Archive for May 28, 2011

Memorial Day & Family

As I grow older, I come to appreciate Memorial Day more. It has always marked the start of summer–pools opening, cooking outside on the grill, having a picnic. However, it has gained greater meaning in regards to the sacrifices made to secure our freedom. It has become a holiday of honor and respect for those who have given their time, energy, and even life for our country and our family. It brings to mind men and women that I have met who have given time and energy away from their family to secure our freedom to spend time with family. Click to watch Memorial Day Tribute. Spend today with your family. Celebrate the joy and freedom we share. Take time to honor those who sacrificed so much to make it all possible. “The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children” (William Havard). So, enjoy your family, spend time with them…the opportunity to do so is a freedom to cherish.

7 Ways to Teach Dependability

Infants need their parents. Their parents feed them, bathe them, change their diapers, clothe them, help them get to sleep, calm them, and so on. In spite of all this effort from parents, I’ve never heard an infant tell his mother, “I see you’re busy with dinner, Mom. Don’t worry about my bottle. I’m hungry, but I’ll wait until your done cooking dinner to eat.” No, he just cries for his bottle. He is powerless to care for himself; and self-focused in his desire to get what he needs when he wants it. His problem (whether it be hunger or a soiled diaper) is your problem. If you don’t believe me, sit in the car with a hungry infant for a while.
As family shepherds, we do not want our children to remain completely dependent, self-focused, and demanding for their entire life. We want them to grow and mature…to become independent. We want them to become responsible for their emotions, attitudes, behaviors, and daily choices. As they mature, we hope they will identify their own strengths, what they can accomplish on their own, and what they need help with. We want them to gain the courage and wisdom to reach out to others rather than give up when they face a seemingly insurmountable challenge. We also want them to help others when asked to. Overall, we want our children to become adults who exhibit a maturity that allows for intimate relationships, shared effort, mutual accomplishments, and joyful interactions.
How do parents help their children move from dependent, demanding kids to mature, dependable adults? Here are some suggestions.
·         Invest time and effort in your relationship with your child. Relationships are at the heart of parenting. Parents teach, instruct, and discipline effectively from the foundation of a strong relationship with their child. 
·         Validate your child’s emotions. Accept and affirm your child’s feelings, even if you do not always like them. For instance, if your child yells, “I hate you” in anger, accept his anger. Label the anger while setting a limit on appropriate expression. A parent might calmly say something like, “You are really angry with me. I still love you. It’s OK to be angry with me.” When your child calms down, you might talk repeat that statement and tell him it would be better to simply say, “I’m mad at you”–probably a more accurate statement in the long run. In this manner, you teach your child to express and manage their emotions. You teach them to become responsible for their own emotions.
·         Teach your children positive alternative behaviors. The more alternative responses your child knows, the wiser choices he can make. If he only knows to hit and yell when angry, he will hit and yell. However, if you teach him, through your actions and words, that he can also walk away, take a deep breath, calmly assert himself, verbally and respectfully express his anger, or find an adult, he has more tools and options available to make a wiser choice. 
·         Model self-control. A parent models self-control when he does not let his child provoke him to action or control his actions. When a parent does not give in to a child’s tantrum or demanding behavior, he models independence and self-control. When a parent does not jump into a power struggle with a child, he models strength and self-control. As a parent, model independence, an ability to manage emotions, behaviors, and decision making.
·         Model effective ways of dealing with your own weaknesses. Let your child see you turn to other people for assistance. Allow them to see you work with other people to pool strengths and accomplish a greater result. You can even reach out to your child and utilize his strengths to help you accomplish a task. In the process, you model that we all have weaknesses and we can ask for help when we need it.
·         Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone. When your child commits to a course of action, insist that he complete it. When he starts a project but wants to quit when it gets difficult, encourage him to continue and support his efforts. Praise his persistence and effort when he finishes the task. This teaches your child the value of commitment. It also teaches him that some tasks are difficult. Even though we may feel vulnerable and uncomfortable with a difficult task, we don’t give up. We keep working at it. We seek help if necessary. We finish what we started. 
·         Teach your child to fail successfully. Teach him that failure is not the enemy, but the teacher…not a reason to quit, but an opportunity to learn. Tell him stories about those who failed and learned from that failure only to become successful people…like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison. Tell him stories about your own failures and what you learned from those failures. Walk through moments of failure with him. Empathize with his disappointment and discouragement while encouraging him to find the lesson. Help him separate what he can change about the situation and what he has no control over.
Practice these 7 suggestions and you will find your child growing more mature and independent.

