mom you can be, see her new book, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, now available at her website, www.StrengthForTheSoul.com, or anywhere you buy books.

 

 

Separation Anxiety

Q: I need any advice on how to approach separation problems for my 3- (almost 4) year-old son. My husband and I teach his Sunday School class every other week, but the weeks with other teachers, we have trouble dropping him off. He has asked me almost every morning for the past year if we’re going to church that day. The second question is if we’re teaching his class. Today, we were not teaching and he became upset, tried to run away at the door, and when forced to go in, tried to hit another friend. We took him out and calmed him down before trying again. He had gotten to a point where he would go in fairly willingly, but it’s gotten much worse lately. I don’t know what has changed or what to do about it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: It sounds like you’re playing Parent Detective in trying to discover why your preschooler suddenly doesn’t want to be without you in some social situations. But because he’s three, he probably has no idea why he doesn’t want to be alone in a classroom without mom or dad there. What is clear is that he’s not ready to be on his own at this time.

Sometimes, when kids are growing into a new stage developmentally, they regress a bit socially, and that sounds like what’s happening with your son. And because he’s becoming more physical in demonstrating his anxiety, you’ll need to simply stop trying to make him do this.

Each week you’re not teaching, tell him that he has a choice—he can go into his classroom by himself or he can sit quietly with you in your classroom. When he says stay with you, remind him that he must be quiet (and make sure you’ve brought a coloring book or something to occupy him during your class) and take him in with you.

What you shouldn’t do is try to convince him there’s nothing to be afraid of or to force him at age 3 to go to class by himself. And don’t discuss this other than to ask him once what he wants to do each time. The more you talk about a problem at this age, the bigger it looms in the child’s mind and a molehill morphs into a mountain.

He will likely outgrow this and start to want more independence, but until he does, you’re better off not forcing the issue.

Those Fighting Girls

Q: My two girls, ages 2 and 3, constantly fight when together (expect for one to three minutes at the beginning of play). My 3 year old is aggressive to her younger sister in the forms of hitting, scratching, bossing/bully, and making her do her work. The 2 year old has no trust with her sister, and if the 3 year old comes close, the 2 year old will automatically defend herself by hitting, scratching, screaming and biting. I also have a 6-month-old baby and I can’t watch these girls every second, nor should I have to watch them every second.

I feel very paralyzed to accomplish minor tasks around the house because these two can’t be trusted. I try to ignore some of the fighting, but they harm each other pretty good if I don’t intervene after a minute. What are ways to minimize the sibling rivalry and build trust between the two?

Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: Believe it or not, they will stop constantly fighting, but that day isn’t going to come soon! My two oldest are similarly close in age and girls as well, so I well remember the battles between them at 2 and 3! So, what’s a mother to do?

Separation is your friend. As much as possible, direct the girls to play in different areas of the house or room with different toys. When you hear the first yelp, intervene to separate the two of them. Don’t pick sides, but remove the toy and redirect. Repeat. This will take some time because the girls have gotten into a bad habit of fighting.

Then in quieter times, work with them on how to play together. Perhaps when the baby naps in the morning, spend 10 or 15 minutes playing alongside the girls, directing them gently but firmly on how to play together. Show them by doing, and they’ll catch on about sharing, etc. This isn’t something kids learn on their own!

Also help the girls do nice things for each other, like bringing toys they like or having the older sister “read” a book to the younger one. This type of interaction—again, directed by you—will help build more positive interactions with each other. My book, Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, has a lot of other suggestions on building positive sibling relationships and conflict resolution. You can order a copy through my webstore.

Clinginess, Tantrums, Screaming…Welcome to the Twos!

Q: I have boy/girl twins who just turned two years old. We are experiencing an increase in several behavior issues that seem to be compounded by a very recent move and also minor illness, from which they are now recovered. Here are my specific questions:

1) How do I manage my son’s clinginess? Specifically, he wants to be constantly carried (up and down stairs, into school, to the car, etc.). He has always been a very challenging personality, but even more so recently. I have been complying when he asks properly (saying please and without whining), but it is becoming very difficult with him getting bigger. I would prefer he walks most of the time like his sister.

