Archive for August 26, 2013

Talking to Your Kids: A Lesson From Grease

Remember the song, “Summer Nights” in the musical Grease? (Click Here to watch on YouTube) Parents can learn a communication lesson from that song, a lesson that can help us talk with our children.  The singers repeated a particular phrase over and over in the song “Summer Nights,” a phrase that led to more and more information being shared (sometimes more than I wanted to know). That phrase was “Tell me more, tell me more.”  We may do well as parents to remember that type of phrase when speaking with our children. Rather than jumping in to give a solution, lecturing to teach the best way to handle a situation, or expounding on the important aspects of the topic, let your children “tell me more, tell me more.” Use phrases that will encourage them to speak…and take the opportunity to listen. You will get the opportunity to learn about your children that way—how they think, what or who they admire, what they dream about, what they value, etc. To get all this information, you have to learn to use phrases that encourage your children to “tell me more, tell me more.” Experiment with the phrases below to discover which ones fit your personality and which ones lead to the best results with your children. Try saying…

·         “Mmm-hmmm”

·         “I’m listening”

·         “Oh”

·         “Oh?”

·         “I see”

·         “Really”

·         “I’m interested in your thoughts about that”

·         “What happened next?”

·         “Wow”

·         “Interesting”

·         “Cool”

·         “What else happened?”

Maybe none of these sound right for you and your child. Maybe you have another phrase that works well—that’s good. Just remember to avoid slipping your ideas, your judgments, or your feelings into the response. Instead, make it all about understanding your child. Communicate your acceptance of them as a person and your respect for their story. You will discover that they talk more, share more, and even think more clearly when they can sense your interest in their thoughts and do not feel the need to defend against your ideas. By the way, if you have other phrases that encourage your child to speak, share them with us in the comment section below. The more options we have, the better!

2 Words to Ban From Your Family

Words carry power. They influence our actions and our mood. Even more alarming, they have the power to shape the thoughts, moods, and actions of those around us…not just for today but for years to come. How many of us can remember a harsh word spoken to us by a teacher in elementary school? Or, a hurtful word spoken by a parent in their moment of frustration? Yes, words have power. There are two categories of words in particular that carry a subtle yet pervasive power over those who say them and hear them. These words and phrases sound simple, even harmless; but, they have the potential to limit our freedom, increase our guilt, and choke our self-confidence. These two categories of words have an especially strong impact on our family members. I suggest we ban them from the family. Let me explain.


The first category of words to ban from family life includes absolutes like “always” and “never.” Like our mothers “always” said, “Never say never.” When we say “never” or “always,” we imply something is unchangeable. For instance, telling someone “you always lose your keys” communicates the belief that they cannot change. They will “always” lose their keys and will “always” disappoint. They may as well not even try to change what they “always” do. Consider the subtle way these absolutes label a person: “You never listen to me” labels a person as consistently rude and ignorant. “You always want the last word” carries the label that a person is arrogant and self-centered. “You never do what you’re told” translates into telling a person they are either disobedient or lazy. “You always forget what I ask you to do” carries the belief that person does not care about us.  These statements not only carry an implicit negative label of the person, but the absolute in the statement implies the person cannot and will not change! A person responds to these accusations with defensiveness…and the battle begins. We would all benefit from taking the absolutes out of the equation so we can have a better conversation. Instead of saying “always” or “never,” note what happened “this time” in “this situation.” Allow the person an opportunity to change. 


The second category of words to ban from family life include “should,” “ought to,” or “must.” Saying “you should do this” robs a person of choice and responsibility. It imposes a sense of obligation. After all, if “I should do it” what choice do I have? A loved one who tells me “I should” will be upset if I don’t. The only choice I have is to do what “I should” or rebel against the “should” and disappoint the one I love. And, when I do what I “should,” I hold no responsibility for choosing that course of action. Telling family members how they “should” act or what they “ought to have done” also communicates that they can never please you, never be “good enough.” A person flooded with should’s may give up. After all, if I can never be “good enough,” why even try? A well-placed “should” will induce guilt…and guilt can lead to giving up as well.

As you can see, absolutes and “should” have great power. Their power is subtle. They sound simple, even harmless; but, they crush our spirits, increase our guilt, and choke our self-confidence. I’m sure you can recall times in your own life when you were sideswiped by a well-placed absolute or a crushing should. Why continue that pain in our families today. Really, “we
should never speak in absolutes or should’s.” Ban them from your family!

Good Parents Do Nothing!!!

