Archive for May 30, 2016

“I Love You” Getting Stale? Try These

If you feel like “I love you” is getting stale, try a couple of other phrases to express your Senior Couple - Kiss on the Cheeklove. Here are a dozen ideas from which you can choose.

  • You are important to me.
  • I’ll make sacrifices for you. I’ll give that up for you.
  • I forgive you.
  • I need you.
  • I think about you all the time.
  • If I had it all to do over again, I’d still choose you.
  • You get more beautiful every day.
  • What can I do for you today?
  • Let me help you with that.
  • I think about you all the time.
  • I am committed to you for life.
  • I’m sorry.

And to make it a baker’s dozen:

  • I love you more today than the day we got married.

Investing Time & Attention in Your Children

Children have two currencies for LOVE: TIME and ATTENTION (Read Your Child’s Currency For Love for mistaken investments). When parents invest time and attention into their children’s emotional bank account, their children grow to know themselves as significant and valuable. They realize they hold a place of importance in their parents’ lives. As a Happy family playingresult, they become more confident. They also develop a greater desire to please their parents. They obey more often and internalize their parents’ moral values more readily. In other words, time and attention are two powerful discipline investments that will result in better behaved children. One great way to invest time and attention in your children is through “Banking Play Time.” Here’s how it works.

  1. Set aside 15-20 minutes each day for playtime with your child. Do not make this time contingent on behavior. Do not use it as a form of punishment or reward. Just enjoy 15-20 minutes of play time with your child each day.
  2. Let your child pick the activity (within reason—TV does not work well for this type of investment). Let your child lead the activity as well. You simply follow your child’s lead. Play what they want to play, how they want to play.
  3. Become a student of your child’s actions and imaginations during this playtime. Objectively observe and verbally describe your child’s behavior during this activity. You can objectively describe behavior in several ways.
    1. You can simply report what you see your child doing. “Joey stacks the blocks and knocks them down.” “You put a blue dress on Barbie.” “You threw the ball right to me.”
    2. You may also describe what your child might be imagining in his play, modifying your play-by-play account as he directs. “Joey built a tower and knocked it down like the Hulk!” “You dressed Barbie in a pretty blue dress for dinner with friends.” “He throws the ball to first base and the runner is out! The crowd cheers.”
    3. You can also describe positive behaviors you observe during play. “You are waiting so patiently for your turn.” “You are working hard at putting that dress on Barbie just right.”
  4. Do not give directives or teach during playtime. This is child-directed play. You simply follow your child’s lead, spending time with them and paying attention to what he is doing. You are investing your time in playing how your child desires to play. You’re investing your attention in noticing them, their activity, and their thoughts and imaginations.
  5. Look for something positive, special, or unique about your child or his play. Verbally acknowledge or describe that unique quality. When you describe these positive qualities, make them specific and positive rather than a general label. For instance, say, “I like how you take turns” rather than “That’s a good boy.”
  6. If your child starts to engage in some negative behavior during play time, ignore it. Do not make eye contact. Simply continue engaging in, and commenting on, the positive aspects of the play activity. If the negative behavior starts to dominate the playtime, simply end the “banking time” session.

Try this method of investing time and attention into your child’s emotional bank account for 3-4 weeks. You will be surprised at how your child’s behavior improves.

Discipline Tool You Can’t Live Without

Routines represent one of a parent’s best and most influential disciplinary tool. We discipline to teach our children responsibility, time management, and consideration of other people. In other words, we discipline to promote mature behavior. Routines do all this and more. Consider some of the disciplinary lessons of routines.Mother And Son Doing Laundry

  • Routines give children a sense of security. Children like consistency. They like to know “what’s next.” Routines provide consistency and knowledge of “what’s next,” resulting in a sense of safety and security. A strong sense of security translates to fewer behavior problems.
  • Routines reduce power struggles between parent and child. Once a routine is in place, children follow through more easily. The struggle over bedtime, brushing teeth or clearing the table lessens because “it’s just what we do in our family.” And, while you engage in routines like clearing the table, you have time to connect as a family.
  • Routines help children gain independence. Want your children to develop healthy habits like taking a shower, brushing their teeth, doing their homework, getting up on their own? A good way to get it all started is to set up a routine and follow it. In time, your children will follow the routine independently. Start early and build the routine as they age. You’ll be pleased with their independence as middle schoolers. As an added bonus, learning routines will help your children learn to manage their time.
  • Routines help children plan ahead. Routines involve a series of activities, one activity leading to the next. Within that framework, children look forward, plan ahead, to the next activity within the routine. Even more, you can end a routine with an enjoyable reward like “thank you,” “well-done,” or a fun interaction. When that happens, you’ve added anticipation of reward into the mix…and taught the benefit of getting work done so you can have uninterrupted fun!
  • Routines help you and your children connect at various times throughout the day. Morning routines, bedtime routines, and transitions routines provide times to connect throughout the day. When you add a time of connection into each of these routines, each activity will go more smoothly AND you will experience more intimate interactions with your children.