Family Investments As Easy As 1…2…3

When it comes to making investments, those constant and regular small contributions make a huge difference. Little contributions made to your account on a regular basis add up to huge long-term dividends. The same is true in family honor banking. If you want to grow your family honor account, here is an investment strategy as easy as 1…2…3.
1.      Make 1-word investments like “thanks” and “please.” When someone does something for you, say “Thanks.” Never pass up an opportunity to thank someone for what they have done for you. When you ask someone to do something for you, say “Please.” Anything from “Pass the salt” to “Would you mop the bathroom floor” can be paired with that one word, “Please.” Make these one-word investments generously; they result in huge dividends.
2.      Make 2-word investments. Two-word investments don’t just double your investment, they grow it exponentially. The first 2-word investment is “Thank you.” I know, we used “thanks” as a 1-word investment but you can never show too much gratitude. “Thanks” and “Thank you” (1- and 2-word investments) show gratitude, carry great clout, and will never disappoint you with their long-term return.
“You’re welcome” is another powerful 2-word investment tool. When someone says “Thank-you,” respond with “You’re welcome.” It shows respect and consideration for the person who thanks you. Of course, there are variations on this investment. Instead of “You’re welcome,” you could reply with another 2-word investment like “My pleasure.” Although a slightly different investment tool, very powerful in building relationship. 
One more very powerful 2-word investments: “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry” is a humbling investment, but one that brings a huge dividend in the family bank of honor. “I’m sorry” not only adds dividends to long-term investments, it actually restores withdrawals of honor from the account. “I’m sorry” lets your family know that their feelings and rights are important to you, even if you slip up and hurt them on occasion. “I’m sorry” restores relationships. A very powerful investment with only two simple words (well, one contraction and one word).
3.      Make 3-word investments. Three-word investments come in great variety. Some of the most common and powerful 3-word investments include “I love you,” “I respect you,” “I appreciate you,” etc. You can also add variety to these investments by adding specifics after the 3-word investment. For instance, “I love your hair” or “I appreciate you’re hard work.” These investments include a 3-word investment followed by a specific investment–great dividends.
One more powerful 3-word investment: “I forgive you.” This 3-word investment is a great follow-up to the 2-word investment of “I’m sorry.” Although “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” may well be two of the hardest investments to make, they carry tremendous benefits. They demand sacrifice on the part of the investor, but the returns are potentially amazing–restored relationship, growing intimacy, and restored trust to name a few. 
There you have it: a powerful investment strategy for banking at the Family Bank of Honor—an investment strategy as simple as 1…2…3. Imagine the impact of sitting down to dinner to hear:
“Pass the green beans, PLEASE.”
“I APPRECIATE YOU cleaning the porch off today.”
“I didn’t do that.”
“I did.”
“Oh, I’M SORRY. I APPRECIATE YOU cleaning the porch then.”
A dinner conversation filled with great investments into the Family Bank of Honor-as easy as 1…2…3.

