Tag Archive for schedule

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! 

Family Rest: A Lost Family Art

Whew, what a blur this month has become! My children have activity after activity, some out of state and some next door. Some mark major life transitions (such as graduation from high school) and some are great opportunities (such as participating in state level academic programs). Then, there is the typical run-around involved in keeping house and home–things like shopping, spring cleaning, working, etc. Even the world around us seems rushed and distracted. Music plays everywhere you go. Cars crowd the roads, weaving and swerving in and out of fellow travelers. Even in the “quietness” of home, computers buzz, lights flicker, cell phones glow, ice makers drop ice. At a recent school concert I watched the dancing shadows produced by the glowing lights of younger siblings playing video games on cell phones, I-Pads, or I-Pods. I encounter a constant barrage of lights, sounds, busy-ness and rush everywhere I go. In the midst of all this, you know what I miss? Do you know what I think our families need? Family rest!
Family rest—a long forgotten art in our fast-paced world. When I speak of a family rest I’m not talking about times in which the whole family takes a nap together…although that’s not a bad idea. Nor do I mean those times in which everyone sits around complaining that they have nothing to do; and, in response, everyone literally “veg-out” in front of the TV. Family rest is not sitting in a restaurant because everyone is too tired to cook, although I enjoy this as well.
So, what do I mean by a family rest? I mean those times when the whole family gathers together in one area and spends time together…playing, talking, reading, whatever. Turn off the TV, the cell phones, and the computer; forget the deadlines, the “honey-do” lists, and the planning for upcoming days; don’t worry about the world news or the menu for next week. Forget it all and intentionally engage one another in the moment–a relaxed, enjoyable moment of togetherness. You can do this in so many different ways, but here are a few.
     ·         You might enjoy games like Apples to Apples, The Game of Things, or Uno–games that encourage fun, interaction, and verbal exchanges. Don’t be surprised if these playful interactions lead to real eye to eye contact and times of engaging in uproarious laughter together. 

·         Maybe you prefer a more outdoor, active style of family rest. If so, perhaps you would enjoy a family walk or hike, a fishing trip, or a “[semi-] leisurely” bike ride along the rails to trails. During such an activity you can enjoy simple conversation. Once again, you may find this conversation becoming more intimate and meaningful as you proceed. Don’t be afraid to walk right into the more meaningful content of the conversation when it arises and enjoy the intimacy you find.

·         Perhaps you have a creative family that would enjoy creating together. You could sing together, play music together, make art together, or write a story together. Let the music entrain your family rhythms. Allow the art to give integrity, beauty, and flow to your interaction. Listen to the story line as it twists and turns through metaphors and similes as your family writes an evening of fun and intimacy into your family rest.

·         Take a vacation. Vacations don’t have to be long or expensive. You can even have a short “family rest vacation” in your backyard. Enjoy a back-yard picnic and a game of badminton. Set up camp in the back yard, equipped with a camp fire and s’mores. Put out a blanket on a warm night; then lay down as a family and point out the constellations.
I’m sure you have more ideas about how to create a family rest. Make it a point to enjoy that rest together. Relax, forget the deadlines for a little while, turn off the electronics, and enjoy the opportunity to resync your individual rhythms with the rhythm of family life.

Get Your Own Life! Leave Me Alone!

Have you ever felt like your child just wanted you out of their life? You want to be a good parent and remain involved with them, but they just seem to want to do things independently…on their own. Let’s face it: they want to do things without you! I know one of the main goals of parenting is to raise a child so they can live on their own…without me. Still, we may feel hurt or even jealous when our children start to choose friends over us, “light up” for their peers but look like a curmudgeon old scrooge around us, or proudly inform us, “No, I don’t want you to go…I want to go by myself.” Here are a few tips to help you think about and prepare for those times when you feel your child say, “Get out of my life!”