Hopefully you are ready to establish routines in your home after reviewing these benefits. So, here are five routines I believe very beneficial to every family. Develop each to meet your family’s styles and needs.

  1. The Family Meal Routine. Families that eat at least 3-5 meals together each week experience many benefits (see The Lost Art of Family Meals for more on benefits). The family meal ritual includes much more than eating. It includes preparation, clean up, and lots of family interaction.
  2. The Morning Routine. A morning routine will teach your children to get ready for the day independently. Most importantly, the morning routine will set the tone for the rest of the day. So, be sure to include at least a little positive interaction into this routine. (Read Prime Your Child for a Good School Day for more on setting up a morning routine.)
  3. Taking Leave Routine. Taking leave routines are quick and easy. They provide a way to say good-bye as each family member goes their separate way for the day. A simple hug and kiss is all it takes for this routine, but the benefits are immense (like growing intimacy, sense of security, sense of value).
  4. Reconnecting Routines. From infancy through adulthood, we look for ways to reconnect after a time of separation or in response to some fear. Reconnecting confirms our sense of security and boosts our confidence. A reconnecting routine involves physical contact (like a hug or kiss) and simple, quality conversation. This routine is simple, but will have a profound impact on your family.
  5. Bedtime Routine. Many parents find the bedtime routine one of the most rewarding of all routines. Children open up and talk about the day. They share meaningful insights about their fears and joys. Parent and child form a more intimate relationship during this routine. After a good bedtime routine, children can drift off to sleep with a profound sense of connection and an experience of enjoyable intimacy. (Read Top Four Times for Parent-Child Talks for more on bedtime routines.)

A 30-Day Marriage Challenge

Marriage Missions posted a blog describing a wonderful way to build intimacy with your spouse.  In it they described the “22-minute date.” Couples agreed to spend 22-minutes each day talking with one another. In other words, they gave up one sitcom so they could sit down and talk with one another. They agreed to do several things while talking with one another for 22-minutes.

  • They agreed to make eye contact as they talked.
  • They agreed to have no children in the room. This necessitated some planning so they could talk after the children went to bed, during the day while children were in school, on a walk after dinner while their children did homework, or some other creative way to get alone.
  • They agreed to turn the TV off while talking.
  • They agreed to turn off answering machines (or leave all cell phones in another room).
  • They agreed to focus on positive aspects of their lives. They also agreed to not bring up past hurts and save any arguments for another time.
  • They agreed to not do dishes or other household chores while talking. This 22-minute segment of the day was for nothing but conversation with their spouse. No other duties would split their attention.
  • They agreed to do this for one month.

Couples who completed this challenge noted they felt awkward at first but soon found themselves enjoying their time together, even looking forward to their time together. They “admitted it was a more rewarding time than they’d ever dreamed possible!”

Why not take this 30-day challenge today? Give up one sitcom and commit to spending 22-minutes a day talking with your spouse—no interruptions, no distractions, no split attention, just 22 quality minutes of face-to-face, full-eye-contact conversation with your spouse. Then, let us know how it impacts your relationship. We’d love to hear.

PS—if you have trouble getting the conversation going, try using questions in Remember When, a pamphlet taken from 10 Great Dates. And don’t forget, have fun!

Catch the Little Rascals Red-Handed

Children love to get attention from their parents. They will work to gain your attention by any means necessary. I’m sure you’ve noticed this truth on more than one occasion. For instance, the time your child quietly played until you received an important phone call and Father Daughter Chatthey suddenly “needed you.” Or, the time you tried talking to a friend but your child suddenly appeared and began to tap your shoulder and called your name. Your children do this because they crave your attention. They need to know you find them more important than a favorite TV show, book, phone call, game, or store clerk. This fact provides us with an amazing parenting tool…your attention. In fact, the attention you give your children will powerfully reinforce their behavior. Your children will do whatever behavior effectively gains your attention…and do it more often to gain your attention. So, give your child attention when they whine or tantrum and they will whine or tantrum more often. Give them your attention when they put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher and they will do that more often. Let me repeat these principles so we don’t miss them:

  1. Children crave their parents’ attention.
  2. Children will repeat any behavior that elicits attention from their parents. They will even increase that behavior to gain their parents’ attention.

