When my girls were very young I often felt like a broken record. Every single day, this was the phrase that came out of my mouth multiple times, “What do you say?” “Girls, that gentleman just opened the door for you, what do you say?” Or, “Ladies, the nice waitress just gave you your milk, what do you say?” ARGH! Stop the madness! I can’t tell you how much that got on my nerves. The constant reminders to use their manners and say, “Thank you,” was enough to drive me up a wall.
For me, I knew that this four word phrase was ranking up there with Chinese water torture, so I could only imagine how annoying it must have been for the girls. But moms, you get it, this is one of those high-ranking parenting necessities that we all have to check off that elusive “Stellar Parent To-Do” list. We want children who are polite, respectful, and innately grateful! And we all know, our kids are flawed humans just like their parents, but just on a smaller scale.
But seriously, there had to be a better way than the constant parrot-like harping and reminding to say a simple thank you. I was determined to find another way and so I started DOING what I was preaching in a more intentional manner. And bingo. It started working. Here’s what I did.
Disclaimer: this isn’t rocket science, but I’ve seen some cool behaviors come from this so here we go.
Instead of constantly pulling out the, “What do you say?” verbiage when the situation called for it, I began finding more reasons and situations for ME to say “thank you” in front of them. For example, every single time we eat out at a restaurant as a family, and my husband pays the bill, when we get up to leave I always thank him for our meal. Every. Single. Time. I didn’t specifically tell the girls to thank him, but I made sure they saw me do it. Then guess what? One day, one of the girls beat me to it! I almost fell out of my chair. She said, “Thank you Daddy for the food!” And before I knew it, it became a habit that my girls are usually very good about doing consistently.
My husband does the same for me when I cook at home. He makes a point to thank me for the food I’ve prepared, and it’s becoming a modeled behavior that the girls are picking up on and doing themselves without being reminded. It’s a beautiful thing to watch! (It’s especially nice, on those nights when they think what I’ve cooked looks and tastes like something you might find on a distant planet. And oftentimes the restraint in making that fact well known to all at the table is non-existent. Still working on that one, folks.)
This goes for so many other situations and instances. Pretty much anytime that a “thank you” is necessary, make sure your kids see YOU doing it and doing it with confidence. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely still times when a little reminder nudge is needed, but over time I have seen this become an expected behavior. I haven’t had to solely rely on the annoying, “What do you say?” reminders.
Again, I know this isn’t some earth shattering concept, but it was a huge reminder for me that our kids are watching everything we do. It’s a real time version of “Monkey See, Monkey Do” so if you want your kids to act a certain way, be the example that you want them to become!
I love a good tradition, and especially when I see how it enriches the lives of our kids. We have a tradition in our family that as a mother, is definitely one of my favorites. It’s the daddy-daughter breakfast tradition.
This ritual began with my father years ago, and now we have adapted it into our family. When I was in grade school my dad designated Wednesdays as “breakfast day”. He and I would leave the house a little earlier than normal before work and school, and head to a local greasy spoon restaurant that smelled a bit like old wood and bacon. Every week I ordered the same thing, a gigantic, plate sized pancake with a mound of butter in the middle large enough to sink a ship. And boy, did it taste good.
The motivation for going to breakfast was not the food, although it was always a treat. The intention was time alone with my dad and for us to have an opportunity to purposefully connect.
When my girls were in kindergarten we started the tradition in our home. Once a week, my husband began alternating which daughter he took to breakfast before school. Six years later, they are still going to the same restaurant, and the tradition continues.
There are many aspects to this tradition that make it meaningful. When the girls were very young it made them feel special and valued. The fact that their daddy would carve out this time for them before his busy workday made them feel like a princess. And as a kindergartener anything that was different from their normal routine felt like they had just won the “advanced-toddler lottery”.
As time went on, and their maturity level grew, so did their breakfast conversations. These one-on-one times became an intentional place for my husband to “check in” on what was going on in their lives. It became a private place that each of the girls could talk without feeling “honed-in on” by their sibling. And being an only child, I had NO idea how important this is for siblings.
Andrew has also used this time to share life lessons and teach them things he’s learning through his relationship with God or in his business. It’s his time to drop some wisdom nuggets that are personally designed for each one of them.
