Parenting

Eliminate 'But that's not fair' from your house

Oh the number of times I have heard this in my house, “But Mom, that’s not fair!” Once my children started saying this statement on a regular basis, I turned that phrase into a “Bad Word!” Therefore, if you say it, you get in trouble!

The question is why is this such a bad statement that causes negative consequences in my house, especially if my child’s assertion is true that the action was NOT fair?! Because the statement in itself is the attempt to change the course of circumstances and alter the scales of inequality, which is promoting a distorted view of reality! Because lets face it, LIFE IS NOT FAIR, and enabling our children to believe otherwise is teaching them entitlement and handicapping their future!

People today believe that they are entitled to such luxuries from technology to the basics of daily living like clean water and available food! There is an ignorance in our American society that we are ingraining in our children. Hence, when a circumstance happens and our child feels his rights have been violated they become bitter and resentful; stuck in the mind-set that they deserved something that was not given to them. This type of circumstances happen frequently, and unless we as parents not only model, but also educate our children on real expectations and coping with disappointment, they will become stunted developmentally and remain a spoiled child.

Educating our children on the realities that bad things happen, life is not fair, good may never be returned to us, and we can not control the actions of others, will be a paradigm shift in their existential perspective. Help them move out of the bitterness that can build up when they feel injustice has prevailed, and empower them to control their own reactions and behaviors.

Let us all deem “fairness” a bad word, and work instead in teaching our kids to cope with disappointment and to be leaders in their own lives!

Self care? Isn't that selfish?

t’s so easy to advocate or see value in others, especially our children. But what about ourselves? Do we not value ourselves in the same way? Is it arrogant to do so?

What about the impression we are leaving on our kids about self worth? Did you know that the way we treat ourselves will indirectly have a HUGE impact on the way our kids start treating themselves? My mother taught me to be a servant. To focus on others feelings, to give to the needy, and to love our “neighbor” as ourselves.” But what started happening is that I started loving my neighbor OVER myself. My mom is a huge servant of others, but as I got older I realized that she has a hard time pouring into her self. Did I subconsciously learn that to self care is to be selfish? I’m not sure…

Can I be selfish? Ask my husband?! Yes of course I can. But there is a difference between being selfish and treating yourself with value. I started letting people take advantage of me, I let people disrespect me, I let people define me! The only way I knew to stand up for myself was by getting angry and using my anger in an inappropriate way to fuel my words and actions. But this expression of thoughts and behavior just left me embarrassed and without my goal being met.

So why is it so easy for me to be able to provide wisdom, strength and advocacy for others, but feel in adept when put in the same situation myself? Maybe it was modeling, maybe it’s genetics, or maybe my environment produced it? Regardless, I do know that I am modeling this for my own children, and I see it in other parents I counsel.

Parents come to me and beg to know why their beloved children, whom they have loved, praised and nurtured, hate themselves? Parents want to know where they went wrong, what they can do to fix it. One of the first things I do is ask about how the parent is taking care of themselves? This takes the parents aback, “wait, I’m here for my child, not for myself!” I explain that our actions always have an audience. Children have watched us since they were infants, and mimic us as their standard of behavior.

So what model are we giving? When a dress doesn’t fit after the holidays, and we announce that we are fat and need to go on a diet. When a car cuts us off on the highway and we discuss the intelligence of the driver in question. When someone tells a crass joke or makes an obscene gesture and we laugh with them. When the computer doesn’t load fast enough and we start mumbling like the guy from “Office Space.” When you notice someone getting picked on, and you walk away because it’s not your business. All of these and more are conveying a message to our children about how we value ourselves, and others.

Self care and self worth are something that must be learned. For me, I’m still learning. I combat the idea that in order to be the best mom and wife I must put myself last; trying instead to believe that being the best mom and wife I need to take care of myself first, so that I have something to give to them.

What are some areas that you could start advocating for yourself or practicing self-care?