A Carnival of Parents

I enjoyed a day at a local amusement park with my family this weekend. My daughters are getting older now and they spend much of the day with their friends; but, we still eat supper together and meet throughout the day. Their independence does allow me and my wife to enjoy time together.  It also allows me some time to people watch. I love to people watch.  At an amusement park you find a whole carnival of people, a funhouse of parenting ideas. I wanted to share some of what I saw.
I saw the “cell-phone-guy.” He stood in line with his child, but didn’t talk to him. Instead, he played with his cell phone. When his child tried to talk to him, the cell-phone-guy nodded his head and said “Hmmm” at best. Other times, he didn’t respond at all. He just stood silently in line next to his child looking at his cell phone. I used to hate standing in lines at amusement parks too. But then I realized that lines were great opportunities to talk with my daughter. We could talk about anything, including things of no importance. We could talk and build relationship. The cell-phone-guy never learned this; so he missed the opportunity of the line. He was more invested in playing a game, checking his e-mail, or texting a friend than in having conversation with his child. This missed opportunity communicates a dangerous message to his child—a message that his child is not as important as whatever he was doing on his cell phone, that a relationship with his child is less important than a relationship with his cell phone. The “cell-phone-guy” eventually produces the “cell-phone-family.” I saw them at the park too. You know, parent and child standing in line, both playing with their cell phones but not interacting with each other at all. “Cat’s in the cradle” I guess. These families left the park at the same time, but definitely not together…traveled home in the same car, but invested in their own isolated world of earplugs and cell phone screens.
I also saw the “just-get-on-the-ride-and-have-fun-guy.” This guy looked tired…and grumpy. He wasn’t having any fun at all. He just wanted to get the day over with. He looked as though he’d rather be anyplace other than the amusement park with his kids–at home watching ESPN, reading the paper, even cutting the grass. When asked if he was having fun, he replied “yes” but his face didn’t get the message. He looked as though a smile might cause a facial earthquake and tsunami that would result in an angry explosion of nuclear proportions. When his children asked about getting a drink, he boiled over…the proverbial camel’s back was broken–“Just get on the ride and have fun!” he “yelled.” Sometimes the “just-get-on-the-ride-and-have-fun-guy” transformed into the “cell-phone-guy” when he escaped into his twitter account to get the update on the recent sporting events or local news. Still, he wasn’t having any fun at the amusement park. Unfortunately, neither was his family. They were walking on egg shells, holding Mommy’s hand and looking forlornly at the lemonade stand they just passed up.
Of course, there was the “attentive-fun-loving-guy” too. In fact, most of the people in the park fit into this category. They were having a great time. Parent and child talking and laughing, pointing out exotic hairdos, screaming joyfully as they flew down the roller coaster, fixing one another’s hair after spinning around like a dryer. These families took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy one another’s company, play together, eat together, and build intimacy. They were all smiles and laughter. They went home exhausted, but joyful.
I’ve been all three of these guys on different occasions. Well, maybe not the “cell-phone-guy” because I’m still working on learning how to text. But, I’ve been distracted by other things–finances, work, the lawn, who’s winning the baseball game. When these distractions became more important than my family time at the amusement park, I became the “worried-about-everything-but-here-and-now-guy,” which is really a prehistoric (pre-technology) version of the “cell-phone-guy,” the “Neanderthal-cell-phone-guy” so to speak. And, I’ve had those days of “just-get-on-the-ride-and-have-fun-guy” as well. I hope that my family remembers me as the “attentive-fun-loving-guy” on most family days. That’s what is important—which guy we are on most of our family days. Who we are most of the time shapes our children’s lives and relationships, not just to us but to others. So, put away the cell phones, set aside the worries and distractions, enjoy time with your family. Become the “attentive-fun-loving-parent.” Enjoy your family…have fun. At the end of the day, you’ll be glad you did!