These regular “dates” have also created a pattern of familiarity for the girls, and they know there will always be a scheduled time that they can intimately connect with their dad. It has built a level of trust between them and is building a foundation of communication that is key as they grow up.
But I think the most important benefit of this tradition is the connection that he as a father is building with his daughters. Yes, the bond between a mother and a daughter is wonderful and so important, but the benefits of a strong relationship between a daughter and her dad are huge. When a young girl feels valued, loved, and protected by her father, she is less likely to search out love and acceptance in the wrong places when she’s older. This is our hope and our prayer for our girls.
I understand that it might not be possible to do weekly breakfasts out at a restaurant, and that’s okay! There are so many other ways that this tradition can be modified and still have the same great affect. Maybe it’s a weekly hike, or bike ride. It could even be dedicated time at the local playground. It’s about getting creative and simply setting aside that time. Undivided, intentional time in a one-on-one setting is so life-giving for your kids.
So every morning, when it’s breakfast day, my heart bursts when I watch my husband and one of my daughters walk out the door. Who would have thought that a good foundation could be built, one pancake at a time?
This simple concept has rocked my world as a parent. Before I dive into why this idea was a game changer for me, I’ll start with a little background. I’m an only-child who has been thrown into the crazy world of raising two daughters. This means that as it relates to sibling dynamics, I have NO. IDEA. WHAT. I’M. DOING. Many times, when the girls are going at it for whatever reason, I find myself desperately searching my husband’s face for some type of sign that this raucous behavior is somehow normal. I mean, he’s one of three boys so he’s kind of an expert in these things. The conversation usually goes something like this…
Me: “Babe. Are you seeing this? Is this normal? They are fighting over a stinking Lego and I think we just entered World War III! Do something! Should we do something? What do I do?” (insert panic face, and lots of waving arms)
My husband: “Oh yea. It’s no big deal. Totally normal. My brother threw a brick at my other brother’s head once. This is nothing.”
What??! My only-child head literally explodes.
To be very transparent, it’s not uncommon for our kids to have disagreements where they are forced to solve some type of conflict. It happens pretty frequently. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I actually wrote a blog on the importance of kids learning how to talk through conflict and compromise. But there are days when the back and forth between them, as it relates to making a decision about something, can feel exhausting.
For example, I don’t know about you, but even the smallest decisions like who is going to use the bathroom first to brush their teeth, can turn into crazy “she said, she said” volley matches. For a while, I used to try to reason through who should win the argument and that almost always ended up taking too long, and leaving one of the affected parties in a sour mood, feeling completely cheated out of their “rights”.
Then, someone introduced me to the simple concept of flipping a coin. I know. I know. You’re thinking, “Really? This never occurred to you?” No, people. No, it didn’t.
But not only did the coin toss method begin solving simple disagreements between the girls with NO arguments (this blew my mind), it’s also Biblical!! Say what? You heard me right. It’s in the Bible.
In Biblical times it was referred to as casting lots. But it was essentially the same as flipping a coin. People cast lots to help them make difficult and/or important decisions, and when they did this they were essentially trusting God with the outcome.
Proverbs 16:33 MSG says, “Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say.”
Proverbs 18:18 MSG also says, “You may have to draw straws when faced with a tough decision.”
According to Biblestudy.org, “The primary reason for casting lots was to render an impartial, unbiased decision on important matters. Once the lot was cast, no one could argue that the decision was the result of human intervention like nepotism, politics, favoritism, and so on.”
So if God created this method for resolving disputes or making decisions, why shouldn’t we use it as parents with our children? I can’t tell you how helpful this has been in de-escalating arguments and the best part is, whoever “loses” the toss can’t be mad at ME! I am no longer the bearer of bad news. One point for mom!
So seriously moms, if you don’t already use this method with your kids. I highly recommend it. As a way of solving conflict, it’s heads and tails above anything else I’ve tried thus far.
Being a “girl mom” is awesome, and I couldn’t be more crazy about my daughters. I have enjoyed every stage of raising them. Some stages have been a little more challenging than others, (hello terrible 3’s!) but overall being the momma to these girls is the best. I also know that I have plenty ahead of me yet as a parent, and I will be learning and making lots of mistakes as they go into new phases of their lives.
