Tag Archive for mother

Mother and Child in Sync…A Husband’s Role?

Little girl baking christmas cookies

A study from the University of Cambridge used EEG’s to look at mothers’ brains and their babies’ brains while they interacted. They noticed that their brain waves synchronized, especially during positive interactions with lots of eye contact. This sharing of positive emotional states allowed mother and child to connect better. It also stimulated the development of their babies’ mental capacities. Although this study dealt with mothers and babies, I think it is likely true that happy mothers bond best with their children of all ages. And, the better the mother/child bond, the better the child grows and matures. With that in mind, a question popped into my mind. How can I, as a husband help my children have a happy mother? Does a mother’s happiness have anything to do with me, a husband and father? You bet. The happiest mothers are those who feel supported and loved by the father of their children. So, if you want your children to have the best relationship possible with their mother and reap all the benefits of that attuned relationship, practice these three tips.

  • Team up with your wife. She needs to know she is not alone in raising your children. Help take care of the home. Do some chores. Cook some meals. Clean the bathroom. Help take care of the baby. Change some diapers. Play with the baby. As an added benefit, know that seeing your do housework will enamor your wife toward you (Read Forget the Flowers…Do The Dishes). Watching you enjoy time with your baby and your children will really enamor her.
  • Emotionally connect with your wife. Share her joys and struggles. When she is happy, rejoice with her. When she is sad, mourn with her. Share your own joys and fears with her. Talk to her about how much you enjoy and love being a father and a husband. Also talk to her about your fears and concerns. You will grow more emotionally connected as you share your emotions with one another.
  • Honor your wife. We honor our wife by assuring she knows how much we value her. So, compliment her. Tell her she looks beautiful. Encourage her. Show her affection. Hold her hand while watching your child play on the floor, in the playground, or in the high school band. Give your wife a hug and kiss every night before you go to sleep and every morning before you leave for the day. Honor your wife. (This may actually be A Provocative Secret for a More Satisfying Sex Life.)

These three simple activities represent ways in which you, as a husband, can help your children have a happy mother. And, when their mother is happy their brains will be better attuned and ready to grow in a healthier way.

The Digital Bedtime Story?

I love to read. When my daughters were young, I loved reading to them at bedtime. I also loved lying in the bed with my wife and children listening to my wife read Little House on the Prairie or The Chronicles of Narnia to our children. We read physical books to our children…you know, books made of real paper as opposed to e-books. I’m not sure we had the choice of using e-books when my children were young. Still, the smell and touch of the paper, the sound of a turning page…it all has a certain beauty to it.

Today, you might think to read bedtime stories from an e-book, a nook, or a kindle to your children. But before you do, consider this small study published in 2019. This study involved 37 parent-child pairs. The children were an average of 29-months-old. The researchers observed and recorded behaviors while these parent-child pairs read stories together. In fact, each pair read each story in three different formats: a physical book, an e-reading tablet, and an e-reading tablet on which the story was interactive (touching added sounds, enhanced pictures, read words).

After observing and coding behavior, the researchers found that parent-child pairs using e-readers battled for possession of the tablet more often than they did when using a physical  book. Children moved so the parent could not see the e-reader more often, controlling the parent’s ability to read. Children and parents touched the book more often, pushed the other person’s hand away. Parents and children grabbed the book or attempted to move it out of the other’s range as well. In other words, parent and child exerted more effort to control the e-reader. They exhibited more behaviors aimed at “managing possession” of the tablet.

Why? The researchers note that tablets are generally for solitary use. For instance, parents may use the e-reader as an electronic babysitter for the child, letting their play with it alone while they clean the kitchen. This may increase the difficulty of using it collaboratively as a pair. Children also love to explore what is generally off limits to them. So, when an e-reader, which is generally off limits to them or turned off so they cannot use it, is suddenly presented to them, they may want to possess it. The researchers also suggest that both parent and child may be “mesmerized” by the screens that invite each one into a solitary interaction with the screen. In other words, in the long run, we really do not know why parents and children battled more for control of the e-reader when they can collaborate and share with the physical book. Perhaps that will be the next study we read.