The Lost Art of Sacrifice in the Family

William Doherty notes that family member’s made personal sacrifices to assure their family’s well-being, stability, and overall security in the past. During the 1900’s, this focus shifted away from family stability to individual happiness. Instead of the individual promoting the well-being of the family, the family became a tool to promote individual happiness and achievement. Rather than sacrifice for the family, individuals expected the family to sacrifice for them. With this change, individual happiness became more important than family security. “I” replaced “We.” “My needs” took precedent over “your needs” or “our needs.” Competition over whose needs are most important became commonplace and even aggressive at times. In today’s individual-focused family, when you don’t make me happy, I believe you are holding me back and hindering my happiness. The individual focuses on his own desires while disregarding everyone else’s desires. Performance that satisfies my needs becomes the standard by which family members judge one another. Each person engages in his or her own activities and ignores other family members. Family becomes a disconnected group of people putting up with one another’s irritating behaviors while residing in a common living space. A very sad situation for families.
A family style focused on individual happiness really proves detrimental to the individual, too. Where does a child learn to empathize if the family focus is on satisfying personal needs? How can a child learn the joy of sharing and giving to another person if it is not modeled in the family? Where will a child find the security of knowing that his family “has his back” no matter what if family members are more concerned with their individual happiness and reputation than protecting one another? Children need to know that family members are committed to establishing a safe, secure community in which they can live and grow. So, what can be done? How can we protect our own family from the disconnected, individually-focused family so prevalent today? By practicing sacrifice.
When family members sacrifice for one another, the family focus changes from “Me” to “We.” But why would I sacrifice my needs for my family? Sacrifice within the family promotes a sense of community, commitment for the long haul, and dedication to family stability. Family stability translates to a feeling of safety, security, and peace. Sacrifice also communicates love for one another, value for each person, and a desire to join together in growing and maturing. Sacrifice promotes humility, intimacy, and community. 
With those benefits in mind, you can follow these 3 steps to become the catalyst for sacrifice in your family.
1.      Become a student of your family members so you can know and recognize their needs and desires. Keep those needs and desires in mind and act on them. If a family member needs quiet time due to a headache, sacrifice the TV for a while and allow quiet. If a family member desires to sit in a certain seat, let them…even if you want to as well. If there is only one cookie left and your sister wants it, graciously sacrifice your desire and let her eat it.
2.      Begin to view other family members and their desires as “more important” than your own. I don’t mean to forget your own needs and desires, but don’t place your own needs or desires above their needs and desires. Let your family know that you value them and their needs.
3.      Make a commitment to outdo one another in giving honor to one another. Create an environment of honoring one another with the gift of sacrifice. You can sacrifice in little ways like letting another family member get food first at the table or allowing family to go through a door first. You might make the sacrifice of watching what another family member wants to watch on TV or listening to a radio station that another family member wants to hear. These little moments of sacrifice help create an environment of sacrifice, encouraging each family member to think of the “other guy” and sacrifice to meet their needs.

Misbehavior: A Call for Love?

“Why do they do it?” I ask, pulling my hair out in frustration. “Why do they continue to misbehave?” Good question. After all, we teach our children to make wise choices and they continue to misbehave. Sometimes it’s just immaturity, but they continue to misbehave as they mature…why? Parenting experts offer some interesting insights in this regard. Some have said that “Behaviors such as complaining, worrying, shouting, and nagging are all disguised calls for love” (G. Godek). A call for love, eh? Well, “it ain’t working.” Still, I do believe it is true. When children are scared or confused or when they feel threatened or disconnected, they will “call for love.” They “call for love” through their behavior…and, misbehavior represents an ineffective communication of that need. Misbehavior, a miscommunicated “call for love,” may flow from any of four directions. Let’s look at them one at a time. 
     1.      A child’s “call for love” may flow from a desire for attention. Everyone desires attention. We know someone loves us when they pay attention to us. If a person consistently ignores us, we assume they don’t really like us that much. If, in the midst of busy schedules, our child finds it difficult to elicit our undivided attention, he may learn to get our undivided attention through misbehavior. He may learn that “good behavior” elicits very little attention while misbehavior leads to energetic attention and interaction, that simple misbehavior demands our immediate attention. We may unintentionally teach him that needing constant reminders, coaxing, and nagging elicits our attention. In a child’s world, attention equals love and negative attention is better than no attention at all. Parents can respond to this “call for love” by giving their child positive attention when opportunities arise. Plan one-on-one time with him. Encourage him. Acknowledge his appropriate behavior with simple comments. Establish routines of connection at bedtime, mealtime, and morning. 
2.      A child’s “call for love” may also flow from feeling inadequate. A child who feels inadequate often believes that he does not belong unless he is perfect. Parents may have contributed to this belief with unrealistic expectations or overly critical responses. Whatever the contributors, this child gives up or misbehaves so others will leave him alone, view him as helpless, and hold him to low expectations. The child who feels inadequate has a deep-seated need for someone to believe in him. Parents can respond to this “call for love” by stopping any undue criticism. Offer encouragement for positive effort and behavior instead. Focus on strengths and abilities. Set up opportunities for successes. Build on his interests and strengths. Enjoy your child’s strengths and let him know you enjoy him.
3.      A child’s “call for love” may erupt from feeling powerless. A child who feels powerless believes that she is only worthy when she is in control. She may even fear the unpredictability of feeling out of control. One of the easiest ways to feel in control is to refuse to do what others tell us to do. “They can’t control me” and “You’re not the boss of me” are the implicit messages of a child whose misbehavior is rooted in feeling powerless. Unfortunately, becoming angry and threatening or challenging this child will only intensify her defiance and the energy she invests in winning. The first step in responding to a child who feels powerless is to avoid the power struggle. When we step into the power struggle with this child, she has already won. Do not argue. Talk less and act more. Let the “reality of consequences” do the talking. No need to argue about picking up the toys. Calmly offer the choice, “You can pick up your toys now or after dinner. If they are still there tonight, I will put them in time out for the rest of the week.” No arguing, no debating, no lecturing—just a choice and a consequence. Parents can also limit power struggles by eliciting help from the child whenever possible.
4.      A child’s “call for love” may overflow from hurt feelings as well. When a child’s feelings are hurt, she may misbehave to hurts other people’s feelings, to get even in a sense. She may believe that she can’t be liked or loved, so she might as well let others hurt like she does. This child’s parents may think, “How could she do this to me?” They feel hurt, disappointed, or even disgusted by their child’s behavior. In this situation, a parent finds that dealing with the hurt feelings will often help change the misbehavior. Listen. Make amends for any hurt feelings. Express empathy. Show your child, through actions, how much you care. As you lean into the relationship with your child and accept her feelings, you will have the opportunity to explore solutions to her behavior.