·         Children of all ages need their own life. They need a life independent from their parent’s life. When a child becomes the sole focus of their parent’s life, they feel too much pressure to perform. They may fear disappointing their parents by not doing “good enough.” This fear of falling short of a parent’s expectation while always under the parent’s watchful eye will limit their exploration and, as a result, their growth. So, parents do their children a great favor by allowing their children to have a life independent of them. In their independent life, children can try different activities and perhaps even fail without feeling as though they have disappointed the watchful eye of their parent. In practical terms, this means letting your children become involved in some activities without you.

·         Parents need a life independent of their children. Let’s face it: our children only live with us for 18-25 years before they move out and start their own families. Hopefully, we will become involved in their new family, but probably not on a daily basis. We need a life of our own—a life that will continue after our children leave for college. We may raise children for even 25 years, but we hope our marriage lasts well beyond that; so we need to maintain our connection with our spouse. Go on date nights and spend romantic weekends together without your children. Keep your connection with your spouse strong. Also, maintain connections with friends and coworkers. Remember to get together with the “guys” or the “ladies” for a night out. Have friends over to your home for a night of games. Go out for dinner with another couple. Whatever you choose to do, keep the connection with your adult friends and family strong. Strive to become the couple in this commercial (with or without the car).

·         Finally, balance your children’s need for increasing independence with your need to know they’re safe. This can prove a difficult balance to attain. We do not want to over-control or micromanage our children’s lives. Helicopter parents interfere with their children’s growing independence. We really are not our children’s best friend—they generally pick a peer to fill that role. At the same time, we don’t want to throw our children to the wolves either. We have to find a balance…a way to maintain a parent-child connection that allows them to grow independent while we increasingly trust God to keep them safe. We teach them safety skills and trust they have learned those lessons.
With these three patterns firmly in place, we can navigate our changing parent-child relationship as our children grow into independent adults. Together, we will learn to negotiate the balance between intruding and participating, nagging and advising, suffocating and remaining involved.

Nourish the Snow White in Your Life

I love the Disney animation “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”—a classic story of jealousy turned to hatred, the love that battle against that hatred, and the final victory of “true love’s kiss.” Although this classic, an adaptation of an even older Grimm fairy tale, was released in 1937, it is still reenacted every day in our marriages and families. Every day we nourish our family members with a “poison apple” or “love’s true kiss.” Our words and actions either result in an inviting, beautiful red apple filled with poison or the life-giving nourishment of true love. Some words and actions are poison disguised within an inviting red apple. Those beautiful, yet poisonous, red apples cast a spell on family members, making it impossible for them to change, grow, and mature. Through the poison apples of words and actions we control the lives of our children and our spouse. We lull them to sleep. How might we use what appears beautiful and inviting on the outside to limit our family’s life and keep them from living out their authentic beauty? Here are a few ways:
     ·         Controlling what our children can or cannot feel—“you have no reason to be upset about that, now stop pouting.”
     ·         Limiting our spouse’s opportunities to develop friendships.
     ·         Limiting our family member’s opportunities to develop interests and hobbies that we do not like.
     ·         Demanding that our teens and/or spouse dress the way we tell them to.
     ·         Demanding that our family watch only the TV shows we want to watch or listen only to the music we want them to listen to.
     ·         Structuring and scheduling every moment of every day for our family, implying that they cannot manage their life independent of us.
     ·         Sending the subtle message that your family members are not competent (and cannot become competent) by putting in “the final touches” on a job or stepping in to redo a job they did poorly.
     ·         Punishing family members for mistakes such as spilling a drink.
     ·         Name-calling, constant criticism, or expressions of dissatisfaction about jobs they put in the effort to complete.
     ·         Making negative predictions such as “you’ll never amount to anything” (even if said in the heat of anger).
     ·         Threatening unrealistic punishments.
     ·         Abandoning a family member in the midst of an argument or heated discussion.
Hopefully, you do not nourish with poison apples but with “love’s true kiss,” like Prince (or Princess) Charming. Prince Charming wanted to bring life to the Snow White. He desired to bring out her best. His “kiss of true love” animated Snow White, filled her life with love and admiration, and brought her true self to life. He nourished her with a love that brought out her best. Here are some ways you can nourish your family like Prince Charming nourished Snow White:
     ·         Help each family member identify their dream and then achieve that dream.
     ·         Find and openly admire characteristics you admire about each family member.
     ·         Offers thanks and gratitude for things your family members do.
     ·         Learn about your children’s day and your spouse’s day. Show a genuine interest in their lives. Find out what they like and don’t like. Build a map of their activities, interests, fears, and dreams.
     ·         Share time with your children and spouse.
     ·         Discover what brings your spouse happiness and help bring those things into her life.
     ·         Promote your family’s welfare. This may mean offering loving discipline to your children.
     ·         Accept your spouse’s influence.
     ·         Allow family members to explore interests, even if those interests differ from your own.
     ·         Give up what you want in order to let your family enjoy something they want.
     ·         Encourage your children and your spouse. Look for reasons to praise them.
     ·         Share lots of loving hugs and playful interactions.
So, are you more like the Wicked Queen or Prince Charming in your words and actions? Do you carry a basket of beautiful red apples filled with poison or a basket of “true love’s kisses”? It’s your choice. You can choose which basket you use to nourish your family. One leads to pain. The other leads to joy and fulfillment. To me, the choice seems obvious…so, let’s all choose wisely.

