A Parent’s Back To School

At the start of the school year, it’s not just the kids who face an adjustment—parents do too. From homework to teacher conference to after-school activities, this time of year can be overwhelming and chaotic.

But don’t despair—help is right around the corner! Join me, along with five other parent coaches, on Friday, Sept. 15, for A Parent’s Back to School Facebook Party, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:10 p.m. Eastern time. Here’s the lineup of topics each coach will discuss, along with giveaways and answering audience questions. Note: All times are Eastern time.

5:30 to 6 p.m. Coach introductions—the giveaways start.
6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Parent Coach Laura Gray on Getting Your School Day Off to a Great Start
6:30 to 7 p.m. Parent Coach Susan Morley on Creating a Family Mission Statement
7 to 7:30 p.m. Parent Coach Trinity Jensen on Avoiding Homework Hassles
7:30 to 8 p.m. Parent Coach Sarah Hamaker on Scheduling Your School Year
8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Parent Coach Liz Mallet on How to Avoid Micromanaging
8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Parent Coach Wendy Faucett on How to Have a Great Parent-Teacher Relationship
9 to 9:10 p.m. Final thoughts.

On Friday, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1892016571016178 to join the fun–you can ask questions, interact with the coaches or just enjoy the party. Hope to see you all soon!

 

Did You Say Something? Heart-based Parenting Seminar

This parenting seminar will give you the extra help we all need!

We all want to reach our children’s hearts–to teach them right from wrong and also to encourage them to choose the right over the wrong. But sometimes, it can be difficult to know how to touch their hearts in the midst of misbehaviors. (Please note that these are for Christian parents, as the material is based on biblical principles.)

To keep this affordable, I’m hosting this parenting seminar in my home that will help you get to the heart of the matter with your kids. My daughters (along with other teenage girls from our church as needed) will provide childcare, if needed.

Did You Say Something? Saturday, September 9, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

    • Who’s in charge? (Leadership Parenting)
    • Getting your kids to listen (Alpha Speech)
    • Do what I say (Instruction Routine)

To sign up, fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScg50jBt2ekKruePkIpCW6z4B6d46qjAaGyQWTPetCuzObKnw/viewform?c=0&w=1

Coming to Grips With A Child’s Suicide

By Jean Ann Williams

When I was 50 years old, my youngest child, Joshua, died by suicide. After his loss, I’ve often examined my growing up years, because my mother also died by suicide as well.

Mom seemed well-adjusted when I was very young. But all this changed after she delivered her seventh child and almost died from blood loss. I was 10 years old and the eldest sibling, therefore Mom’s responsibilities were handed over to me. We thought her situation temporary, but Mom was never the same mentally.

I have an old photograph of Mom with my three younger sisters. It was taken after Mom’s near death and her facial expression still sends chills along my spine. She had a wild glint to her eyes; her smile was crooked and forced. She was only 25 years old, the same age as Joshua when he shot himself.

There is more than one way a parent can leave home. Emotionally, my mother packed her bags and left the family a long time before her body stopped living. She was a mere shell of our mom. All the while, over the next six years, I tended to my siblings. I fed them, disciplined them and kept them in clean clothes.

Dad was little help, as he spent most of his time working, and, in the evenings, at the bar with his buddies. However, if I had an especially difficult problem with running our home, I went to my dad to resolve it. Sometimes he did. Sometimes not.

I grew up frustrated. There wasn’t always enough food to eat, nor were there adequate blankets to keep us warm. So often our shoes were too tight on our feet, until my dad bought us more. When I became a teenager, I had little to no social life. I was in constant awe by the freedom my friends experienced.

I must say, though, my dad admired a certain family who had a daughter my age. He allowed me to visit them on the occasional weekend. I watched them conduct themselves and, even though their father was strict, there was security and love in their family. By example, my friend’s mother showed me what it looked like to be an attentive mom and a supportive wife.

Years later, my confidence as a better mother than my own mom shattered when Joshua killed himself. It took several years of deep soul searching, before I concluded I wasn’t a failure as a mother after all. I truly worked at my mommy training with each of my children and enjoyed being their mama.

Yes, my childhood was harsh, but it made me a stronger person. It prepared me for the trials of loss and sorrow which lay in my future. When my son died by suicide, I stubbornly clung to the Lord. He carries me through even today, and I’m grateful.

About Jean Ann Williams
Jean Ann Williams is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She writes regularly for Putting on the New blog, Book Fun Magazine, and her own Love Truth blog. Jean Ann and her husband have thirteen grandchildren from their two remaining children. They reside in Southern Oregon.

All Meals Aren’t Masterpieces (But We Are!)

By Julie Arduini

Our almost 14-year-old daughter falls into the category of special needs because of her health. Her life had a rocky start with a late congenital hypothyroid diagnosis and office error. She had another doctor error that nearly cost her life. There were asthma issues.

As she grew, her health stabilized. We knew she was physically behind her peers, and because of her thyroid, speech delay was also in play. What we didn’t realize was how the mistake from her late diagnosis would affect her. We noticed short-term memory issues. Sequencing problems. The inability to understand instructions.

