Category Archives: Parenting Tips and Ideas

Tips Moms can try in their parenting and creative ideas to use in your home.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Making Christmas the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

A few days before Thanksgiving I decided I wasn’t going to allow busyness to rob me of the real reason for the season this year. This good intention evaporated the next day as I wrote the date November 25 in my journal. Reality hit me—only one month until Christmas! I immediately went into mania mode! My thinking went something like this (perhaps you can relate!): I’ve done nothing and I have a stream of guests coming and staying over the next few weeks . . . I haven’t decorated . . . put lights up . . . or done any Christmas shopping. There are Christmas parties to plan and go to in addition to our regular schedule. Then there is the extra cost to get gifts for family, friends and neighbors in addition to the mile long Santa gift lists for our children. Exhausted yet?

How can we possibly do all this and stay sane? How do we bring Christ and the heart of Christmas into our families without making Jesus a part of our ‘To Do List’? How do we have enough emotional energy to enjoy the season when we are piling this all onto our already crazy schedules?

I immediately found myself in “Go Mode”. In that moment I got my eyes off Christ and started heading in the very direction I had decided not to go. For so many years after the holidays, I had regrets for allowing busyness to rob me of the deep richness of celebrating Christ(mas). I had to stop myself and refocus. This is a choice for all of us.

I could go on and on, but neither of us has time for that! So I’ll offer a few ideas as well as some of the traditions we began in our family.

It begins in the Morning: By capturing a few moments with Jesus in the morning, our focus for the day can be in the right place. Thank Him for what He has given us. Whether it is our health, children, family, job, a warm house or special friends. Thankfulness puts our heart in a proper place. If we start our days with the Lord, we will be amazed how He calms us in times of stress and keeps us focused on the important rather than the busy.

A friend of mine has decided to bring her family’s focus onto Christ in middle of the always-crazy hustle of getting ready for school in the morning. Kristy has chosen to read the Christmas story of the birth of Christ to her teenage daughter while she was eating breakfast. Besides breeding great conversations, she is feeding her soul with the Word of God and the miracle of our Savior’s birth. What a great way to start her daughter’s day at public school.

Pause in the Day: By taking a few seconds throughout our day to ask ourselves, “Is this making Jesus or Santa the focus of our Christmas?” we can make conscience decisions on what our focus looks like for our family. One uses our time and energy on relationships and the other on possessions and things.

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Don’t Over Spend: Make our gift list based on what we can afford rather than what our family wants. I admit, when my children were young I gave in and indulged them lavishly, giving gifts they didn’t need and sometimes didn’t even want. I spent hard earned money on things my children didn’t ever play with or wear. They began making long Christmas list of things they wanted for themselves when I would rather they make lists of how to serve and give to others.

After a few years I realized if I kept it up I would be raising entitled children. We paired down the amount of gifts we gave and didn’t follow their Santa Lists. We told them in advance we were not going to buy their from their “I Want” list, because those aren’t gifts, they are subtle indulgent demands.

We thoughtfully gave them each gifts. The first year, they were a little disappointed, but the following years, as they took off the ribbons and wrap, they were truly surprised at what was inside and most of the time appreciative. (except when they gave into temptation and snuck in and unwrapped them early, then they had to pretend they were surprised on Christmas morning.)

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Have Flexible Family Traditions: I love our family traditions. They were created to enhance Christmas rather than causing stress and become antiquated. The fond memories of my four small children sleeping under the Christmas tree, falling asleep to the twinkle of the lights with the anticipation of Christmas morning, lives on into adulthood. The addition of my kid’s spouses added a new dimension to the mix and began to remove the nostalgic enjoyment. The living room suddenly seemed to shrink with the stark realization that they are not children anymore. Now I have seven and there just isn’t room for their adult-size bodies under the tree. We tried for several years, but now my married children prefer the comfort of a bed.

Even as children grow into teen years, traditions that a six year old loved so much, may not be as adored. Having conversations with your teens about their favorite family traditions helps create enjoyable memories everyone loves.

We alter our tradition to accommodate change. Illnesses, death in the family, distance and divorce can also necessitate the need to change it up. Creating normalcy is important and so are fresh beginnings and new joys. In these changes, we realize and appreciate the importance of relationships.

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Make it Special: Spend time together building family relationships. Include children in the festivities of decorating and baking. Make them a family event without computers or phones. Just put some Christmas music on in the background and enjoy being together. The memories you build can compensate for the extra mess in the kitchen!

In our home, the day after Thanksgiving was devoted to decorating the house for Christmas. We went all out. The boys hauled the boxes in from the garage and we cranked the sentimental old Carols throughout the house and spent the day transforming our home into a Christmas Wonderland. If I tried to play new songs, I would be chastised for breaking the tradition. We would go into the woods and cut the biggest possible Christmas tree and drag it home and into the house.

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Remember, by eliminating from our ‘To Do List’ whatever is not important to our family, we can create memories and traditions this year that could impact them for a lifetime.