That’s right—you read that title correctly: Good Parents Do Nothing…well, sometimes anyway. I know it goes against our grain and our desire to create the perfect child, but sometimes the best course of action to take with your child is to do nothing. Don’t get me wrong; I still think parents need to remain very active in their children’s lives. Our children need us to guide them and even protect them at times. Still, sometimes the best and most loving course of action a parent can take is to do nothing. When we avoid taking every opportunity to intervene in our children’s activities, we communicate a very important message—”I trust you to do the right thing.” When we permit them to make mistakes rather than jumping in to “save them,” we communicate that same message—”You are a capable person who can learn from mistakes.”

If you want to communicate a different (an ineffective and less healthy) message to your child, jump right in to solve their problems, fix their mistakes, and make sure they have fun. Intervene whenever they encounter a struggle. Intrude into your children’s every activity. Make sure you are present and involved with everything they do. That way, you can communicate messages like the ones below:

·         “You cannot learn on your own. I have to teach you everything.”

·         “I am uncomfortable with any mistake you make. Your mistakes make me feel inadequate.”

·         “I want to be proud of your accomplishments…and I’m afraid your accomplishments will not be good enough to make me proud.”

·         “I secretly want you to fulfill all my dreams.”

·         “You must need me or I am incomplete, useless, inadequate.”

·         “You must need me or I have no purpose.”

 I realize there will be times when a parent must step in and help, discipline, or play. Our children need us. However, they also need us to step back sometimes and do nothing so they can grow into competent and healthy young adults. 

Celebrate Your Family With Pie For A Year

I recently came across a website that listed various “food holidays” celebrated throughout the United States. I love to celebrate…and I love to eat. So, I decided to combine food, family, and holiday celebration for a year of family celebration. However, there were so many holidays (if you think I’m making this up, visit American Holidays  and scroll down to the American Food Holiday Section) I had to limit them  or my celebration would lead to a wideness of berth preventing me from comfortably walking through the door to my house.  Anyway, in the interest of celebrating family and remaining somewhat healthy, I have limited the celebration to desserts…and not just any dessert. No, I have limited the celebration to pies. Who doesn’t love pie? Join me in celebrating family for a year with these National Pie Days. Make the whole pie process a family event. Go to the grocery store, the market, or the fruit stand with your whole family to pick out the perfect ingredients. Make the pie together. You might even make an extra pie to use during a gratitude visit (see 3 Ways to Nurture an Amazing Family Panacea for details). Don’t forget to enjoy eating the pie together (with ice cream for the perfect treat). Here are a few National Pie Days I invite you to join in celebrating with your family and mine!


January 23–National Pie Day

February 20–National Cherry Pie Day

March 2–National Banana Cream Pie Day

April 28–National Blueberry Pie Day

May 13–National Apple Pie Day

June 9–National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day

July 12–National Pecan Pie Day

August 18–National Ice Cream Pie Day

August 24–National Peach Pie Day

September 28–National Strawberry Cream Pie Day

October 23–National Boston Cream Pie

November 27–National Bavarian Cream Pie Day

December 25–National Pumpkin Pie Day


Now you know I love to celebrate family. Maybe I will pick a year to celebrate family with State Food Symbols next. 

6 Simple Ways to Build Happy Families

My oldest daughter is leaving for college this month. As she prepares to leave, I have thought about how I want her to remember her time growing up with us. (Yes I know, I should have thought about that 18 years ago; and, I did begin thinking about it then. I guess the woman who said, “You’re a slow thinker” was right.) Anyway, I hope my daughter recalls our family as a family filled with happiness. I hope that in the process of growing up, we have taught her the skills needed to create happiness in her own life as well. Here are some ways that you can build a family environment of happiness as well…before your daughter gets ready to leave for college!

     ·     Teach generosity. Generous people are happy people. To create a happy family, practice generosity. Practice generosity toward one another. Practice generosity toward those outside your family.  Tip with generosity. Share with generosity. Model generosity.

·     Encourage exercise. Research has shown over and over that exercise contributes to happiness. So, as a family, develop an active lifestyle. Go for walks together. Ride your bike. Hike. Walk to the store once in a while rather than taking the car all the time. Work out together. Play Ultimate Frisbee. Enjoy physical activity as a family.

·     Teach to plan ahead. Anticipation builds excitement and happiness. Think about the excitement we experience as we anticipate the generous sharing of Christmas or the achievement of some goal we have worked toward. You can build this anticipation by involving the whole family in planning for various family celebrations such as holidays or birthdays. My kids love planning a surprise for their mother’s birthday or Mother’s Day; and, even a small surprise builds joy and happiness. Discover your children’s interests and help them set small achievable goals in those areas. Watch their excitement and happiness grow as they achieve these small steps. 