When I was first blessed with these two little girly peanuts, one of the things I knew I desperately wanted to do was cultivate healthy communication. I want my girls to know that they can come to us, as their parents, with any question or any concern that they may encounter in life. My husband and I decided early on that we wanted to be the first source of the knowledge for many of the important life topics they will come up against. We feel it is important for them to get their information from us first so they don’t get caught off guard and feel uninformed when they are exposed to certain things elsewhere.
Because of this, we started having casual conversations about things whether it was drinking and drugs, dating, relationships, etc. at a pretty early age. Obviously, we kept everything age appropriate, but as we began doing this we could tell that not only did it lay a groundwork for having more relaxed and engaged conversations as time went on, but we could see that they felt empowered. This empowerment builds trust.
The other thing that has been so helpful, is being receptive to those times when your child wants to talk. And they may not always be the most convenient times for you, but it’s so worth sucking it up, putting that phone down, and being present in that moment.
One of my daughters loves to talk at night before bed. We have gotten in the routine of spending time together before prayers and turning off the light. This is the time that we often have great talks. It’s not necessarily every night, but even if I’m crazy tired and it feels like I’m about to fall over, I try my hardest to tune into if she has something she wants to say. And when I do this, I am never disappointed. It’s always the sweetest time, and I love it.
I’ve also learned to hold my tongue when they are talking. My natural reaction, being an ex-teacher, only child, control-freak, is to jump in with a solution or what I think they should do. It’s SO hard to not do this, and I’ve learned my lesson when I’ve failed to keep my mouth shut. Instead, I’m learning to listen, and then listen some more. After they’re done sharing, I repeat back to them what I feel I’m hearing to make sure I understand what they’ve said.
Lastly, I ask them if they WANT my advice. THIS IS THE KEY! There are times when they really don’t, (shocker parents!) and that’s okay! This may be one of those times when your child just needs a listening ear and someone to tell them that what they’re feeling is normal.
Then there may be situations when they do want some advice. Yippee!! I love when that happens. But here’s another trick I’ve learned. Not only give them your thoughts on how to solve the problem, but share a story that you’ve experienced as a child that might relate. I can’t tell you how effective it has been when I share my past experiences with my girls.
My prayer is that I will always have a great and open relationship with my daughters. I pray a section of Proverbs 31 every morning and decree that “my (her) children will rise and call her blessed…”. That is my heart. I’m sure that there will be struggles in our communication as they get older and go through their teen years, and please don’t get me wrong. I know I don’t have this whole thing figured out and will continue to make mistakes. But I’m hoping that by setting the standard for that open door policy now, it will help us navigate through the future more smoothly.
Businesses do it, non-profit organizations do it, universities do it, so why shouldn’t families do it?! I’m talking about creating a vision statement for your family! If this is something you haven’t done yet, I would highly encourage you to do so. Our family created our vision and mission statements, and our core values, and they have become something that filters both how we live as a family and how we parent our children.
We decided to do this years ago when our daughters were young. Some close friends shared with us how they created their family vision statement and the intentionality behind this really impressed us. The idea of living a more intentional life, built on firm foundations, and leading our family with conviction and not leaving it up to happenstance, was very appealing.
We have always been a family that follows God and trusts in His plan for our lives, but up until this point we didn’t make a conscious effort to put the framework of that plan in writing.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”
So yes, we know and believe that the Lord will always be the one that establishes the path for our lives, but we also feel that it’s our job to build a solid framework that becomes the scaffolding that God can build on.
I’ll share with you how we created ours, but first let’s start with what a vision statement is. As it relates to a business, a vision statement gives the company it’s direction. It’s where that company would like to see itself in the future and what it aspires to be. The same thought process works for families. Your family vision statement should be a general statement that encompasses what your family is about and what motivates you to be better as a unit.
After a vision statement typically comes a mission statement. This statement differs from the vision statement because it is more specific. A mission statement breaks down the company’s objectives and the approach it will take to reach those objectives.
Lastly, are the core values. Core values are the beliefs of a person or an organization. These are essentially the nuts and bolts of how the organization is going to operate and determine what is right and wrong.
All three of these aspects, the vision statement, mission statement, and core values should be considered and created when you’re doing this for your family. Each one provides more clarity and direction as it relates to having that “filter”, and I can tell you as a parent who is currently raising children through different phases of their life, this is so helpful.