Leading Children by Still Waters

Last summer, several families at Camp Christian walked to a nearby stream. The fast moving rapids of the stream had carved out and smoothed the surface of a natural slide that ended in a pool at the bottom of a small waterfall. You could sit at the top of the “slide” and allow the rapids to carry you downstream and over the waterfall into the pool. Everyone loved it. We had a great time “riding the miniature rapids” and being “dumped” over the waterfall into the deeper water. The young people (children and teens) loved riding the rapids and landing at the bottom of the falls. They slid down the rapids, ran back to the top, sat down and started over again…and again…and again. They loved the thrill. They did not want to stop, let alone leave and return to camp. If allowed, I think they would have continued playing in the rapids until they collapsed from exhaustion.
I had a great time, too. However, by the time we walked back to camp, I was exhausted…and ready to take a break. I would not want to play in the rapids all the time. I mean, they were fun to ride and fun to play in, but I like to lay back and relax, too. While we played in the rapids, I could not put my head back and relax. I could not stretch out on the surface of still waters and let the sun warmed my body. Instead, I had to stay alert to make sure everyone was safe, keep paddling so I did not get washed downstream, and vigilantly guard against smashing a toe (or head) against a rock. It was great fun, but not calm and relaxing.
Family life can be this way. We all have times of riding the rapids in our family life. We get swept away with busy schedules, activities, deadlines, and demands. Even our children find themselves caught up in the rapids of an overly busy schedule filled with sports, music, friends, church activities, work, chores, etc. Many times, our children do not even realize they are over scheduled. They are merely enjoying the thrill of the ride. They are excited to see their friends, play the game, hear the concert, and help at church…. In the midst of this busy schedule, we notice them becoming more irritable, restless, and even angry. As a result, a simple irritation suddenly sparks an angry outburst that ends in yelling, door slamming, and more frustration as we run to the next activity. Before long, our kids collapse from exhaustion; and, they have no idea why.
We, as parents, need to lead our children into some still waters. We need to help them find the balance between time in the rapids and time relaxing. Having the proper amount of rest and relaxation actually increases our level of energy. It enhances our immune system which can result in fewer illnesses. Rest and relaxation also increases our problem-solving ability and our ability to concentrate, translating into better school performance. Getting the proper amount of rest results in decreased stress and more balanced emotions. This, in turn, translates into fewer angry outbursts, less irritability, less depression, and more enjoyment. To obtain these benefits, our children need to have time away from the rapids and time resting in the still waters of life. Here are 4 ways to lead our children to still waters.
     1.      Model appropriate rest and relaxation in your own life. Children learn by watching your example. Balance your own schedule. Don’t overbook. Allow yourself time to relax. Let your children relax with you.

2.      Monitor your children’s schedule. Keep an eye on your children’s schedule and talk to them about scheduling. Take the time to discuss what adding “just one more thing” to a schedule actually means. Discuss how an activity impacts the whole family. Explain that a one hour activity means more than simply one hour of time–it also includes preparation time, practice time, travel time, and “down time” for other family members (like siblings) who might be there but are not involved as well as financial costs and the time needed to obtain that cost.