Added to all of this was a new diagnosis: Albrights Hereditary Osteodystrophy (AHO). We had to watch her Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus levels. Her bones fused together and she ceased growing at 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

I reconciled that this is our normal. She’s had to work harder than others. When we work on things at home, I write everything out. To memorize, we repeat phrases, verses, and numbers to help her recall the information.

This summer we decided we would work together weekly on making dinner. I show her each task and write things out. However, one week I didn’t because we were back from traveling and I thought she would be tired. She came into the kitchen and asked if she could help.

I agreed. I was preparing a separate meal for myself, so I wasn’t focused. I gave verbal directions but wasn’t right there to show her. It was a casserole that required a bowl of spices, a pasta preparation, and a meat dish. As I called out over my shoulder to add this to the spices and to pour the raw pasta into the pot of water, I don’t notice her hesitance. I then ask her to add another ingredient to the spices and to stir the pasta.

She points to the spices. “Do you mean stir this bowl?”

“No, the pasta pot boiling on the stove. Stir the noodles.”

After a minute, I ask if the noodles appeared hard or soft. Her face showed confusion, and she replied both. I knew she didn’t understand, so I walked over to see the state of the pasta.

She’d misunderstood and poured the raw pasta into the spice bowl that now was also combined with the meat. She was stirring a pot of water.

My heart sank and we tried to resurrect the meal, but to no avail. I didn’t want her to think this was her fault, because it was all mine. She asked if dinner was ruined, and if it was because she put the pasta in the wrong bowl.

I gazed at this child of my heart. “You know, not every dinner is going to be a masterpiece. I’ve burned a lot of meals or did something that meant I had to fix something new or buy dinner. But it means the meal failed—we aren’t failures. This isn’t a masterpiece, but in God’s eyes, we are. And nothing changes that.”

She smiled. Dinner might have been ruined, but I managed not to ruin the moment with my daughter. Recovering from dinner is easy—that night, we made plans to grab some food on the way to our event—but reconnecting with my daughter if I’d snapped or blamed her for the kitchen mistakes would have been a much longer process.

About Julie Arduini
Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and—maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future is coming soon. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, and also is a blogger for Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

Ticket Method for Toddlers?

Q: For misbehavior, we’re keen on the ‘tickets’ strategy for major offenses. However my twins are under 3 (almost 31 months). Is it possible to use Tickets for children under the age of 3? I think they’re smarter than we adults think, and I believe they understand consequence, but again, not sure if tickets would work. For example, sometimes they will not do as I ask, and may flat out say ‘no’ or will do it in an exaggeratedly slow manner, all the while grinning impishly at me…like going up the step to wash their hands one inch at a time. I don’t intend to repeat myself, and a stern look from me will often do the trick. But I get stuck there sometimes. I don’t know how to win the power struggle when they’re in this toddler phase and don’t have language based memory or foresight of consequences (maybe?) at this age. Thanks for your thoughts.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: What you’re describing—obeying one moment, asserting their independence the next—is typical toddler behavior. They will obey, but on their terms (slow walking to wash their hands or get their shoes on). That’s just part of the package that is a toddler. And as you’ve discovered, a stern look will usually get your twins moving. But not always, because, well, they are human beings, and not an animal.

So you don’t get into the power struggle with them. How? By figuring out what makes sense to be strict on and what doesn’t. Here’s an example: I had two rules when it came to getting dressed—the clothes must be clean (no digging in the dirty clothes basket!) and the child must dress himself. Other than that, I gave them a lot of leeway, and it showed with what adults would deem mismatched clothing, etc. It wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight because I had other priorities.

Think about what bothers you the most, and use that as your benchmark for strictness. If it’s matching clothes, then you can insist on that. If it’s a particular way to put away laundry, then focus on that. It’s up to you but only pick your top ones, and let the kids do the rest their own way.

Translate that into tasks that need to be done before something else can happen, such as washing hands before dinnertime. If you know your twins like to dawdle at this task, then call them to do the task extra early before it’s time to eat. That way, they can inch up the stool and you’re not waiting on them.

For tasks that need to be done quicker, set a timer. Toddlers love to race a clock, and this can help them. Turn things into a game when possible too (not a competition, with a winner/loser, but a together game).

If one child is consistently slower, see if something else is going on—Is she tired, growing, fighting a cold? Sometimes physical ailments can translate into misbehavior, and while it’s not an excuse, if a parent treats the ailment (putting the child to bed earlier, for example, to help with tiredness), then the misbehavior will likely lessen or go away.

If there’s nothing obvious (don’t spend a lot of time trying to find out—just a quick run-through in your mind about what might be going on will suffice), then you calmly step in to get the child moving when necessary.

As for your question about tickets and toddlers: The answer is that they are not ready for tickets, especially given that they are displaying age-appropriate misbehaviors that are better tackled by following some of the methods outlined in my answer. Don’t worry—you’ll have plenty of time to implement tickets into your household as your children grow up some more.

For how Tickets and other discipline methods work, visit the Discipline Methods section of this website.

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.

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.