Re-living childhood

My second child and second daughter has a lot of the same personality traits as I do. She’s loud, she’s sensitive, she’s a born leader, she’s all or nothing, and she loves to laugh! I’m both excited and fearful for her. Because frequently when she tells me how she is having a relational problem, overwhelmed or fearful I can distinctly remember how it felt when I was a kid. Not only do I remember the feeling, I can usually associate it with a life experience that I have had.

Being around kids transports us back to our own childhood, good and bad. We want so badly to prevent the trials and heartaches. So we offer advice, we implement structure, and are swift with discipline; all with the hope that our kids will be stronger, wiser, and happier than we were growing up. But do we as parents cross the line from teaching to dictating?

With my daughter I know that with our personality we can come across as bossy. So I help to direct her natural leadership by encouraging certain phrases to use instead. But in that process I am certain that I have discouraged her and her personality. It was no longer about teaching her, but instead stifling her natural bend given at birth because I did not want her to experience the pain that I did. Though my intentions were noble, my implementation was flawed.

I’ve been challenged to reconsider the moments I deem as instructional. I instead now take a moment and determine if my intervention is even necessary. I realized that there are some battles and experiences she needs to have on her own. If after this thought process I determine this is a time when I can educate, I will intervene privately. Otherwise I will watch, listen, and be available if she wants to talk about it.

What are some areas that you find in your own kids that reflect an attribute that you share? How have you responded to them, have you been a teacher or dictator? What actions will you change to assist them instead of controlling them?

We as parents can relate, we just want them to NOT experience the pain we have. We want them to avoid the pitfalls and temptation. We want them to be scar free when they become an adult. But instead of focusing so much on trying to prevent, we should listen, have empathy for their concerns, and have courage to allow them to make their own choices!

'Why do you love me?'

Why do you love me?

Micah, my 3 year old at that time, has been asking this question recently. I will say I love you, and he will look at me with head tilted and say, why do you love me? The first time he did this I laughed and said, “because your my baby!” But when he continued to ask I decided I would be more specific. So I started by saying things like, I love you because you are funny, because you are sweet to your sisters, you help mommy take care of baby carter, etc.

This question from little man reminded me that we all need to not only hear that we are loved, but told why we are loved. Yes, we intrinsically love our children because they are a part of us. But we also love aspects of the person they are. We need to start praising those aspects, mentioning them to others besides our child, and to encourage them in areas that they may not be as strong. We need to start praising their efforts instead of just the completion of something. We need to praise their honesty even when it’s not initially forthcoming. We should start talking about our children and spouses in positive ways to others instead of just focusing on the struggles. And we should hug, kiss, fist bump every day to maintain our physical bond that we developed at their birth.

This exercise challenges us to be intentional with our words, and to act out what we are saying. Let us make the words “I love you” have the impact it is suppose to make when said. Today, write out 4 things that you LOVE about your kids, your spouse, your friends, and whoever else means something to you. So when you have a moment to share how much you care you can be specific, and plant seeds of encouragement.

Fear in parenting

I don’t think I have ever experienced fear like I have since having children! I am sure that if you are also a parent you can understand my sentiments. Our children are priceless! Not like in the credit card commercial, or describing a gem or piece of art. I am saying that my children’s lives are worth more than my own life twice, no, three times over, without question! So, when any thought of threat to their physical, emotional, and spiritual well being, my heart starts beating fast, my brain goes into fight or flight, and I’m a mama bear ready to rip every single hair out of the threats head one at a time….ok a little graphic, but the point is don’t mess with a mama bear people!!!

These thoughts come rushing to me while sitting in my bed, trying to unwind for the night, and I look at the transients that occasionally slip into bed with me and my husband. I turn to one side and I have my 3 year old son in the fetal position, which is only one of hundreds of sleeping positions my lil helicopter sleeps in! And on the other side is my 7 year old who just lost her other front tooth making her the poster child for the song “all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!” Watching them sleep makes me forget about all the chaos and defiance that may have happened even an hour ago, and fills me with love without bounds. It takes just reading a news article, or hearing something on the radio for me to realize that my kids are NOT safe in this world, that NOT everyone values them the way I do, and there is a battle for their souls already underway!

