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!

 

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.

Back to School for Parents

School all over the country is either in session or about to start, which means parents are gearing up for another academic calendar year much like their children. Here are some back-to-school tips for parents.

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  1. Don’t project. Whether you loved school or hated it or fell somewhere in between, parents should try to keep their own thoughts about school to themselves, especially the first few weeks. We can’t predict how the school year will go, so encouraging a child to have an open mind is the best thing we can give them.
  2. Don’t worry. All too often, if something goes wrong the first few weeks of school, we’re off worrying about the entire year. Kids pick up on our anxiety, so stay calm and remember that the school year is long and things can turn around for your child.
  3. Remember who is going to school. Hint: It’s not you. Your child is the one who needs to learn to navigate the school, teachers, classes and homework, and your child should shoulder that responsibility.
  4. Offer guidance at a distance. Don’t get overly involved in homework, etc. Provide structure when necessary but avoid becoming essential to the task or solution to academic problems.
  5. Emphasize your expectations. I’m not talking about grades, but about the kind of student you want your child to be. We’ve always told our kids that they should not be the reason a teacher can’t teach—that they should behave in the classroom. We’ve also told them that we expect them to do their best in school, but that we realize that will look different on a report card from child to child and subject to subject.
  6. Provide support at home. Through interest in their schooling to a good place to do homework to helping them develop an inquiring mind, let them know you’re invested in their academic success.
  7. Be true to their school. Help their school succeed too by volunteering where you can, being responsive with paperwork and teacher requests, and supporting the school in the community.
  8. Encourage reading. Whether it’s a magazine or the local team’s stats in the newspaper or a book, promoting reading will help your child grow and prosper.

What else would you add to this list? How do you prepare for back to school?

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.

That Annoying, Bothersome Child

Starting when I was 12, my parents took in foster kids of all ages from a variety of backgrounds. When I was a young teen, 9-year-old Trudy (not her real name) arrived on our doorstep with a bag of clothes and head lice hidden by a bowl haircut. Freckles danced across her nose giving her an impish look that belied her rather rough personality. In short, Trudy was a brat, an extremely annoying child who did everything—and I do mean everything!—wrong. She hit, she had a whiny voice, she had no social graces, no ability to make friends. It was almost as if she was bound and determined to push everyone away so that no one could get close to her.

Like most foster kids, she came from a background that would break your heart—abused physically, sexually, mentally. Ignored, unloved. And so she forged her own abhorrent personality to cope with the truly horrible hand she had been dealt by life.

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But just because she was hard to love didn’t mean she was unloveable, as my parents demonstrated with patience and kindness and discipline and love. Lots and lots of unconditional love. It didn’t matter what Trudy did or didn’t do—my parents loved her. She drove me crazy with her antics, but because of my parents’ example, I loved her too.

I thought about Trudy recently when reading a post on Facebook about a young teenage girl with ADHD (“Milly”) who can be really annoying. The mom posting has a daughter (“Suzy”) who has had some run-ins/incidents with Milly. The mom wasn’t being snarky, and I know she’s probably genuinely concerned about her daughter. I know both parties and do understand both sides of the story.

But still, I wondered…Where is the compassion for Milly? Where is the understanding in the middle of the annoyance? Where is the tolerance for another, even one who does cross the line a time or two in tone or words? Do we just write off these kids and wash our hands because it’s hard? Do we allow our kids to do the same because it’s hard (when there’s no real abuse going on beyond annoyance)?

Loving those love us back, who make it easy by their personalities, isn’t difficult. Most of the time, we don’t even think about it. But loving and accepting those who make it hard, whose personalities repel us at times, that’s when the rubber meets the road.

We have to start by not labeling every annoying kid whose behavior pushes the limits or rubs another kid the wrong way. There’s true bullying and there’s “that kid is hard to be around because of her ineptness with social situations.”