3.      Set healthy limits on the number of activities each family member is allowed to participate in at one time. Discuss this limit with your children. Explain the impact of overscheduling on you, them, and the family. Give them examples of times that overscheduling resulted in more stress, emotional turmoil, and maybe even illness. Explain the benefits of rest as well. Let them know it’s OK to rest and relax. Discuss what choices are available for activities and what each option involves. Finally, include your children in the final decision identifying which activities to participate in.

4.      Develop a philosophy of rest. Our society often   looks down on rest. Society belittles rest and calls those who relax lazy or unmotivated. In our culture, we believe that our worth is determined by activity and accomplishment. As parents who see the importance of rest and want to lead their children to still waters, we need to have a philosophy of rest. We need to be able to explain the benefits of rest in areas as diverse as creativity, problem-solving, energy management, building muscle, skill-enhancement, emotional management, improving relationships, overall health, and even sleep.

The Sunday Driver

I got caught behind a “Sunday driver” the other day. Doesn’t he realize that, in the words of Gershwin, we “live life in staccato not legato?” We live life on a freeway, not a country trail. Our days are consumed with rushing from one thing to the next, dodging obstacles in the road, and bypassing any construction sites that might slow us down. We don’t have time to sit and enjoy one another’s company, let alone quietly stroll down the country path of life and smell the proverbial roses. We live frenetic, hyperactive lives filled with school, sports, and work. We have to keep up with a constant flood of informational billboards and “pop-ups” that encourage our children to grow up faster and fuels our desire for better, more, and new. We weave through a highway of overscheduled days jam-packed with activities and unrealistic expectations. We cruise through life in a constant state of tiredness and low-grade agitation. Late bloomers don’t have time to grow up. We just pray they “grow faster.” Sports enthusiasts know that a child must participate in year-round conditioning in order to “keep up with the rest of the Jones’s.” Otherwise, they may not get to play when the season arrives. Cell phones, texting, and tweeting allow for 24/7 availability and a constant anticipation of potential interruptions.  Don’t worry when you get the text…no pressure, just respond as soon as you can…unless you don’t like me or something happened that I need to worry about. And, keep the message short because I am very busy speeding down the highway of life. Whew, I’m getting tired just writing about it.

Still, here I sit behind a Sunday driver.  As I complain about him slowing me down, I suddenly realize my family is in the car with me—well, one is listening to their IPod, one is reading a book, and one is looking at magazines. Still, we are all together and I have time to kill behind “Mr. Sunday Driver.” “Aye guys,” I say hesitantly. Everyone stops. Mouths hang open in stunned astonishment that someone in the car made an open statement. “How was your week?” I ask. A moment of awkward silence…followed by, “Well, I had a pretty good week I guess.” “Oh yeah?” My hopes for a conversation rise as I continue, “What did you do?” Slowly, my family begins to talk. My daughter likes science. My other daughter is enjoying a new book. They both like their teachers. My wife really enjoyed the concert we went to last night. In fact, everyone did. The conversation grows and the excitement seems to build. We start having a good time…with each other. This conversation is fun. This slow ride behind “Mr. Sunday Driver” is OK. Sitting behind that Sunday driver is not so bad after all. Maybe I should get out of the car at the next light and thank him for the best family conversation I’ve had all week.

P.S.—here are some suggestions to help you slow down and enjoy a “Sunday drive” with your family. If you have more ideas, please share them with us all.
Eat dinner together and talk. Keep the cell phones away from the table to avoid interruptions.

–Turn off the TV’s, computers, and phones while you enjoy an evening of games and informal conversations. Do it once a week if possible.
–Limit extracurricular activities to no more than two at a time. And, as you schedule activities don’t forget to consider the impact of travel time and the impact on siblings who are not involved with that activity.
Go outside tonight, sit in the yard, and look at the stars together. Find the “Big Dipper” and “Orion.”

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