One of the things I loved about including our core values is they give us easy nuggets of truth that we can pull out whenever our girls need a little “behavior check”. For example, when they were still very young it was easy to remind them of one of our core values, “Be kind and love others”, when their actions were showing otherwise. Kids get that. Simple, but powerful.
Creating your vision statement doesn’t have to be a daunting thing. When Andrew and I did it, we simply prayed and asked God to give us His wisdom. Then we got out a notebook and a pen and started jotting down favorite scriptures, and what we envisioned our family values to be. We started to see those values aligning with verses in the Bible so we starred the ones that began standing out to us.
Then we organized them into the three categories of vision, mission, and core values. After a little more massaging and wordsmithing, we were left with what we felt really represented our goals, hopes, and desires for our family.
At the time that we did this, our girls were too young to effectively participate in this process. However, if you have children that are old enough to give feedback and aid in the creation of your family’s core values, then by ALL MEANS include them! This will give them ownership in the process and in the final product.
You may be thinking that this ship has sailed for your family, and that it’s too late to create something like this. Maybe your children are in high school already or even off to college. But, it’s never too late! Remember, establishing these values in writing now can be a legacy that you leave for your children’s children. It could be a family creed that gets passed down through generations. What an incredible gift you can give them!
Your family vision statement should be your own, but I will share ours with you. You are welcome to use whatever you would like if it fits the dreams and framework you would like your family to live by too.
After we finalized each section I asked a graphic designer friend to create a piece that now hangs in our home at the base of our staircase. Every morning as we come downstairs to start our day, this is what we all see and are reminded of…
The Dahl Family
To be the family God desires us to be through faith and obedience.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT
We are a family that intentionally utilizes our unique gifts to give God glory through hospitality, leadership, service and love.
OUR CORE VALUES
Love Jesus with all our heart, soul and strength.
Be kind and love others.
Respect our differences and celebrate our strengths.
I tell my girls all the time, “Girls, readers are leaders!” Cue the eye roll, and “Yes mom, we know.” They may be sick of me saying it, but I firmly believe this statement, and I have always had a passion for encouraging children to read. Years ago when I lived in Texas, I worked as a second grade teacher. My favorite subject to teach was reading. Watching the light bulb go on when my students started to really get it was so exciting, and I could see a whole new world open up for them.
During my time as a teacher, I fell in love with children’s literature. I was always personally contributing to the library in my classroom, and I made every effort to make reading fun and exciting for my students.
When my teaching days transitioned from the classroom into my home, the love of children’s books didn’t fade. Now I had the opportunity to instill this same love into my daughters. As their reading levels began to grow, I wanted to find books that they could both relate to and that had a positive message.
They began to transition out of picture books and into chapter books which presented the new challenge of finding more book options for them. There are so many wonderful books out there, and the choices are endless. But I wanted to be intentional about finding books that I knew would encourage my girls, grow their faith, and teach them lifelong lessons.
Matthew 6:22 says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
As a parent, I want to make sure that I am guiding my girls as it relates to what they are seeing and consuming. Especially when they are young, I feel it’s important to guard the gateway of their hearts and minds and be watchful of what influence is being allowed into their lives. Then teaching them to make their own decisions and to discern if something, whether it’s a movie, video game, or a book, is edifying for their spirit is the ultimate goal.
I know from my own experience, finding chapter books that I felt checked these boxes was a bit challenging at first so I thought I would share some that I have found. And just so you know these all got the “Lauren and Katherine stamp of approval”!
The Glimmer Girls Series (faithgirlz by Zonderkids)
This series of four books is written by singer Natalie Grant with Naomi Kinsman and is about three sisters whose mom is a famous recording artist. The books tell of their adventures and how they solve problems using their faith in God. The book titles are London Art Chase, A Dolphin Wish, Miracle in Music City, and Light Up New York.
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls (Worthy Kids)
This is a series of eight books about siblings, Peter and Mary and their dog, Hank. These three adventurers discover ancient scrolls that transport them back to key moments in biblical history. These books are great because they help bring Bible stories to life for young readers in a way that they can relate to. This series is great for boys or girls!
