Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Angry Words


I was in a parking lot today as a mom was walking out of a building with a crying preschool aged child. She didn't see me in my car but I could hear her loud and angry words as she opened the doors to her van.

"Stop your crying. You are being such a baby. Grow up for God's sake! Buckle your seat. Hurry up!!"  Clearly she was exasperated, annoyed, displeased with her little girl.  I have been there.  Every parent has been there.  

But as I heard her words, I felt the guilt and shame of ever acting like that towards my children.  And I'm guessing that if I was to play a recording of this back to this mom at a later date, she would feel the same way.

Please use this story as a reminder.  Give your children your best self.  Be the adult in any situation. Don't use sarcasm and humiliation to discipline your child.  You are better than that and your child deserves better from you.  Don't fall into a pattern of disrespecting your child and his/her feelings.  

A calm and measured response is always a better idea.  And for those times that you fall short, remember to be the adult and apologize.  Your relationship with your children will be built on the foundation of your behavior.  Make it a strong and solid one.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Celebrate each child!






Just like the flowers in a field and the snowflakes that fall from the sky, children are unique and wonderful.  Our children are not born to us in order to fulfill our dreams and expectations.  They are gifts to us, who depend on our love and care and affirmation of who they are, not what we expect them to be.

Watching a child grow and develop is the precious reward of parenting.  Often we are surprised by the talents and interests of our own children.

Parents: take the time to help your children recognize and develop their own special interests and gifts.  Support them in exploring their ideas and  allow them to express themselves.  Pay attention to them.  

It sounds so simple but in our distracted and Internet connected lives, our children may not be getting the attention they deserve.  

Remember that you have been given the amazing blessing of being a parent to a completely amazing, uniquely talented child.  It's your job to educate, nurture, and allow that child to develop into all that he/she can be.  So get busy loving, affirming and discovering everything about that wonderful blessing--your child. 
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What to do when your kids constantly fight...




Watching my four children grow up, my husband and I would notice certain allegiances would form from time to time.  For instance, when my youngest daughter was in preschool she would follow her slightly older brother around and do kind things for him.  She used to sneak into his room when he got up and make his bed!  She would laugh at everything he said.  He was her hero and her best friend.  

Fast forward to their middle school years.  They had a hard time speaking to one another.  Everything she said, he would argue with or correct.  They seemed to have nothing in common, and it was hard to believe they ever got along.

There were other times when my oldest daughter and second oldest daughter would gang up on the younger ones or avoid them at all costs, but other times when the middle two children would form an alliance.
Sometimes it was difficult to predict who of the four were getting along.  

The one consistent message that my husband and I delivered over and over was that our children treat us and their siblings with respect.  It was not okay to call each other names or hit or fight with each other.  Did my children follow these rules?Not always!  Were these rules difficult to enforce?  Yes!

No one ever said being a good parent is easy.  It's not.  Effective parenting takes work.  But it pays off.  Now that my children are grown, they actually like each other.  They reach out and call one another.  They enjoy each other's company and look to each other for advice and support.  They look forward to the time they spend together and seek out ways to see each other.  They celebrate each other's successes and are always willing to offer support if someone is going through difficulties.

It's very important that you set the standards for the behavior you want from your children.  Don't allow them to bully and fight with you or their siblings. Expect more from them.  And when the going gets tough--persevere.  This is the secret to growing a close knit family.  
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Beauty of Limited Choices

"Would you rather have a pretzel or popcorn for a snack?"
Children crave independence.  And yet, they are lost without direction.  Parents love to tell children what to do, but are driven to distraction when children don't listen.  This is an age old problem, so what how can it be solved?  Two simple words:  LIMITED CHOICES

Using limited choices with your child allows him or her the feeling of independence and the positive experience of getting to voice an opinion.  If your child usually fights you in the morning about what to wear, give them a choice..."would you rather wear the green shirt or the red one?"   Involving children in decision making can also help to encourage them to eat their vegetables.  Ask them which one to cook for dinner "would you rather have broccoli or peas tonight?".  When they have the opportunity to make a choice, they will "own" their decision.  

The limited choice strategy can even help solve disagreements.  If your child wants to do something that you are not comfortable with, you can offer two other choices and distract him/her from the original goal and still allow them to feel as if they are able to determine the outcome.  For example, if your child wants to attend a sleep over at a friend's house but you don't really know the family very well.  You don't want your child to attend the party.  You can explain that you don't feel comfortable with your child attending the party and were going to say no, but if they would like to go and get picked up at 10:00p.m. you would agree to that.  By giving your child the choice to either miss the party or get picked up early, you are allowing your child to feel as if he/she determined the outcome, even though you ultimately set up the situation.

Choices can help convince your child to do something that they might not want to do.  He/she may not like wearing a bike helmet, but convincing him/her to always wear one is easier if you allow your child to help pick out the helmet.  Letting your child have "skin in the game" usually can smooth out most arguments. 

This strategy has served me well through my many years of parenting.  I am sure that it will do the same for you.  Remember to offer your child limited choices to help them grow in confidence and independence.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Do you take your children to church?


My church attendance hasn't always been consistent.  But my husband grew up going to mass every single week.  It was something I admired about him when we met in college.  And when we were engaged, the question of religion was was discussed.  We decided to raise our children in the Catholic Church even though I had no  intention of converting to Catholicism at that time--I was a Lutheran and planned on staying that way.  But God had other plans.


After we were married, something stirred in me to learn about becoming a catholic.  Mainly because I wasn't comfortable thinking of raising children in a home where dad went to mass every weekend, and mom went somewhere else, or skipped, or went with dad but didn't fully participate.

I was fortunate to receive my catholic education at Old St. Pat's in Chicago, where I found a liberal and welcoming form of Catholicism that really connected me and my faith to becoming a catholic.

Raising four children in the faith has turned out to be such a blessing in my life. My husband's disciplined approach has allowed our family to spend countless hours enjoying, discussing and reflecting on the mass.  And my parish life included teaching catechism classes and attending bible study.  Our children grew up watching us pay attention to our spiritual lives. 
 


We have been so fortunate to make memories by attending masses in unusual places while traveling with our family.  We met a priest in the mountains of Colorado, who used a boom box and sang show tunes.  We celebrated Christmas at a midnight mass in a tiny Hawaiian church filled with ukelele music.  And one Palm Sunday, we were at a mass in Brugge, Belgium where they were speaking Flemish as we tried unsuccessfully to follow along.  But usually we are at 9:00 am mass in our home parish with whoever is back from college or still living in our house.  Because that is what we do.  We go to mass- as a family.  

My point of this post is to illustrate to you, that as parents--my husband and I are so glad that we made the decision to nurture and develop our children's faith.  I realize there are a lot of people who have complaints against organized religion.  There have been and will be many atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion.  But the other side of the story is very rarely discussed.

Attending mass once a week teaches your children to focus on something other than themselves for one hour.  How can that be a bad thing?  And the message of Christianity offers hope and promotes love and service to others. These are powerful messages for young people.  Church can provide an anchor for your family to help you and your children navigate through tough times.  And when your children leave the nest, although they may or may not go every week, they know their faith is there waiting for them...because it grew in them all if those years--one hour at a time.  So go for it, go back to church, it is only one hour a week.

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