This understanding brings an almost paralyzing fear, a sense of hopelessness and despair. But I go to my therapeutic training, I can choose to linger in the fear or take steps of action. Each thought I have, I have a choice: do I stay or do I move? This brings to mind the story of Jesus calling to Peter to take the steps out of the boat and to walk on the water. Fear is a powerful emotion, and I can only imagine Peter felt it. Peter had a choice to make, “do I stay, or do I move?”

Fear in itself is NOT a bad thing. But, on occasion fear in parenting can negatively impact a lot of the choices you make. From not allowing them to go outside for fear they will get hurt, to allowing your teen and their friends to drink beer at your house for fear they will just do it at someone else’s. Fear can make your parenting style either liberal or conservative because you don’t want to “mess up your kids like your parents did you!” Fear can shelter your kids from “the world” to only not prepare them for it, or provide no moral direction so they can find their own individuality. And fear can destroy your joy, your peace, your contentment, your relationships, your identity, your soul!

How can fear be a good thing? It can motivate you, encourage you to move! In this series I want to explore how we can use fear to make us better parents! We will use the energy that we would use to defeat a whole army on behalf of our kids, to be Pro-Active as parents and to be Re-Active more efficiently.

So the question still stands? Do you stay or will you move?

Fear in Parenting: Part 1 physically

So again I prompt you to explore your fears about raising your kids in a world that does not value them the way you do. What fears do you harbor that isolates you and manipulates your parenting in both good and unhealthy ways?

I want to discuss the ways that we fear for our children physically! This discussion can go a couple of different places. We could narrow in on keeping their bodies safe from harm, from cancer, sickness, and abuse from others. These are usually the fears that come to our mind first when thinking about our children’s vulnerability. In fact, I was prompted to start this series after reading an article about vaccines. My youngest child is 9 months and due for his MMR vaccine, which is what many people are saying is the catalyst to autism spectrum disorders. Though I have had my 3 older children all receive this vaccine, it overwhelms me to think I could be purposely damaging my child’s brain, and debilitating him for the rest of his life! Whoa, heavy stuff! But that is NOT what I want to talk about.

I rather focus on the fear that I have as a parent for my child’s personal physical perception. How they view their body, how that translates into their worth, and ways they attempt to compensate for areas they find lacking.

It appears to me that comparison happens at such a young age, from what others have for lunch, to what toys they are playing with. With age and brain development, the comparison goes into areas of physical design. The color of their skin, hair, eyes. The shape of their arms, legs, face. The way they walk, carry themselves, level of coordination. And initially the child just recognizes that they are different, that everyone is different! But then comes evaluation of the difference, and the ranking of where they themselves stand.

This is a struggle for both boys and girls. Watch my #Trending: Boy Body Image Issues. (http://www.trendsandteens.com/?p=219) To see how boys also struggle with comparison and how parents are unintentionally contributing to this.

My fear for my kids are that they feel inadequate. That in the process of comparison they find that they are “NOT”_______ fill in the blank, and this changes their belief about their value. And as if their thought life of inadequacy doesn’t make me fearful enough, I fear they will take steps to “fit in,” be “the same.” From changing their hair color, to manipulating their bodies to become the shape they desire.
I believe there are choices they will make that will ultimately change their bodies that are not as bad as other, (says the mom with tattoos, ear piercings, wears makeup, jewelry, and has had many different hair colors!) It’s not so much a ranking of what’s bad and what isn’t. It all comes down to the state of the person’s intention for the change, and that is where my fear comes to a head!

I desire for my kids to be content with their bodies and appearance. Contentment isn’t always about happiness, but instead about acceptance of reality. Having them acknowledge there are parts of their bodies that they do not like, allow them to be disappointed and if there are ways they can make changes that are healthy then encourage them to do so.