But, whatever the reason, physical books led to greater interactive sharing versus attempts to control and possess. I like what the author of Bedtime Stories in the Digital Age concluded after reviewing this information: “if our parent-child interactions shape our future behaviors (and they do), we might want to read physical books with our children. Doing so is a more collaborative, less controlling interaction.”  And, if our world needs anything right now, it needs more collaborative, less controlling people. So, pick up a couple of physical books and enjoy reading them with your child.

A Mother-Daughter Relationship Boost

Watching my daughters grow up I noticed times when their relationship with their mother needed a boost.  You know the times—stressful times, times when everyone seems to be on edge. It happens to everyone. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to give them that boost. Now, thanks to research completed at the University of Illinois, we know at least one simple way to boost the mother-daughter relationship. In this particular study (Read the study at A Walk at the Mall or in the Park?), mothers and daughters (10-12 years-old) met on two separate occasions with researchers. On each occasion they engaged in attention-fatiguing activities (like solving math problems or completed word searches) while listening to loud construction music. Following this stress inducing activity, the researchers gave them a test of attention before sending them out for a walk together. One time, the mother-daughter pair walked in an indoor mall. On the other visit they walked in a nature arboretum. After each walk, the researchers interviewed the mother and the daughter. They tested their attention again. Then they videotaped the mother-daughter pair engaging in a game requiring them to work together. They discovered three results I find very interesting.

  1. The ability to focus and attend was restored significantly after the nature walk, but only for the mother. Both walking in nature and the mall restored the daughter’s attention. The lead researcher thought the daughter’s improved attention might have resulted from spending family leisure time with her mother. The ability to attend during interactions reduces conflict and increase feelings of closeness. It boosts the relationship.
  2. Both mother and daughter said the nature walk was more fun, relaxing, and interesting. Enjoying things together will boost your relationship.
  3. The nature walk also resulted in more positive interactions. The mother-daughter pair showed greater closeness and cohesion after the nature walk. They got along better after the nature walk compared to the mall walk. Walking in nature had a more positive impact on the relationship quality than walking in the mall.

So, if you’re feeling a strain in your mother-daughter relationship, go for a walk. Mothers invite your daughters. Daughters invite your mothers. For best results, go for a walk in a local park, through a neighborhood patch of woods, or maybe a local conservatory. Walk amidst the trees and flowers. Smell the fresh air.  Your ability to attend to one another will improve. You’ll relax and have fun. You’ll find yourself getting along better and feeling a greater sense of unity. In general, your relationship will get a boost!

PS—although this study was done with mother-daughter pairs, it will likely work with any parent-child relationship and even with your marriage. Give it a shot and let us know what you find out.

The Top 12 Duties of a Mother

Mothers have one of the most influential and important jobs in the world…and one of the most difficult. Just consider some of the duties a mother carries out on a daily basis.