Reach out to others: Teaching our children that it is better to give than receive by helping others in need. One year we got three names of families in our communities that were struggling. On an icy night in December, the whole family drove to Target and purchased blankets, food and toys for each family on our list with money donated by our children from their allowance and we covered the rest. We then delivered these gifts.

During the holidays, there are always ways to serve others in the community without spending money. Serve at shelters (many have ways younger children can safely serve too) or visit an elderly home and wrap gifts for the residents. Maybe you have a friend or neighbor going through a difficult season this year. Offer to rake their leaves, hang their Christmas lights and bring them some of the yummy cookies you’ve baked together!

Teaching the gift of giving pays dividends for life.

We can make the Christmas into the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, by spending time together and focusing on the real Reason for the Season.

What traditions are important to you and brought your family together?

10 Practical Ways To Win The Battle With Picky Eaters

Blair eating Squash#1-1

During the Holidays Family gatherings can be both lovely and stressful. We have all been there. Sitting at the beautifully adorned dinner table with the whole family politely awaiting the feast. And then it happens. Our child screams, “Yuck!” or “I hate turkey!” Then follows the awkward silence with the unspoken question lingering in the air, “How is she going to handle this?”

Aunt Susan and Cousin Andy pretend not to be listening, as they quickly look down at their plates and take another bite of mashed potatoes, tuning their critical ears to make sure they hear our response. Our parenting is now on display for all to see.

I can hear the unspoken advice now: Either “Food should not be an issue. Let children eat whatever they want.” or “There are starving children in Africa, and kids should eat everything on their plate.”

Can there be a good middle ground to the extremes?

Eating issues are far bigger than a holiday meal and parenting with an audience. Wanting life long healthy living and thankful hearts for our children should be our source of motivation. We can teach our children to eat healthy foods on holidays and everyday. Here are ten practical ways to train our children to eat well and to be thankful for the provision.

To begin any journey of changing family expectations, call a family meeting to discuss what the new guidelines are and the reasons for them. Discuss the reasons for changing their eating habits. Then, be consistent and practice the guidelines you set. Some of the following can be a part of that conversation.

  1. It is okay to dislike certain foods: We all have things we don’t like. Every year on their birthday, our four children chose 2-3 food items they didn’t have to eat. Each year they had the option to change these foods. This teaches children skills of evaluation. They feel respected and it alleviates potential for resentment toward over-controlling parents. One rule: They were not allowed to choose basic foods we ate daily like lettuce or milk.

  One day my husband Don said, “Blair, I’ll give you a dollar if you eat a bite of squash. He took the challenge and the sequence of photos show what happened.

Blair eating Squash-1

  1. They will be removed from the table if they make a scene: Let them know if they have a fit or refuse to eat, they will gently and calmly be taken to another room. With loving and gentle tones, tell them their food is waiting for them for when they are ready to eat. Give them a choice: (1) Come back to the table and eat 3 bites of each item on their plate and enjoy being with the family or (2) stay in the room alone. Give them the opportunity to rejoin the family until mealtime is finished. They won’t be offered their food again until the next meal. The key to this working is our consistency, patience and love as they test the new boundaries.

Blair eating Squash-2

  1. Eat the things they don’t like first: After choosing their birthday exclusions, they may still resist healthy foods like vegetables. Put these on their plate first and tell them, “When your green beans have been eaten you may have some peaches (or whatever they like most on the table).”
  1. Make eating fun: My son, Blair didn’t like broccoli, but with his vivid imagination, he turned himself into a Tyrannosaurus Rex and pretended his broccoli were trees. And because that’s what dinosaurs did, he ate the trees. Be creative and plan ahead. Conversations before the meal could include, “Did you know that dinosaurs eat trees. Don’t these broccoli look like trees? Why don’t you pretend you are a dinosaur?”
  1. Give them choices: When they refuse to eat, give them choices. You can make the good choice pleasant and the bad one unpleasant. “You can eat your peas and get a brownie for dessert or refuse to eat them and go without dessert.” If these milder choices don’t work we may have to resort to, “You can eat your peas and get a brownie or if you choose not to eat your peas for dinner, you can eat them for breakfast.”
  1.  Save their dinner for breakfast: When a strong-willed child refuses to eat dinner despite all our efforts, calmly tell them if they don’t eat, we will save their dinner until breakfast and they won’t get anything else until then—and follow through. At  breakfast time, take last night’s unfinished dinner and place it before your hungry child. At some point he/she will eat.
  1.  Give only healthy snacks: I remember big brown eyes staring up at me begging for food as I was preparing dinner. This is the perfect opportunity to give them a snack of vegetables while training their palate to like healthy food. Giving them another choice, you can say, “You may have a carrot (or snap-peas) or you can wait for dinner.”
  1. Give small portions: This allows them to easily succeed at eating everything on their plate and be proud of themselves. They can ask for seconds when their plate is clean.
  1.  Eliminate snacks if they don’t eat well at meals: They are more likely to eat healthy if they are really hungry. Many times the reason children don’t eat their healthy dinner is because they have had a sweet snack shortly before mealtime and aren’t hungry.
  2. Be Consistent: When choosing to train our children to eat healthy, we must be consistent everyday, because they are going to test us.