For example, I have a canine tooth that looks like a baby tooth compared to my other adult teeth. When I got into high school it was horrifying to smile, laugh and sometimes even talk. I learned to strategically place my hand so that it covered my mouth just enough to avoid exposing my tooth. While in college I got a cap that allowed my tooth to look like the rest. It changed everything for me! My body language, my sociability, and my ability to cackle with the best of them! I felt with this tooth I was inadequate, and I desired greatly to change it. So when I was able to I did and have never regretted altering my body. With maturity and time, I have come to understand the importance of my perception of self and how that should shape my value, over the way that I look. That’s not to say that if the cap fell off tomorrow i wouldn’t get it repaired! I would be in the dentist the next morning!!!

However, I am saying that the state of my contentment no longer lies completely in my appearance. How can I hope for my child to have contentment at their age, when it has taken me decades to achieve it for myself? Well, I can’t, not completely at least, which is why my fear has traction.
So the questions is, stay in this fear or take steps of action??!!

Here are some action steps to reduce your fear and to equip your child:

Discuss with your kids what is beautiful/handsome.
Talk about how even the most beautiful men and women in the world may have a selfish and cold heart, making their beauty diminish. Help them make a list of attributes that make a person attractive, and match up the ones that your child already has, and ways to practice the other ones.
Some good Bible verses for this are 1 Peter 3:3,4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
Or my favorite translate of this verse comes from the Message version. Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) So, Chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear LOVE. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Discuss with your kids how everyone has a unique design and purpose. Each person is made differently. Encouraging them to see how their design is purposeful and are created by the God of the universe. Here are a couple of verses to use for this point:
Galatians 6:4, The Message Version, Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NIV) Just as the body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Doubt, insecurity, and disappointment is normal, and is located at the beginning at every entrance into contentment. Process with them about what they are insecure about, what they are disappointed in. Allow them to have their feelings, and perceptions. Don’t tell them they are wrong, because they will think you are not truly listening. Instead, acknowledge that their feelings are valid, but that their perception is distorted. But remember before saying anything at all, listen, repeat back to them what you hear, and listen again. Ask if there is anything you can do to help, or if they would be interested in hearing what you have to say. Then respect their decision either way. Then Hug them, and tell them that you love them! At some point either through writing a note, or verbally, when they are ready to hear you, tell them your story of insecurity, tell them about your understanding of where true beauty comes from, and tell them all the attributes you see that make them unique and special!

Be aware of the type of entertainment and social relationships your child is engaging in. The entertainment world sets many standards for appearance, many times in an unhealthy way. Your child may be watching tv shows, movies, and listening to music that is preaching a message that is deemed accepted by society, but is contrary to your own values. Determine where you stand, while being realistic, on such issues as clothing, hair styles, make up, relationships, sex, language, etc. And have a conversation with your child about your views. Not with the goal to get them to NEVER do those things, but instead to be educated about why you as the parent do not want them engaging in such behavior.

What if you and your partner disagree with the other about such issues. This is the case with me and my husband! He believes that for a teen girl to dye her hair a crazy color, like pink, she is saying she is loose with her morals! I say if that is the area she is choosing to express herself then I think the parents got off lucky! So how to resolve something like this? We continue to communicate about it. We attempt to compromise between just us, and then come to a conclusion that we can bring to our child. But if we can still not find a compromise then I will relinquish my control on the topic and go with what my husband says.

SIDE NOTE: Now before you go into ‘but I don’t believe that the man is in charge of the woman, etc.’ To give you the Cliff Notes version on my beliefs on this, I believe that God created man/husband to be the leader of his entire family. That he should be respectful and open to his wife’s view. That even when the wife disagrees with his decision that he hears her out, then proceeds with what he believes is right in his discernment. And that ultimately God will judge the man/husband for his leadership, and I will be standing there in Heaven waiting for my chance to say “I told you so!” But here on earth I will be praying for patience and a controlled tongue when I disagree!