  • Party kids and their motherChef: A mother cooks 2-3 meals a day. Sometimes, their children will love the meals you prepare. Sometimes, they will hate them. Most of the time, they simply wolf down the food you prepare and run to their next activity. Occasionally you will receive the cherished “thank you.” Hearing those two words will make every meal you prepared worthwhile.
  • Housekeeper: As a mother you will have the opportunity to clean all kinds of messes—clothes left on the floor, cups left in the living room, spilled food, dirty diapers, vomit, the list goes on. But, one day your child may help clean the kitchen and…well, here’s for wishful thinking.
  • Resolve Conflicts: Children have conflict with friends, siblings, and even their parents. You will have the joy of helping your children learn the skills of listening, negotiation, compromise, and problem-solving, skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.
  • Event Planner: Mothers schedule. What else can I say? From play dates to doctor’s appointments to school events to after school activities to vacations to any number of other events, mothers schedule…a lot!
  • Teacher: Mothers teach their children everything…and I mean everything. When cooking they not only teach their children how to cook, but some basic math. They teach their children about relationships, problem resolution, and dating skills. Even more, they teach their children how to think! Mothers teach these things without even knowing they do it. Then there are all the things they teach on purpose…things like math, reading, how to clean, how to do laundry, how to keep house, etc.
  • Chauffeur: Mothers take their children to school, the doctor, and the dentist. They take their children to sporting activities, dance, gymnastics, and music lessons. They drive their children to play dates and to the store. And, they turn each drive into an opportunity to talk, grow closer, and learn. (See duty labeled “Teacher.”)
  • Laundry: Mothers do laundry. They get out the stains and keep the bright colors. Life needs a clean start!
  • Counselor: Children come to their mothers when they fail a test and when their heart is broken. Mothers comfort and advise. They kiss skinned knees and mend broken hearts. They heal broken spirits and teach children how to shape a joyous future.
  • Finance Manager: Mothers often help to manage the finances, teaching their children to do so as well. Balance the costs of groceries, school activities, and clothes as well as the utilities and other household expenses.
  • Health Care Provider: As previously noted, mother’s kiss skinned knees. They also check their children’s fevers, cook them chicken noodle soup, make them comfortable, and many other “doctoring” duties. In the long run, mothers probably do much more than your average physician and for a lot less pay!
  • Activities Director: When children are bored, mothers come up with ideas. They encourage their children to play. They teach their children nursery rhymes, games, and fun activities like cooking. In so doing, they teach their children how to manage their time in productive, effective ways
  • World Changer: Perhaps the most underrated task a mother fulfills is that of world-changer. Society is a mere 20 years from anarchy or continued civilization. It takes 20 years to raise a child, 20 years to “civilize them” or let them fall into anarchy, 20 years to raise children of character, integrity, and compassion or children of deceit, selfishness, and indifference. A mother plays a great role in this training. Mothers change the world with every child they raise.

Let’s all send out a big “thank you” to all our Moms, the real life impactors…the world changers of our society!

A Dozen Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear

What parents say is powerful in the life of their children. Children hang their life, their very identity, on their parents’ words. Even the words said in passing have an impact on children. If children constantly hear their parents call them “stupid” or “a disappointment,” they will come to believe they are “stupid” and “disappointment.” If, on the other hand, children hear their parents say “I love you” and “good work,” they will come to see themselves as lovable and hardworking. So, what do you want your children hanging their hat on? What words do you want them to shape their identity? I like these words.

  • Parents kissing their cute little babyI love you.
  • You make me proud.
  • I see you really put some hard work into that…and your hard work has paid off.
  • You have made great improvement. You must be proud of your hard work.
  • You look nice (beautiful, handsome, lovely) tonight.
  • That was a very kind thing I saw you do.
  • Thank you for….
  • I’m sorry I….
  • I appreciate….
  • I am so glad to be your parent.
  • I enjoy watching you (play your sport, sing in the choir, play in the band, do you part in the play, etc.).
  • What would you like me to do for you today?
  • I’m sorry that happened to you. What can I do to help?

 

This is just a baker’s dozen of phrases every would child love to hear. What else would you have liked to hear from your parents growing up? Why not tell your child that very thing?!

Avoid Pushing 5 of Your Children’s Buttons

I hate it when people “push my buttons.” Don’t you?  Our children do not like to have their buttons pushed either.  Effective parents learn to identify those buttons and avoid pushing them. I must admit, I still push a few buttons on accident; and, when I do, disaster ensues. So, I decided to look into what pushes my children’s buttons and share my results with you. Perhaps knowing these buttons can help you avoid some of the meltdowns I have endured. So, for the sake of more effective parenting, here are 5 buttons our children hate…and how to avoid pushing them!

     1.      Unexpected changes. Children love predictability. They need predictability. Predictability provides a sense of security for our children. So, a sudden change in their daily routine can produce an upset child…a meltdown…a tantrum. Avoid pushing this button by simply giving warnings about upcoming changes in routines. Warn them as soon as you know of the change. Warn them several times if possible. Along with the warning, assure them that everything will work out. Let them know of all the people who will remain support and available in spite of this change in routine.