·     Listen to music. Enjoy music together. Sing, dance, and make music together. Or, join a choir as a family. Enjoy a concert. It is hard to be sad and unhappy for very long when you are enjoying music together. (Read this to learn more about the power of music for families)

·     Build friendships. Develop friendships with people with whom you can share adventures. Not only can you experience the adventure with your friends, you can also
 recall the adventures with your friends. Recalling our shared adventures is almost as fun as the actual adventure…sometimes even more fun. Develop friendships as a family. Encourage your children to develop friendships as individuals.

·     List three good things that happened. At the end of each day, tell your family about three good things that happened today. Listen as they tell you about three good things that happened to them. Studies have found that recalling the good events of each day can increase happiness and decrease depression.

 Practicing the six activities above can help fill you family with joy and happiness. Your family will be a place filled with happiness, a place your children will remember as happy. As your children start families of their own, your home can remain a place of happiness, a place your grandchildren will want to visit because of the happiness that fills every corridor…and that will definitely increase your happiness!

Mom Was Right…Again!

It looks like Mom was right…again. (Don’t you hate having to admit that?) All this time I thought she was just torturing me by setting bedtime at 8 pm when I was little—even in the summer when the sun was still out! But, somehow Mom knew even before the researchers figured it out. Now, I don’t want this to go to your head Mom, but…you were right.


A study published on July 12, 2013, supports Mom’s bedtime and shows that children benefit from a regular bedtime. In this study, researchers met with over 10,000 children and their families. They completed home visits that included interviews with the family when the children were 3-, 5-, and 7-years-old.  The home visit also included a cognitive assessment of the 7-year-olds. The results of this data suggested that not having a regular bedtime at 3 years of age was associated with lower scores in reading, math, and spatial relations for both genders when they reached 7-years of age. Not having a regular bedtime at 5-years of age was associated with lower scores in reading for 7-year-old girls and lower scores in math for 7-year-old boys. Even more disturbing, not having a regular bedtime throughout the preschool and early elementary years had a cumulative effect, lowering scores even more. (Read More on MedPage Today)


I know, you might think that not having a regular bedtime reveals a less structured and more chaotic family life; and, that lack of structure and the resulting chaos produced the lower test scores…that was my first thought as well. But, after carefully reading the study, I discovered that the researchers had accounted for that chaos and lack of structure. Not having a regular bedtime lowered scores in math, reading, and spatial relations for 7-year-olds independent of the structure in the home!


I learned two important lessons from this study. One, if you want your children to excel in school and develop strong skills in reading, math, and spatial relations, establish a reasonable bedtime for them early in life. Sure, this regular bedtime will change with age, but keeping a regular bedtime provides a necessary ingredient to healthy cognitive development.

Two, Mom was right. Thank-you for sticking with a regular bedtime…even when I pitched a fit about the sun being up…even when I pleaded…even when I threw out my many creative attempts to postpone bedtime. Thank-you for knowing the best thing to do for your kids…even before the researchers caught up with your smarts! 

The Secret Soil of Growing Healthy Children

Shhhh…I have something to tell you, a tip to help you raise healthy, mature children. Here it is: the seeds of maturity grow best in the rich soil of acceptance. I know, it is not a great revelation, but, it is true nonetheless. The soil of acceptance nourishes an inner feeling of being loved and lovable. It encourages a strong root system in which a realistic self-concept, healthy independence, and effective problem-solving skills can intertwine. A child bursting forth from the nutrient rich soil of acceptance is confident to grow strong and straight; empowered to reach for their true capabilities and potentials in the midst of prevailing winds, storms, or obstacles; and free to branch off in new and better directions in response to loving guidance and discipline.


Planted in the rocky clay of rejection, children grow twisted and gnarled with bitterness, anger, and feelings of inferiority. Without the nourishment of acceptance, children develop a weak root system plagued by a shallow view of their capabilities, a limited strength to withstand the pressures of life, and restricted ability to absorb the resources needed to support and sustain them in time of drought. They become hedged in by a lack the confidence and find it impossible to stand tall. They grow twisted, bending in whatever direction the winds blow.