And finally, just LOVE on your kiddos! It doesn’t matter if they are adult children, or they are newborns. Love your kids. Spend time with them. Ask them about their fears and joys. Pray with them and for them. And introduce them to Jesus!

So, what will you do? Stay in the fear or move into action? Make your choice!

Why I burn Justin Bieber shirts!

Alright so I didn’t actually burn them, but I wanted it to sound dramatic! I only just threw them away. Which is hard for my hoarding, “but you can give it to goodwill for someone else” side. So let me just start from the beginning and why Mr Bieber along with all other pop stars, will not be worn via t-shirts, book bags, folders, posters, etc. at my house!

We live on an amazing street of 14 kids of similar ages, 8 of them being girls aged 5-9 who all play together all the time! And although that is awesome in itself because my kids have friends literally next door, I love that us mamas’ have similar convictions and practices of raising kids! My friend Jacque got a bag of girl clothes from a friend of hers. She went through it and gave the remaining items to my two daughters. When I got home from work, my husband had gone through the bag and there was a pile of clothes on the island ready to go into the trash. I grabbed the clothes instinctively and asked what was wrong with them. On further inspection I realized every piece of clothing in that pile had the huge smiling face of Justin Bieber. Ugh Gross! I shoved them into the trash to die a slow death of poopy diaper inhalation and “under the bed, week old sippy cup” curdle milk poisoning. Not a good way to go I would think. I confirmed with Jacque the next day that she intentionally left the Bieber clothes because she didn’t want her kids to wear them either! I love this street of Moms!

So why am I so anti-Bieber? Well, I’m not, not really. He obviously has some struggles, but who am I to judge? What I, my neighbor Jacque, and many other parents have a problem with is letting kids, big and small, girls and boys, OBJECTIFY & IDOLIZE others! We are unintentionally telling our kids at a young age they should have crushes, they should obsess about celebrities, and dress and act like the people in entertainment.

This is not to say that I will be putting my kids into a bubble to protect them from the big bad world. No, instead I will limit their access to items I deem unhealthy for their age and development. I will however, let them watch, hear or participate in activities that I feel do not represent my ideas and morals, but are an awesome opportunity to teach them about where our family stands.

For example, a show that we watch as a family is “Good Luck Charlie.” My husband and I enjoy the humor, and my kids like the physical comedy and playful story-lines. The Good Luck Charlie family do not always represent the morals I desire in my family, but the storyline’s allow me  to have a discussion about how we choose to live, compared to other families. The topic of frequent conversations is dating and relationships.  I tell my kids it will feel like EVERYONE else has a boyfriend or girlfriend, but we believe that dating is for the purpose of finding a marriage partner, and unless you are ready to get married then dating isn’t something to dabble in!  And thus my problem with Justin Bieber shirts have come full circle!!! Kids today see other kids, teens and even adults pinning over celebrities and story book characters. We are teaching this younger generation to objectify, idolize and distort what a healthy relationship looks like.

I am not looking to get into an argument, spend the time it would take to pull up the peer-reviewed articles that confirm my beliefs, or pull out my Licensed Mental Health Counselor Card, (because I have it on a 11 x 14 frame, it’s impractical to carry around!). I am just discussing a point of contention I personally have with raising my kids in this world, and one that I would caution any parent to discover their own beliefs on!

Raising teens with a 'lifeproof' case

The day I got my first smart phone was like adding to my growing family! I had just gotten married and had my first baby. The smart phone came with a full book of instructions and I soaked it all up. It was glorious! Though I felt certain that my life was ready and capable to manage a smart phone, it became clear that my smart phone didn’t handle my life very well. In the last 7 years I have had to replace my “smart” devices on many occasions, because frankly LIFE HAPPENED! Here’s the run down of my previous devices and their demise.

>Giving my 1-year-old daughter a bath, I drop it in the bathtub. Rescue in time to still be able to use, but its a little slower than before.