2.      Overloaded schedules. Children need time to process what they learn. They need time to rest. The stress of constantly “being on the go” leaves them “running on empty,” emotionally and physically. With depleted emotional resources, your child becomes cranky and well…may blow their stack at a simple request. Avoid pushing this button by allowing daily down time—time when your child has nothing to do, time when your child can “veg out” and get “bored.”  Schedule free time for your children every day.  


3.      Limits. No surprise here, right? Children get upset with their own limits and the limits placed on them by others. When children cannot keep up with their older siblings or when they find themselves unable to do something they think they should, they become upset. Children are growing more independent every day. So, when you place a limit on them, they will push the limit—maybe even freak out a bit. Still, a parent has to set limits. Reduce pushing this button by making sure limits are necessary, clear, and concise. Let them know the limit ahead of time and explain the reason behind the limits in a way they can understand.


4.      Comparisons. Children gain the ability to categorize and compare during elementary school…and with that skill they become sensitive to comparisons. Comparing your child’s actions to a sibling’s cooperation, a cousin’s achievement, or a peer’s ability will not only push their buttons but make them feel less valued, less loved, and more likely to act out. Avoid pushing the button of comparison. Simply accept your children. Love them for who they are. Acknowledge their talents, achievements, and abilities without comparison.    


5.      Embarrassing moments. As children move toward their teen years, they become easily embarrassed by their parents, especially in front of their peers. They voice embarrassment when Mom yells from the stands during a baseball game or Dad gives a good-bye kiss and hug in front of the guys. Moments they find embarrassing are sure to produce an eye-roll, a “Dad, you’re embarrassing me,” or some other backlash. Avoid pushing this button by honoring your children’s budding sense of social awareness. Do not embarrass them in front of their peers. Give them a kiss before you leave home, not when you drop them off. Remain quiet in the stands at sporting events. When your children begin to get red-faced with embarrassment, change your response to make them feel more at ease.

 A wise elder once wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” (Ephesians 6:4a). One way to follow this advice is to remain aware of these five buttons…and avoid pushing them! 

Mom & The Power of Gentleness

We lived in a second floor apartment and I had fallen down the stairs. I remember sitting on the bottom step, about four-years-old, crying and holding my leg as my mother sat next to me. With gentle words and a soft touch, she comforted me and assured that I was not hurt too badly. My mother’s gentleness convinced me I would survive and empowered me as a young child to get back up and play. I had survived, empowered by gentle words and gentle touch. As an adult, I have watched my wife offer the same gentle words to our children when they were hurt, scared, or upset. In each instance, our children were strengthened and empowered to overcome the obstacles…all through their mother’s gentle words and gentle touch.
 
Perhaps the whole family can learn from the example of a mother’s gentleness. The power of gentleness enables a person to keep their emotions in check, controlling those emotions so they do not overwhelm the other person. Gentleness learns to bring up sensitive issues with kindness–softly and carefully in order to avoid overwhelming the other person. It avoids harshness, critical statements, and sarcasm. Gentleness speaks the truth in love, in a tone and manner that enables the other person to hear it, understand it, accept it, and act upon it. A gentle answer even turns away anger and rage (Proverbs 15:1). It prevents many an argument and encourages strength in relationship.
 
Gentleness also means knowing when to step back and allow a person to learn some truth on their own, even though we know the answer already. It is a “strong hand with a soft touch;” a hand that guides without pushing and leads without pulling; a hand that simply rests on a shoulder to offer support and strength to the journey.
 
All in all, a gentle person has great power—the power to comfort, strengthen, encourage, calm, and soothe; the power to turn away anger and find restoration; the power to have the truth heard. Isn’t that the kind of power we want to wield in our family? Isn’t that the type of power we hope our family members develop? Those who have had the privilege of living under a gentle mother know that power. We have benefitted from the rippling effect of that gentle power in our own lives. But, the power of gentleness is not confined only to mothers. We can extend gentleness to every family member. Families can strive to make gentleness a staple in the whole family—so mother, father, son, and daughter alike will exhibit that powerful trait. Let us all endeavor to practice gentleness and, as we do, watch how it promotes a stronger, more intimate family filled with the joy of peace!