We also need to teach our kids a compassionate response in the face of annoying behavior, and also kind responses. Our kids shouldn’t have to “take” an annoying personality but they should try to handle it in a kind way. Sometimes, that means telling a trusted adult. Sometimes, that means walking away. Sometimes, that means overlooking the other girl’s faults.

Because we never know when our influence or the influence of our kids can be the catalyst to change a child’s life. Remember Trudy? The world was stacked against her, but today, she’s the mother of three boys and by all accounts, a success story. Her upbringing and annoying personality didn’t dictate her future, and I know the positive influence of my parents (and perhaps, to a lesser degree, myself) had a lot to do with putting her on the right path.

How to get kids to do random things?

For a video answer of this question, visit https://www.facebook.com/parentcoachnova/.

If you’re a parent, you’ve experienced the frustration of asking your child to do something…and getting the fish eye, blank stare, snark, flat-out refusal, or whine “I don’t wanna.” This is doubly true when your request is random—that is, not related to the child’s regular chores or schedule.

Kids resist more frequently when the task request comes out of the blue, even if they’re doing “nothing,” the default runs from refusal to whining about it. But the fact remains, we all have to do things we didn’t put on our to-do list because things just come up.

How can you get your kids to do random things with less resistance and a more cheerful attitude? Here are a couple of things for moms and dads to keep in mind.

  1. Consider your timing. If your child has just sat down with a book, asking him to get up to help you will probably annoy him (as it would you in a similar situation!). If the task doesn’t need immediate attention, let a little time go by before voicing your directive.
  2. Avoid focusing on one child. If you have more than one kid, chances are, you default to asking one over the other for random tasks because of that particular child’s easier compliance. While you don’t need to adhere strictly to fairness in all things, this is one area you should strive to spread the, er, joy of helping you. To help you keep track of that, consider the two-then-switch rule—you ask two things of one child, then ask two of another.

Now, to help the kids be more compliant, here are three simple suggestions.

  1. Remind them of the clause “Other chores as assigned.” I actually wrote that on my kids’ chore charts and periodically tell them to be ready for “extra” tasks on occasion. Just like employees are generally expected to do things outside their written job descriptions, so should kids be prepared to execute tasks not on their chore descriptions.
  2. Try the ticket system. Have three slips of paper for each child (such as each child has a particular color), then tell the kids that each day, you might ask up to three random things of each child. When you do, you’ll give that child a slip of paper as a tangible marker that you’re “calling in a favor” or something similar. When the slips of paper are gone, so are the random tasks for the day. Some kids respond better to boundaries and this ticket system can help their hearts respond better to your directives.
  3. Use praise judiciously. When a child does complete the task without complaining, don’t always go overboard with your praise. However, if a child hasn’t been compliant in the past, but is in this instance, do tell him that you noticed. Be specific, like: “Thank you for not grumbling when you helped me carry in groceries.”

How do you get your kids to more cheerfully do those ad hock tasks?

A Balancing Act?

Are you off balance with your life? Rather than trying to achieve balance, author Jocelyn Green posits that women should embrace our lopsided lives instead in her latest book, Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life. Jocelyn recently answered some questions about her book for my blog.

Why shouldn’t we strive to achieve balance in our lives?
Jocelyn: Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to pursue balance. If you’re a believer, your purpose in life is far bigger than that. Jesus said that being His disciple requires us to deny ourselves, to lose our own lives so we can find life in Him (Matthew 16:24–25). As we follow Jesus, with our crosses on our backs, we aren’t balanced—we’re leaning, hard, after our Savior, whatever that may look like in our own particular seasons of life.

During Jesus’ time on earth, He fasted and feasted. He preached, and He went away to a quiet place. He wasn’t looking for balance, but for God’s agenda for Him on any given day.

That’s what we should be striving to achieve: a life ordered according to the priorities God has given us. (And not the priorities He has given someone else.)