>Taking my own bath, and while checking Facebook drop it in the bathtub. No survival this time.

>Outside making chalk drawings with my three kids under age of 5. My 1-year-old son puts my phone into my water-glass. I go to take a drink and wonder what is black in my cup?! Phone did not survive.

>Have a friend over with her kids for a play date. Hear her daughter in the garage banging something, my friend starts to go check to make sure she isn’t damaging anything. I say, “oh don’t worry, there is nothing in there that is of value!” Turns out the banging is my tablet with the screen destroyed. Tablet worked, but screen was hard to read. Husband and I tried to DIY the screen killed the Tablet

>Due with baby number 4 in a week, can’t find my phone. I figure I left it somewhere because the baby in gestation is eating my brain cells and I have been losing everything recently. I find the phone under the kitchen table with the screen smashed. Culprit is still unknown, (Cough…my 3 year old son…cough). Phone still works, but has now turned into an MP3 player for my oldest.

When our phone contract came up and we could upgrade I was all on board. My husband however, stated that he was extremely nervous to get me another phone remembering my track record. He and I made a deal, I could get another smart phone as long as I get an indestructible case! My first thought, “uh why did you not suggest that 2 devices ago?!” So I got my phone and I got my case!

This experience made me think life would be so much easier if we could strap on an indestructible case onto our lives. Even when there are storms, accidents, and water damage, all would be air tight safe in our box. But this is not reality! So we have a couple of choices, live in denial, avoid any choice outside of preset conditions, or prepare and have a plan!!

The great gift that age brings with it is experiential wisdom! We have lived it. Teens often feel that parents don’t get it. That we don’t know what it feels like to be in their shoes. How wrong they are! We know exactly the struggles of being in adolescence. Life does look different now, but the awkwardness, the distress, lack of identity and direction, WE HAVE BEEN THERE! However, what we as parents have in experience we lack in communication. We are so desperate to keep our kids from harm that we try to put them in an Indestructible Case.

Parents, lets stop responding when a crisis happens and instead lets be proactive and preparative! Here are some things that have the risk of damaging your teen and need a plan to avoid a crisis.

Dating: what are your rules about dating-age, allowed activities, group or single dates, do the parents spend time with the couple, etc.

Friendships: define healthy friendships, what to do when they are not healthy, what does communication look like (ie can’t just text), how to resolve conflict, how to make good friendships

Bullies: defining who and what is a bully, what to do when struggling with a bully, what if it is on-line

Sex: what is sex, (believe me when I say that your kids think they know a lot, but when they don’t consider oral sex “sex”, there needs to be some education!); what is too far, why is it important to wait,

Pornography: what is porn, does the stuff on tv count as inappropriate, what about emotional porn (desiring the character in a book or movie and turning it into a fantasy that manipulates your standards for partners in an unhealthy and unrealistic way)

Technology Use: Cell Phones, Video Games, Computer, Internet, tablets, etc. what is appropriate use, what rules should you have, how to keep them safe

Drugs and Alcohol Use: what is alcohol and what are drugs, how to say no, what it does to your brain and body, what is addiction

Identity: how to help them discover who they are, how to be ok with weaknesses, and how to strengthen the areas of giftings, what to do when they feel lost or hopeless, ways to encourage self when feeling down about self,

Faith: help them discover what they believe and why, how to make their faith their own, how to talk to unbelievers, who do they turn to for spiritual answers,

This list is not all-encompassing, instead it is a place to start. It’s easy to guess what could damage a smart phone or device, therefore purchasing a case to prevent it is common sense. You may not know the exact culture your teens are walking through that may cause harm, but you can remember the basic struggles you had as a teen. Use those experiences as wisdom to equip your teen to be smart, be healthy, and to value themselves! And if that fails then wrap them in bubble-wrap and lock them in their room until Jesus comes back! Parents, we can not stop all harm from happening. But we can help prepare and assist while walking through it.