My Mom Kept That…Art?

My daughter took a pottery class in 6th grade. You can see the beautiful pottery she made in her class in the picture to the left. Her grandmother (my mother) visited us soon after she finished the class. While visiting, she noticed and admired the pottery my daughter had made. While encouraging my daughter’s talent, she mentioned the pottery “her father” (that’s me) made in 6th grade. I had a faint recollection of that artistic endeavor. In my mind I had made a pitcher. It was round and had a small opening on the top that gracefully lipped outward. The round body had a face sculpted into one side and the ears formed handles on each side of the face. It was an odd color though…kind of a muddy brown. A few months later, we visited grandma’s house and she presented my 6th grade pottery for my daughter’s admiration. My daughter, obviously stunned and speechless, stared at my work of art before a somewhat quizzical smile began to grow across her face. I took my work in my hands and looked at it from all sides. Not quite what I remembered. It was…well, what can I say? Ugly-it was ugly. I mean, it was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. It had no face, no ears, no…beauty. (You can see I am not exaggerating by looking at the picture to the right.) Obviously, my daughter did not get her artistic abilities from me.

 

You know what I found amazing though? Twenty-seven years before my daughter constructed her pottery, I brought home that incredibly “unique” piece of work. But, my mother never ridiculed my work; she never demeaned my effort. Instead, she accepted it, imperfect as it was. She knew that my developmental ability limited what I could do…and she accepted me and my effort anyway. She also knew that my lack of artistic talent limited what I could accomplish…and, she accepted me and my effort anyway. She knew that my “work of art” fell far short of perfect. It definitely missed the mark; but she accepted me and my effort anyway. She showed the extent of her acceptance by keeping my pottery over the span of 27 years. In fact, she packed it up when the family moved from Pittsburgh to Houston. She kept it when I left for college and kept it when the family moved from Houston to San Antonio to Eagle Pass to Austin and, finally, to Lock Haven. Twenty seven years later, and six cities later, she knew where it was and produced it, still safe and sound, for my daughter to see. When she unpacked it to show my daughter, I got a good laugh. I also realized the grace she exhibited (and continues to exhibit) in her acceptance of me and my effort—a grace that accepts a person in spite of limitations, in spite of missing the mark of perfection…the unconditional acceptance of grace. I mean look at that thing…only a mother could keep that, only a gracious mother who accepts her children no matter what.

Parenting Preschoolers, Marshmallows, & Success

What does parenting preschoolers, eating marshmallows, and success have in common? Apparently a lot. Daniel Goleman describes a fascinating study involving preschoolers and marshmallows. A researcher engaged a 4-to-6-year-old in play. After a short time, he told the child he had an errand to run. He plopped a marshmallow on the table and said, “If the marshmallow is there when I return, you can have two marshmallows.” The researcher then left the preschooler alone with the marshmallow for 15-20 minutes. Some preschoolers covered their eyes. Others turned around and “ignored” the marshmallow. Some even petted the marshmallow as though it were a stuffed animal or licked the table around the marshmallow. Of course, some ate the marshmallow. Those who did not eat the marshmallow until the researcher returned enjoyed two marshmallows. When the preschoolers prepared to graduate from high school, the researchers did a little follow up research. They discovered that the preschoolers who did not eat the marshmallow (waited until the researcher returned and earned a second marshmallow) were described by teachers and parents as more competent than those who quickly ate the single marshmallow. They scored an average of 210 points more on SAT tests. They tended to present as more positive, self-motivating, self-confident, and persistent. They exhibited the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of a goal (like waiting to get a second marshmallow). These habits, with delayed gratification as the centerpiece, can go on to contribute to thriving marriages, greater career satisfaction, and better health. This “marshmallow study” suggests that persistence and the ability to delay gratification sets the foundation for children to flourish and cope with the pressures of life. So, how can we help our children learn persistence? How can we help our children learn to delay gratification?
 