The Lost Art of Family Meals

“Life is a highway” and we seem to live in the fast lane. Everybody’s running. Children have sports, music, social groups, and church. Parents run their children to various activities while trying to fit in their own recreational activities, long work hours, commute times, and house work. Life is definitely a rush. In the midst of all this rush, family members grab meals on the run. However, research has shown that eating meals as a family has many benefits. “One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners,” says Joseph Califano Jr., chairman and president of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). Even teens believe that family meals keep families close. In a CASA study, 47% of teens reported that during or after dinner was the best time to talk about matters of importance to them or the family. Dinner time becomes a great time to talk. Eating frequent family meals also makes it more likely that your child will come to you when he experiences a difficulty in his life. The family meal then provides the forum to have a discussion about whatever difficulty they experience and it lays a relational foundation for that discussion. In other words, if you’d like to maintain a close relationship with your children, plan to eat together as a family.
“But wait…there’s more!” Engaging your children leads to many other benefits as well. In fact, children who eat at least 5 meals a week with their family exhibit significantly less drug and alcohol use. They smoke cigarettes less often. They eat a healthier diet and exhibit less incidence of obesity. Children who eat frequent family meals even earn higher grades in school. Girls who eat with their family on a regular basis have fewer incidences of eating disorders.
Moreover, eating as a family provides opportunities to teach polite manners and etiquette. Families have opportunities to discuss family values as well as daily events like school, friends, and activities. Children receive their parents’ undivided attention and parents learn about their children’s lives. We have had some of our best discussion over the dinner table…whether those discussions were about friends at school, dreams of the future, or sex, they all occurred over supper and dessert. All in all, family meals offer a wonderful way to honor our families. 
How do you create a successful family meal? Here are five suggestions.
1.      Turn off the TV and sit around the table. You do not want the TV distracting you from one another. So, turn it off and enjoy one another’s company.
2.      Make the family meal enjoyable. Enjoy simple conversation. Show an interest in other family members. Ask them about their day. Tell some jokes.
3.      Model polite manners and etiquette. Ask for family members to pass the food; don’t just stretch across the table to get it. Listen before you respond rather than talking over one another. Say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate.
4.      Surprise everyone now and again by eating breakfast for supper or pizza for breakfast. Eat your dessert first and then have your meal. Make the family meal a picnic or a buffet. Cook someone’s favorite dish for their birthday or other special occasion. Whatever you choose, be creative and offer a surprise now and again.
5.      Avoid “hot topics” during meal time. If a disagreement arises or you know a certain topic will create tension, arrange a time to meet and discuss that topic after dinner, away from the table. Keep the dinner table associated with fun and connection.