2) Screaming/tantrums are occurring almost constantly by both. They are well-fed and rested, and we have good routines in place. The tantrums are a result of not getting what they want right away, especially not having my husband’s or my full attention.

3) Do we make a temporary exception to any of these issues due to the recent move and illness? And if so, what and for how long? With the move last week their normal routine was totally abandoned, but everything is back to normal this week.

Image courtesy of marin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: First of all, this is normal behavior. Truly it is! Toddlers are volatile creatures, that’s for sure. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde wrapped into a dynamo package. And twins sometimes feed off each other, making the typical toddler challenges doubled. So, to answer your questions…

The son’s clinginess: He might not be getting enough time with you each day, so try to have more touch points. Read him a short book right after breakfast. Give him more unexpected hugs. Hug him when he wants to be carried, then put him down. Hold his hand when walking. That should lesson some of his clinginess, but stop carrying him around.

The tantrums: At this age, I’d stick with containment in a crib if possible or just hold the screaming child tightly (if you can) to calm him or her down. Yes, this is a child who wants what he/she wants when he/she wants it, and no one’s going to tell him or her otherwise. Hence the screaming.

The other factors: 3. You take into consideration the mitigating factors which help you not lose your cool, but you still handle the tantrums the same. It will take a little while for your routine to reassert itself but don’t be surprised if your toddlers want to forge a new one (like dropping a nap). This is the high growth stage mentally and physically, so expect ups and downs in personalities and behavior.

Above all, remember that this is only a stage, and it won’t last forever. Hang in there and keep loving on those little munchkins! Soon this will be all in the past and you’ll have moved on to the threes.

Please, Correct My Children

The subject of the email sent by a neighbor—Boys Riding Bikes—made me hesitate before clicking on it. With the advent of warm weather (finally!), my four kids played outside almost constantly, and riding bikes was their top choice of outdoor activities. The boys in question were at the time 6 and 8, and were limited to riding on our street unless with their older sisters.

I admit my heart started pounding as I considered what admonishment might be contained in the email. Had my boys run someone off the sidewalk? Had they shouted something inappropriate at the neighbor? Staring at the screen wasn’t going to answer my questions, so I opened the email.

The tone was warm and friendly, and the writer—a father himself—said how much he enjoyed seeing our boys enjoying themselves on their bikes. Then he kindly pointed out that he had noticed the pair hadn’t looked before crossing a street, and he wanted to let me know before an accident happened.

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With a sigh of relief—and a mental note to remind the boys of the look-both-ways-before-crossing-street-rule coupled with a restriction on their biking movements to reinforce the seriousness of not complying—I told the neighbor how grateful I was that he took the time to point out the incident and thanked him for looking out for my boys.

Later I thought about why it’s so difficult these days for us to make the effort to look out for each other’s children, to alert parents to potentially dangerous situations and to help make our communities safe for all kids, not just our own. I think it boils down to fear. Fear that our overtures will be unwelcome. Fear that we’ve misread the circumstances. Fear that our gestures will be met with vitriol. Fear that we will overstep societal boundaries.

For generations, mothers didn’t worry about those things. If they saw a neighbor kid acting in a way that wasn’t right, they called him on it. If they were the closest adult to a child in a potentially hurtful situation, they acted. The parents of those children didn’t react with anger that someone—sometimes, a stranger—had taken it upon themselves to get involved in their child’s life. No, they generally supported the actions and reprimanded their child later for her misbehavior.

That this has ceased to be the norm is both sad and frightening. It’s sad that we’ve lost the camaraderie among mothers to care for all children near our own. It’s sad that we’ve neglected to be aware of other kids, choosing instead to focus exclusively on our own. It’s sad that we don’t get to know our neighbors and their kids because we’re too busy.

It’s also frightening that we’re more apt to call the police than approach children by themselves to see if they’re okay. It’s frightening that we allow fear to rule our parenting decisions, rather than commonsense. It’s frightening that we’ve forgotten how communities that pull together and that know one another are communities that look out for one another—and the children.