Researchers from Brigham Young University have recently helped us answer this question. They published a study that followed 325 two-parent families (with 11-14 year old children) in an effort to discover the origins of persistence. They found that both parents contributed to persistence. Interestingly though, persistence gained through fathers led to higher engagement in school and lower rates of delinquency over time. What did these fathers do that had the greatest impact on a child’s level of persistence? They did three things that all parents can do:
     1.      The fathers engaged in warm, loving relationships with their children. They were available to their children and engaged them in interactions. They listened to their children. They played with their children.

2.      The fathers held their children accountable for their behavior and emphasized the reasons behind the rules. They loved their children enough to teach them right from wrong. They pointed out inappropriate behavior and disciplined that behavior. At the same time, they explained why that behavior was inappropriate and explained alternative desired behaviors.

3.      The fathers gave their children an appropriate level of autonomy. They did not hold them back; nor, did they push them beyond their ability. This demands knowing your child. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What are they developmentally able to do or not do? To learn the answers to these questions, a parent must take an interest in their child. They must become a student of their child and their child’s development.
 

Although this study pointed to the benefit of fathers in building persistence, both parents can practice the three ingredients noted above. When you do put these skills into practice, you increase the chances that your child will grow in their ability to stick to a task until it is done and pursue a goal until they achieve it. That is the beginning of success!

5 Celebration Ideas for Mother’s Day

This year Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13th. Maybe you already have a plan to honor your mother. But, in case you have not finalized you plans (or maybe you don’t have a clue), here are a few ideas to consider.
     ·         Get your mother a carnation. I know, it is simple and traditional… nonetheless, a good idea. Getting your mother a carnation for Mother’s Day traces its roots all the way back to the origin of Mother’s Day in the United States. Miss Ann Jarvis started this tradition on May 10, 1908. She sent 500 white carnations to the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church to be distributed to the mothers. She sent carnations in memory of her own mother, who held the white carnation as her favorite flower. Ms. Jarvis noted that the carnation symbolized the “virtues of motherhood;…whiteness stands for purity; its lasting qualities, faithfulness; its fragrance, love; its wide field of growth, charity; its form, beauty….” Go ahead and send a carnation to your mother and attach a card describing what the carnation symbolizes. If you think a carnation just is not enough, send your mother a whole bouquet of flowers.

·         Get together with your family and honor your mother by sharing stories about the mothers and grandmothers in your family. As you share stories, look through family albums to find pictures of these women…women who helped shape your family and, ultimately, you. Make copies of these pictures and create a photo album of all the “Moms Who Paved the Way” in your family. Under each picture, write a short caption describing their character and contribution to the family.

·         Write a short testimonial to your mother. Think of 2-3 ways in which she enhanced your life…or 2-3 characteristics you admire about her…or 2-3 ways she contributed to your happiness. Write them into a short testimonial along with real life examples that support them. Try to limit the testimonial to one side of a sheet of paper. Then, over dinner on Mother’s Day, read her the testimonial. But, you might need to have some Kleenex available for the tears of appreciation and joy.

·         Create a handmade craft for your mother. You can make a handmade card or a handmade pennant that reads “Go Mom.” Create a sports card with her picture and stats on it for the sports loving mother. Stats might include “number of meals cooked,” “number of booboos cared for,” number of sorrows kissed good-bye,” etc. Or, you could make her an award for #1 Mom, a certificate of appreciation, or a gold medal necklace. 

·         One more idea…tried and true. Make your mother dinner. As a family, treat her like a guest in a fancy restaurant. Prepare her favorite dish and dessert. Seat her in the waiting area (living room) with her favorite reading material while you set the table–good dishes, candles, and all. Escort her to the table, pull out her chair, and seat her. Serve her and enjoy conversation while you eat. Maybe even share some fun stories about your life with her. Then, let her relax while you clear the table, wash the dishes, and clean up the kitchen.
 
What are some of your Mother’s Day ideas? Please share them in the comment section below so we can all honor our mother on Mother’s Day.  
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