Attention becomes a powerful tool in changing your children’s behavior. Any powerful tool must be used with caution. Attention is no exception…powerful when used with caution. So, use the tool of attention with these 3 hints in mind.

  1. Don’t just give your children attention willy-nilly. Give them attention for positive behavior. Catch the little rascals red-handed being good. Catch ’em red-handed in the midst of positive behaviors and give them attention for that positive behavior.
  2. Avoid giving your children attention for negative behavior. Nagging, scolding, and yelling provide your children with energetic attention that will increase the negative behavior you’re actually trying to stop by yelling! Instead, give negative behavior as little attention as possible. Ignore it if you can. If you must address the negative behavior, do so in as neutral a tone and non-energetic a manner as possible. Save the energetic interactions for positive behaviors.
  3. Be creative in how you give your children attention. For instance, you can:
    1. Give attention through physical affection like hugs, kisses, high-fives, pats on the back, etc.
    2. Give your children attention with simple 1-3 word acknowledgements like “thank you,” “that’s great,” “cool,” “this is fun,” “I appreciate that,” I enjoy our time together,” etc.
    3. Give attention with specific recognition of positive behaviors they have done. Do this with statements like “Thank you for (taking out the garbage);” “I really appreciate it when you (clean your room);” “I see you’re (washing the dishes);” “(You made your bed), thank you;” etc. You get the idea. Be creative and acknowledge what you see your children doing well.

Give this powerful tool a 2-4 week trial. Catch the little rascals red-handed being good. Acknowledge it with a simple statement or gesture. Try it out for 2-4 weeks. You’ll find your children’s positive behaviors increasing, their undesirable behaviors decreasing. No, they won’t be perfect, but you will see improvements. You’ll have more fun, positive interactions with your children. Life in your family will improve.

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!

7 Ways Gratitude Benefits Your Family According to Research

According to research, practicing gratitude can benefits your marriage and family in numerous ways. Let me share 7 of the benefits I think all families need to know.

  • Gratitude “vaccinates” against impulsiveness and poor self-control. Of course, this is not a one-time vaccine. We need to practice “gratitude boosters” on a daily basis to get the best results. In fact, research suggests that the more Writing thank you on a blackboard.regularly a person experiences gratitude, the more self-control they seem to have. Want your children and spouse to be less impulsive and exhibit better self-control, model and teach gratitude!
  • Teaching teens to be grateful decreases problem behavior. A four year study in New York found that grateful teens had a greater sense of meaning in their life, were more satisfied with their overall life, and were more hopeful about their lives. Grateful teens also showed less of a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol. They were less likely to have behavior problems in school.
  • Gratitude increases patience, especially when it comes to financial decisions. A study from the Northeastern University’s College of Science assessed the impact of a number of positive emotions on patience when making financial decisions. Gratitude increased patience more than happiness or neutral emotions. In other words, grateful teens are less likely to make that impulsive purchase.
  • Gratitude increases happiness in life. Kent State University published a study in which college students wrote letters of gratitude to people who had positively impacted their lives. They wrote one letter every two weeks for a six week period. Each letter had to be “positively expressive, required some insight and reflection, were nontrivial and contained a high level of appreciation or gratitude.” After each letter, students completed a survey to assess their mood, satisfaction with life, and feelings of happiness. Not surprisingly, happiness increased with each letter! Why not write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted your life?
  • Gratitude strengthens marital relationships. Researchers from University of Georgia asked 468 married individuals about their financial well-being, communication styles, and expressions of spousal gratitude. Results of the survey indicated that expression of gratitude was the most consistent and significant predictor of marital quality. It protected couples from the negative effects of poor communication during conflict and was more important than financial status in producing happiness in the marriage. In other words, grateful spouse, happy spouse!
  • Gratitude strengthens romantic relationships. Sara Algoe, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, found that expressing gratitude in conversations led to stronger relationships, a greater adaptability to change, and a more positive relationship in general. A simple “thank you” can increase the romance in your marriage.
  • Gratitude helps us achieve and maintain satisfaction with our spouse. Sara Algoe, in another study, found that expressions of gratitude gave a boost to romantic relationships. In fact, the positive effects of gratitude on a marital relationship were still felt the day after it was expressed. Her research suggests that everyday gratitude serves an important function in maintaining happy, intimate relationships. In other words, if you want an ongoing happy marriage, practice gratitude every day.

Oh, the power of gratitude. A sincere “thank you” carries amazing power. Power you hold on the tip of your tongue! Start improving your family life today by wielding this power. Simply inject some gratitude into your everyday conversation. Keep it up and watch your family follow suit. In a month’s time you may have a new family to enjoy…thanks to the power of gratitude!