Yes, the seeds of maturity grow best in the rich soil of acceptance. But this raises a difficult question. Our children will engage in behaviors we find unacceptable. And, when we express rejection of those behaviors, our children might see it as rejection of them. So, how can we make sure our children know we accept them while telling them we do not approve of unacceptable behaviors? First, make sure you truly do have an attitude of acceptance toward your children. Are you accepting of their interests, even when their interests are different than yours? Are you accepting of their likes and dislikes, even when they differ from yours? Take time to really assure your acceptance of your children’s unique interests, strengths, likes, and dislikes.


Second, express acceptance in as many ways and as often as you can. As parents, we need to express acceptance more than disapproval. Learn about their interests and get involved in some of them. Learn about their world. Meet their friends. Talk about their music. Show an interest in anything that interests them. Still, be honest with yourself and your children. If you find one of their interests boring, you don’t have to fake excitement; but, you can still express a curiosity in that interest as a way to learn about your child. Take time to learn about that interest: what makes it interesting to them? How did that interest develop? Who else enjoys that interest? How could you learn more about it…enough to enable you to carry on an intelligent conversation with your child about that interest? Doing so will let your children know you are interested in them as a person…and, you might just discover a growing interest yourself! John Gottman talks about a 5-1 ratio of positive to negative experiences in healthy relationships. With that ratio in mind, work to express acceptance of your child at least five times more often then you express disapproval of unacceptable behavior. This may take work at times, but the results are well worth the effort. 


The seeds of maturity grow best in the rich soil of acceptance. So pour on the soil of acceptance, keep it rich and keep it deep.

Celebrate Family with 15 National Holidays

I am amazed at the number of yearly holidays that I have never heard of. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? For instance, you can celebrate “Name Your Car Day” in October or “Lumpy Rug Day” in May. It actually takes an act of Congress to create a National Day like the “National High Five Day” in April and the “National Play-doh Day” in September. Maybe you want to “create a day” of your own; if so, click here to learn how. In the meantime, why not take a few of these “special holidays” and use them to celebrate your family. To get you started, I have listed a few of my favorite days below. Check them out–most of them need no explanation. You can design your own family celebration for the ones that interest you.  Be creative and have fun celebrating family! And, share your fun celebration ideas with us at HonorGraceCelebrate in the comment section below or at our CelebrateFamilyTraditions Page on FaceBook. We’d love to hear from you!


January 12—National Hugging Day. Share a hug with your family. Better yet, give them an oxytocin hug

February 7th—National Send a Card To a Friend Day.
I know, we could text, email, Skype, facetime…but, who doesn’t love to get a tangible card in snail mail.  Send a card to your spouse and kids today and watch their faces glow as they open them up!

March 14—Pi Day.
I don’t know…it’s just a fun day. Enjoy some math together (really?) or go get a pie and eat it. You can figure out the area of the pie while you eat it (Area= [pi] r2).

March 30—Take a Walk in the Park Day.
This is a wonderful day and activity for those with Quality Time as their love language

April 2—National Reconciliation Day.
Bring the family together today. Forgive, be forgiven, and reconcile your relationship. Generations will thank you.

May 14—National Dance Like a Chicken Day.
Everyone knows the Chicken Dance…and who doesn’t have fun dancing the Chicken Dance. So, put on the music or the YouTube and dance the Chicken Dance with your family. Why wait for a wedding? Do it today!

June 6—National Drive in Movie Day.
Go to a drive in movie. Get some popcorn, a drink and enjoy the movie.

July 3—Compliment Your Mirror Day.
Why not? “Mirrors are people, too.” Or, sneak in and put a post-it word of encouragement or compliment on your spouse’s mirror or kid’s mirror. They’ll read it when they look in the mirror…complimenting the mirror.

August 8—Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.
This is a great family activity. Pick out some neighbors. Bag up a couple zucchini. Sneak onto their porch, put the bag just outside the door, ring the bell and run. Watch from a distance to see their reaction. Your kids will love the fun.

–first Sunday after Labor Day—National Grandparents Day. Grandparents can play a huge role in your children’s lives. Celebrate their involvement today. For all you grandparents, check out this resource: Extreme Grandparenting.

October –
first full weekend—National Story Tellers Weekend. Make up a few stories of your own this weekend.

November—National Family Week
starts the Sunday before Thanksgiving. A whole week to celebrate family. Take advantage of the opportunity to creatively celebrate your family.

3rd Saturday—National Day of Play. The family that plays together stays together. Need we say more?

November 27—National Day of Listening.
What’d you say?  Just joking. You get the idea.

December 25—Christmas
of course. Is there any better and more meaningful family holiday? Remember God’s generosity, share your generosity, and celebrate.