But we can change that! This summer, I challenge each of you to be a positive force in your neighborhood. When you see a child not your own doing something wrong, gently correct him. When you come across an unsafe situation, admonish in a kind way. When you see a child hurt, offer comfort. When someone does that to one of your kids, respond with thanks.

We underestimate the power of goodwill toward kids—especially those not our own. The more we act like we care about all children we come in contact with, the better our neighborhoods, cities and countries will become.

Until next time,
Sarah

 

 

High Schoolers & The Internet

Q: Please help me navigate the Internet access issue for high schoolers. I know it’s recommended for kids to do their homework in their own rooms (so they know they are responsible), but I also know they shouldn’t have TVs and Internet access in their rooms. We don’t have TVs in bedrooms, but high schoolers require laptops with Internet access to check homework given, do research, and some online program/assignments. I know my teenagers also view content that is not beneficial and is time wasting in addition to homework. What do you recommend?

Image courtesy of tiniroma/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: We’ve never required our kids to do their homework in their rooms simply because with four kids, each share a room and there’s simply no space for a desk or other surface conducive to homework in their bedrooms. But we still apply the principle in that we ignore their homework—it is their responsibility completely. As soon as they were reading well (sometime in first grade), we stopped helping them on a regular basis. We do allow the occasional question, and have clearly communicated that we will not run out and buy X, Y or Z for a last-minute project.

So our kids do their homework at the dining room table (we have an open floor plan) and the computers available to our middle schoolers for homework are centralized to the kitchen/dining /living room area. This allows us to keep an eye on what they’re doing, looking at, etc., but we steer clear of involvement. This has helped immensely with them not trying to sneak watching things and it has helped us monitor computer usage in general.

Our computer usage rules are simple: Three hours a day to include homework time and the computers are off limits at 7 p.m. each evening (well, we allow a little extra on Friday nights!). This means that they must have homework that needs to be done online finished by 7 p.m. each evening.

I share that to help you devices your own computer/electronic device policy. In my experience, having a set “off” time each evening will be more effective than telling them when to do their homework. Have them move their laptops to a central area so you can keep an eye on what they’re doing (or not doing). Also have a docking station for all electronic devices to be plugged in and left overnight to avoid the temptation to check who’s texting who at 3 a.m.

They may complain that it’s not enough time for them to do their homework, to which you shrug and say that you hope they will figure out how to make it work because that’s the new shutoff time. Then stick with it, even though they will probably come to you in a panic a time or two saying they haven’t finished. When they do, point out that they can certainly get up earlier to finish before school!

And practice good device usage yourself. It’s one thing to insist on down time from electronics for your kids and another to not put down the devices yourself. Develop technology free zones, such as during dinner and on Sundays, to help kids stay connected to the family and the real world.

The Roller-Coaster Ride of Parenting

By Ellie Gustafson

That our children turned out well might indicate we did something right as parents. Even though bad kids can come from good parents, God is the moderator in such matters. Parenting works best when plugged tightly to Him.

Both Jim and I had good parents. They gave us books, music, and places for the imagination. They loved us with firmness. Our small town was safe. Church was a given, and except for my parents splitting up, I had an idyllic childhood.

But how would my parenting go? First of all, what do you know in your early 20s? Not much, and we made lots of mistakes. Doing it over, I’d go about it differently, learning from today’s excellent books on parenting.

What did we do right?

  • Play—our most valuable tool. We romped on the floor, chased the kids, played games, read aloud, taught skills (boys sewing buttons, girls changing tires) and generally had
  • A pow-wow around a fake campfire in the middle of our living room gave each of us opportunity to bring up topics, and we’d talk briefly about each. As parents, we could discuss a range of sticky things.
  • I learned mid-course that encouragement was a better “fixer” than admonishment and saw child #3 go from slouch to straight after we changed our ways.
  • We bought a large forest as a tree farm. Like, just plain woods. No electricity, running water, shelter, bathroom. We all learned to make do without the basics. The boys ran chainsaws and drove truck and tractor. Rachel, though, balked at firewood hauling and opted to train as a Christian camp counselor. We sent her off with our blessing.
  • Daily devotions were a sometimes thing, but we tried to model our faith in day-to-day choices and conversations.

What did we do wrong?