Teaching Children To Make Wise Choices

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”—Henry Ford
“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success.”—Samuel Smiles
I wanted to grow and harvest raspberries, so I bought some corn seed and planted it in the back yard. Do you think I got a good crop of raspberries? Of course not. I can’t get raspberries from corn. We reap what we sow.  This principle holds true in life as well. We can’t get positive results from negative life choices. We can’t earn a raise by sleeping in and skipping work…or an “A” by not doing homework. We reap what we sow.  You know it and I know it, but how do we teach our children this principle? How do we instill in them the wisdom to make responsible choices? Before I answer that question, let me tell you two things not to do!
1. Do not bail them out. I don’t know about you, but I hate to see my children sad or, worse yet, suffer. Like most parents, I hurt when they hurt. I struggle when they struggle. When my daughters look at me with big puppy dog eyes glistening with crocodile tears, it’s hard to say “no.” When they’ve made a choice that brings a painful consequence, I would rather swoop in and take away the pain than watch them suffer the consequence of their choice. But, if I do that, I do them an injustice. I actually rob them of the opportunity to mature and learn from mistakes. I rob them of the knowledge that actions have consequences. By trying to be their hero, I teach them that comfort is more important than character and letting other people manage my mistakes works as well as accepting personal responsibility. I imply that they are not strong enough to manage the consequences of their behavior independently and they are not intelligent enough to learn from their mistakes. These are dangerous lessons to teach our children…lessons I don’t even believe. Even more, they imply dangerous beliefs about their person that they will internalize into their own self-image.

2. Do not emotionally pounce on them. Sometimes rather than bail them out, we find it easier to put up the misbehavior. We ignore it and put up with it to avoid the conflict. Over time, frustration builds up and irritation escalates until one little thing “sets us off.” We blow our stack and emotionally pounce on our child. We begin to rant and rave about that one behavior that “set us off.” In the midst of ranting, the topic of our rant expands to include every irritating behavior our child has engaged in over the last month. And, our child shuts down, blankly staring at us as we explode in a verbal tirade. Their blank look only irritates us more and we continue the rant. Unfortunately, our child learns nothing except how to make us “lose it.” He does not think about his behavior or the consequences of his behavior. Instead, he complains about us “always yelling” at him. He simply quits listening. When all is said and done, he does not learn the consequence of his behavior. Instead, he focuses on our behavior and walks away talking about his “crazy” parent. We have suffered more as a result of his behavior than he has. And, once again, we have robbed him of the opportunity to learn from the consequences of his mistakes.

3. That explains two responses that won’t work in teaching our children how to make wise choices. What will work? Express empathy while allowing your child to suffer the consequence of his behavior. Allow him the opportunity to learn from the consequences of his choice. By doing so, you show him respect and you communicate your belief that he is intelligent enough to learn from his behavior. This may involve allowing him to suffer, even if that is painful to watch at times. At the same time, express empathy for his pain. “I’m sorry you missed the movie with your friends. However, I asked you to clean your room before you go and you didn’t do it.” That’s it, empathy and limits, compassion and consequence, grace and truth. The balance of grace and truth will allow your child to learn how to make responsible choices. They will have the desire to make responsible choices in response to a relationship filled with empathy, compassion, and grace. At the same time, they will learn that poor choices result in consequences that are more painful than positive choices, misbehavior is more troublesome than good behavior.
Empathy and limits, compassion and consequences, grace and truth–the balance parents have used for centuries to produce wise children who make responsible choices.

Fueled by Love: The Power of Mom

I tried to write something wise and insightful about mothers, but I lack the necessary prerequisites—wisdom and insight. Anyway, I also know that many more qualified people have already written about mothers. So, I decided to share their wisdom about motherhood. I hope you enjoy it. 
     ·         “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” — Elizabeth Stone
     ·         “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” — George Washington (1st President of U.S.A.)
·         “No one is poor who had a godly mother” — Abraham Lincoln (16th President of U.S.A.)
·         “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”– Abraham Lincoln
·         “My mother was the making of me.” –Thomas Alva Edison (American Inventor)
·         “Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs… since the payment is pure love.” — Mildred B. Vermont
·         “Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.” — Marion C. Garretty
·         “She gave me love, as well as life; so whatever goodness I may bring to earth began with the gift of my mother’s heart.” — Robert Sexton
·         “Mother – that was the bank where we deposited all our hurts and worries.” — T. DeWitt Talmage
·         “On Mother’s Day I have written a poem for you. In the interest of poetic economy and truth, I have succeeded in concentrating my deepest feelings and beliefs into two perfectly crafted lines: You’re my mother, I would have no other!” — Forest Houtenschil
·         “Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” — William Makepeace Thackeray
·         “Now that… my kids are grown, I understand how much work and love it takes to raise and to keep a family together. The example of your strength, devotion, and patience is now rippling through the generations. Thank you!” — Forest Houtenschil
Mothers change the world. They profoundly influence their child’s identity, values, and ability to relate to others in a loving, compassionate way. Their influence ripples out from their children to the school…to the community…and, ultimately, to the culture. As adults, we hear our mothers speak to us in our conscience, we see our mother’s actions in our habits, and we feel our mother’s love as we care for our own children. Really, mothers are powerful and the fuel of their power comes from a deep, never-ending love.
Thanks Mom for the grace and love you shared with us, the example you set for us. You changed our lives…and you changed our world.