Blair eating Squash#4-2

Eating doesn’t have to be a long-term embarrassment and fight. When we handle our children with love and gentleness and change our expectations about eating, we can raise children who go to Family gatherings and graciously eat what is placed before them.

I would love to hear your Practical Eating Ideas and how they have work for your family.

The Years Fly By

I found a journal entry from a while back that I thought was worth posting:

In just a few days, my youngest son will leave for college. Waves of emotion come uncontrollably and more and more often as the day nears. A memory or an object reminds me of him, and without warning, tears stream down my face. They come quickly, flowing past my face onto my neck. It can happen anywhere—whether I’m alone or in the middle of the grocery store.

The emotions are so intense and deep because I spent 19 years loving and sacrificing for my son who is now grown and ready to go, ready to fly away from the nest that cared for him and was vigilant to protect and prepare him for this day.

I know he’s ready in every way, so my sadness isn’t laden with fear or regret. It’s actually a strange mix of sadness and joy. I can’t explain how both emotions can be there so strongly and distinctly, but they are.

There is sadness because he is going to leave a huge hole in both my husband’s and my heart and life. His presence brings such happiness and joy. Just having him in the house cheers us up and makes us smile.

I have joy because he is ready to leave and accomplish all that the Lord has for him, and I know that he has to “go out” from us for this to happen. He is as prepared as we know how to prepare him. Now he will be completely in the Lord’s hands, flying off to another place and stage of his life with Him. There is a deep joy in my heart knowing that my husband and I will now begin to see the fruit of our parenting.

As you are prepare your children to leave your nest, think about how much time you really have left with them. Before they’re school-age, your children spend most of their time with you and you have a lot of time to love them and shape their character. When they start school, you have much less time to influence them and others give more input into their lives and character than you do. By the time they reach high school, they have made friends, started jobs and developed interests and activities that take them away from home a larger percentage of their day. Your “hours of influence” get smaller and smaller with time.

Though your children may still be young, how many “hours of influence” do you still have to build character and a love for our Lord in your children? How are you using this precious time to prepare your children to leave your nest ready to face a world that encourages them to indulge in themselves rather than serving others.

Cherish the hours you have left with your children, and be intentional in how you spend that time, because they will fly away more quickly than you anticipate.

Just Words?

I have heard young people comment that swear words are offensive only if we assign importance to them. I understand what they are saying: words, after all, are nothing more than combinations of letters strung together to form expressions. Combine that with the relativistic thinking so prevalent in today’s society, and the idea actually makes sense.

But there is another aspect to this topic: what we say is a reflection of our hearts and minds. Jesus said, “The words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you” (Matthew 15:18, NLT).

The words that come out of our mouths reflect what we allow to permeate our minds. If we justify speaking not only swear words, but careless, crude, or hurtful words, we are not submitting to God in this area. We are arguing with Him!

As Christians, we need to surrender to God our “right” to carelessly speak anything that comes to mind. But first, we have to desire close relationship with God more than we value our right to say whatever we want. When we desire to please God and seek a Spirit-filled life, we will be able to choose to honor Him with our speech.

Enjoying the freedom of living a Spirit-controlled life means accepting and embracing the Spirit’s control in all areas, including language. We do this by deliberately filling our minds with wholesome, good things; then He gives us the desire to speak in ways that please Him.

When you consciously allow the Holy Spirit to act as a filter, the words that pour forth from your mouth will serve as evidence of the Spirit’s fruit in you: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Isn’t that what you want your children to see?

Don’t Wish Away Today

When I was in junior high, I remember complaining to my Aunt Fae: “I wish I was in high school.” Her response to me became one of the foundational principles that has formed my character. She said, “Brenda, Don’t wish away today. Be all here in the present. High school will come soon enough. Be all here, each day of your life.” I thought about what she said, and put it into practice in my life.

We tend to “wish for high school” in a lot of ways. When we get to high school, we wish we were in college. In college, we wish we had a job… We wish we were married, we wish we had children, we wish our children were older, then we wish they were out of the house…grandchildren…retirement…and then, we die. We could wish our life away and never live in the present.

Looking back now, living in the moment has caused me to enjoy the little things in life, both the good ones and the hard ones. I learned to face the difficult times rather than ignore or resent them. When my children were young and woke up night after night because they needed to be fed, they had a bad dream, or caught the flu and were puking every hour throughout the night, I realized that I had two choices in how I could respond: I could accept my circumstances and embrace the moment with a good attitude, or get angry and irritable about what was happening, and wish that stage of life with my children away. Those long, sleepless nights when my children cried, I rocked them and quietly sang to them, sometimes for hours. I was so tired and at the end of myself sometimes, the tears would come easily, streaming down my face, as I praised Jesus with my songs. That was all I had to give.

The hard times have become some of the most precious memories and growing times for me. I chose not to “check out” of the present and wish for the future. Instead, I chose to worship God through those hard circumstances. Those are the times when I learned to lean on Him for strength, even when I didn’t have any strength left.