  • How do we sin? Let me count the ways… Observing sinful parents who are saved by grace isn’t a bad lesson for kids to learn.
  • We were selfish, often inconsiderate of our children’s needs and schedules. I remember making son Eric wait nearly a half hour to be picked up—for some frivolous reason. He was not pleased, and I’ve always felt bad about it.
  • We slept in, requiring our kids to make their own breakfast and school lunches. They rose to that reality with reasonable grace, but it was not a good thing.

My bottom-line advice? Be there. Be available. Be supportive. Be positive, even in correction. [Oh, I’m sorry you chose to do that. What can you learn from it?] Give choices; make consequences clear. Train in self-management—money, habits, choosing friends, etc. Hard work, yes, but the rewards are eternal.

Proof of the pudding:

Eric and Lee—You gave us fun things to do (Indian clothes, tepee, snow trains), and even dangerous stuff (chain saws, driving tractors, logging). We appreciate you!

Rachel–You’re a fine example of life-long mothering. I’m watching and praying for you in this next stage.

April Joy— Happy GRANDmother’s Day! I feel so fortunate to live with you. Thanks for faithfully following God and pursuing Him.

Books I wish I’d had earlier:

  • Any of John Eldredge’s work.
  • Parenting with Love and Logic books—Foster Cline and Jim Fay.
  • Paul Tripp is new to me but seems to have a good following.

About Ellie Gustafson
Ellie Gustafson began thinking up stories at a young age but didn’t begin writing and publishing until 1978. A graduate of Wheaton College, she has been actively involved in church life as a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Additional experiences include gardening, house construction, tree farming, and parenting—all of which have helped bring color and humor to her fiction. One of her major writing goals has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant for today’s readers through the undeniable power of story. I’d love to hear from you about your parenting adventures. Connect with Ellie at www.eleanorgustafson.com.

Keeping Kids Entertained Over the Summer

Visit https://www.facebook.com/parentcoachnova for a video answer to this question.

Q: Now that school is almost out, I’m starting to dread summer vacation with the whining from my kids about nothing to do. While we’ll have some activities, like a family trip and a week of camp for each of them, I’m at a loss as to how to direct them to entertain themselves the rest of time. Help!

A: I hear this question a lot! And parents who don’t do a little bit of prep work before the summer often find themselves throwing electronics at their kids way more than they want to. Here’s my suggestions.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Think about the big picture. While I’m not a fan of school work per se over the summer, I am a fan of having kids keep learning. Homeschoolers often do this as a matter of course, but if your kids are in public or private school, summer is your golden opportunity to provide real-world learning that’s fun and engaging. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time devising activities, but it does mean you pick a few life skills you want your kids to focus on this summer. For example, this summer, my goal is for my 8- and 10-year-old boys to have mastered one meal they can cook by themselves for dinner. For my middle and high school girls, I want them to develop a good exercise routine.

Provide opportunities for learning. For example, take your kids to the grocery store with you and give them each part of the list to gather. Let them figure out which is the better deal—the name-brand on sale item or the store-brand product. They can add up coupons to see how much you’ll save. You can discuss nutrition as you have them read labels to decipher which cereal brand has less sugar per serving.

Ramp up the chores. Summer is a great time to teach kids new chores, like mowing the grass and doing laundry, cooking dinner and mopping floors, sewing on buttons and making jam. You can also do family projects, like painting a room.

Get their buy-in on activities. Ask your kids what they want to do this summer and give them the reigns to plan outings within your budget and travel area. You might be surprised at how creative they are!

Let them plan the vacation. We’re to Colorado this year from Northern Virginia, taking four days there and four days back. My oldest daughter volunteered  to devise a listening schedule for the time in the car so everyone has a chance to listen to their music or audio CDs—this will cut down on arguments and have happier travelers.

Plan one-on-one time. Think about something you can do outside of the normal stuff with each child this summer. Maybe it’s teaching a kid how to fish or reading a book, putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle or doing a service project—find something to do to connect with each of your children.

Whatever you decide to do, relay your summer goals to your kids a week or two before summer break begins. That way, they will be thinking about how to incorporate these goals into their summer plans.