5 Questions for Parents to Answer Before Discipline

When children misbehave, parents generally respond quickly with discipline. Family shepherds immediately and energetically discipline their children in order to stop the misbehavior and teach more appropriate behavior. That is all well and good. However, as family shepherds we also have to remember that what we say and do during a heated interaction (like discipline) burns into the heart and mind of our child. Like quick drying cement, our words and actions quickly harden into rigid patterns of thought and beliefs that impact our child’s self-image, mood, and character. So, we need to be careful how we speak to our children during the heat of discipline. When you discipline your child, ask yourself these questions to assure your words and actions strengthen your child’s character.
     1.      What specific behavior do I want my child to change? Family shepherds do not lecture their child. They don’t ramble or “pull in the kitchen sink” of misbehaviors past and present. If their child forgets to unload the dishwasher, they do not start into a 5 minute rampage about how their child never cleans his room, helps around the house, and appreciates the effort to care for them. If their child speaks rudely, they do not lecture on the disrespect of arriving late, rolling eyes, and not helping around the house. No, Family shepherds focus on the specific behavior they want to address at that time…one behavior at a time. When parents ramble or “pull in the kitchen sink,” children stop listening. They don’t hear the words anymore. They hear Charlie Brown’s teacher: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” When parents lecture, children stop looking at their own behavior and focus on their parents’ “incessant rambling.” They complain about the lecture and they argue. So, focus on the specific behavior you want your child to change. Keep anything you say short and to the point.
2.      What is the message of your child’s misbehavior? Children’s misbehavior often sends a message. They may misbehave to communicate a desire for attention or to express their own anger at a perceived mistreatment. Children may also misbehave to communicate a feeling of rejection or to counter a feeling of inadequacy. In order to respond effectively to a child’s misbehavior, family shepherds consider what their child is communicating, what he hopes to gain, through his misbehavior. Behavior that expresses a fear of rejection requires a different response than behavior that expresses anger or a desire for attention. Take a moment and think about why your child is misbehaving and respond with that in mind.
3.      Are there times your child has communicated the same thing with appropriate behavior? After you know what your child is communicating with their misbehavior, think about times they have behaved well. Recall times that your child has behaved in accordance with family values and rules. Perhaps you can recall times he has gained attention through kind deeds or expressed anger with words rather than fists. Taking time to recall these positive incidents helps us avoid phrases like “you always…” and “you never….” It helps us realize that this incident of misbehavior is not a permanent pattern or a major character flaw but a temporary behavior that he can change given proper instruction.
4.      What factors may have contributed to this misbehavior? Many factors contribute to children’s misbehavior: hunger, tiredness, changes in routine, feeling neglected, something that happened at school, a misunderstanding, feeling left out, etc. Sometimes misbehavior is simple immaturity, not a devious plot to make everyone’s life miserable. Think about what contributes to your child’s misbehavior. Family shepherds believe the best about their child’s intent. They adjust their discipline to match the factors that contribute to their child’s misbehavior. For instance, if their child misbehaves because he is tired, they may send him to lie down for a few minutes rather than take a privilege away. If their child misbehaves to gain attention, a time out and working to give them attention for positive behavior will prove more effective than a simple scolding.
5.      What behavior do I want my child to engage in to replace the negative behavior? Discipline involves teaching. Family shepherds teach their children appropriate behaviors to replace negative behaviors. If they want their child to stop speaking rudely, they teach him how to speak politely. If parents simply “punish” their child, he learns what not to do but does not learn what to do. He is left with a “behavioral void,” an empty space with no idea of what to do. If he has a “behavioral void,” he will fill it…most likely with inappropriate behavior. Family shepherds teach their child appropriate behavior to replace the negative behavior and fill any “behavioral void” they might have.