How do you personally combat the pressures to squeeze it all in?
Jocelyn: It has taken me years, but I have grown to understand my limits, and the limits of what I should ask of my family in terms of my time and energy spent outside of them. I’ve also learned to discern the difference between good opportunities, and those that are the absolute best use of my resources. When tempted to add one more thing to my plate, I ask myself what my motivations are. If the only reason is guilt, or potential fear that I will disappoint someone by saying no, those are not good enough reasons to accept another responsibility.

What did writing this book teach you?
Jocelyn: I learned so much while writing this book, both from searching the Scriptures and from talking to other women trying to navigate these issues in their own lives. One thing God has been bringing me back around to, again and again, is grace. I am so hard on myself when I make mistakes in this life. Guilt is something I have struggled with for a long time. But there is so much freedom in striving to please God with my choices, and in listening to His voice over all others. I still mess up, but when I do, God is gracious to pull me up again.

About Jocelyn Green
Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning and bestselling author of 14 fiction and nonfiction books. She loves Mexican food, Broadway musicals, the color red and reading on her patio. Jocelyn lives with her husband Rob and two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Visit her at www.jocelyngreen.com.

 

Freedom Goes to a Two Year Old’s Head

Q: My 2-year-old recently transitioned from crib to bed. The freedom seems to be more than he can handle, and he has taken to destroying the bedroom he shares with his 3-year-old brother. Of course we’ve childproofed the room but there are clothes in drawers and some books on the shelf, mainly for the older brother. Typically in the mornings, I would make both boys help me pick up the mess before breakfast, but I’m now focusing on just the one boy since he is the perpetrator/instigator( I can see it on the monitor and we did not have this problem with the older one).

Since I’ve singled him out though for correction and sent the other boy down for breakfast without helping to pick up, the behavior has gotten even worse and he’s more mad. He refuses to clean up at all and the day goes downhill right from the beginning with him. He will only clean up if his brother is helping and I stay in the room with them. Left alone with instructions, he refuses. I do not show any frustration but simply let him know he made the mess and now he needs to pick it up or he will spend the day in his room except meals. He then proceeds to have fits, fiddle around in the room and look for other items to pull apart. We’ve stripped the room to bare bones but this is making things difficult. Should I be doing something else or is there a way to get some quicker action on his part?

Image courtesy of num_skyman/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: It’s amazing how different our kids are, isn’t it? Where one is more laid back, another is a spitfire. Where one stays in bed, the other one is a human tornado.

A couple of things to keep in mind with your particular situation. First, a toddler doesn’t have the long-term memory to put two and two together—in this case, that he wrecked his room, therefore he must pick up and stay in his room until it’s done. When you expect a child to do more than a child is capable, that’s when you build frustration—in the child and parent. Of course he doesn’t want to clean up by himself! He hasn’t connected the dots that it’s his mess.

Second, don’t expect quick action from a toddler. They are by their very nature dawdlers. They are learning so much in a short time frame, and everything fascinates and distracts them. This is the beauty and annoyance of twos!

But don’t despair! There is hope to turn things around. You don’t mention when he does this destruction—in the evening going to bed or in the morning when he wakes up. See if you can pinpoint the timing, then you can make your plan. If in the evening, you are likely able to hear him do this (or station yourself outside his door to listen). When you hear drawers opening, you come into the room and stop him in his tracks. Have him immediately pick up the items by the light of the hallway (with you alongside him) and pop him back in bed with minimal talking. If it’s in the morning, gauge when he usually wakes up, wake up a bit earlier, and repeat the halt him in his tracks/pick up routine.

Anytime he needs to pick up, do it alongside him, directing him gently. “You pick up the toy trucks, while I get the trains” type thing. Have him focus on one part of the job, not the entire thing. Clothes all over the floor can be overwhelming for any child, so picking out the shirts, then moving to socks, etc., will help teach him how to manage a larger task and help keep him on task.

Also make sure you have lots of positive touch points throughout the day with him, little interactions that give him your full attention and love. Keeping that close connection will make the discipline times go more smoothly and will help you have a better attitude toward him as well.

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.