Riley Mae/The Good News Shoes Series (ZonderKids)
Riley Mae is an action loving girl that becomes a spokesperson for the Swiftwater Shoe Company. Through her many adventures, her faith and trust in God continues to grow! This series has three books, Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek, Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids, and Riley Mae and the Soul Fire Safari.
Soul Surfer Series (Zonderkids)
Inspired by surfer Bethany Hamilton, this series is about a 14 year old girl who discovers God’s love and guidance while tackling the “waves” life throws at her and her friends. There are four books in this series, Clash, Burned, Storm, and Crunch.
Princess in Camo Series (Zonderkids)
This series of four books is authored by Missy Robertson, one of the stars of the TV show Duck Dynasty. The main character, Allie Carroway, lives in the Louisiana Bayou and struggles with allergies and asthma. Her family has a reality TV show called Carried Away with the Carroways, and she and her friends have many exciting adventures. The four books in the series are Allie’s Bayou Rescue, Running From Reality, Dog Show Disaster, and Finding Cabin Six.
Lena in the Spotlight (Zonderkids)
Lena and her little sisters face challenges of everyday life while trying to realize her dream of being an actress. Throughout this series, Lena relies on her faith to help her navigate life’s tough choices and help her persevere when things get hard.
The Imagination Station (Focus on the Family)
There are multiple books in this series that will keep your reader busy for quite awhile. Cousins Patrick and Beth travel to various lands and times and have incredible adventures. What I love about these books is that they not only teach Biblical lessons, but they also teach about historical events. This is also a great series for boys or girls!
I was having some major mom guilt. I was kicking myself all over the place because I felt like I was failing as a mom when it came to teaching my girls scripture. This has been one of those things that I knew I wanted to do, and knew was important, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around an easy and fun way to do it. So I did nothing. Until recently.
I thought I’d share what I did. By the way, it’s working:
I started by making a list of favorite verses. Knowing that I would be challenging the girls to memorize them, I started with shorter ones, or verses that we say around the house a lot. I wanted to set them up for success to keep them motivated when it got a little more challenging.
After I had a list of eight to ten verses, I printed them off, cut them apart, and pasted them onto pretty colored paper. Then I glued magnets on the back so they would stick to the refrigerator. My next job was to get the girls excited about it. I needed to remember that MY attitude is everything! If I acted like it was a chore, then it was going to feel like a chore. I found that if you show your kids that scripture memorization can be fun, then guess what? It’s going to be fun!
Next, I presented my pretty paper verses to the girls and told them that we were all going to participate in a family challenge. Never once did I make this only about them. I explained that “I” wanted to learn more scripture and so did their Dad, and I thought it would be fun if we all did it together!
You know your own kids and what makes them tick. For me, if I involve the whole family and not single them out when it comes to things like this, they seem to be more willing to participate. It’s about creating a culture in your home where everyone is learning and working on growing their faith. When your kids see you do it, they model what they see.
I began by choosing a short scripture that I knew they already had down. (I know, that seems a bit like cheating, but there’s a method to my madness. Keep reading.) I put the verse on the refrigerator and during breakfast I enthusiastically said we were going to start learning it. I spent a maximum of 3 minutes on it. We each said the verse, then said it together, and I tried to make it as fun as possible. Oohh…I may have done a little goofy dance to go along with it. Then I left it alone! The next morning, I brought it up again at breakfast, and we repeated what we did the previous day. Thirty seconds, that was it.
I revisited that verse a few more times, but not everyday. Because they already knew that verse pretty well (my sneaky plan), they felt confident moving onto another one. I really feel that this early success was helpful in the longevity of my plan.
Once we all celebrated that the ENTIRE family had learned it, then I added another one to the fridge. I made sure to keep the first one up to show the progression knowing that as the list grew, so would their confidence in their ability to do this.
Over the course of a few months we continued to memorize more verses. I purposely picked verses that I knew would be helpful to them and might meet them where they were in their lives. For example, knowing that one, or both of them, occasionally get a little freaked out over what might be lurking under the bed, we learned a verse about fear. Then I could strategically pull out one of those verses, in that exact moment, and show them how it could apply to whatever situation they were going through! Score! Real time application, check!
I also began taking longer passages and breaking them up into smaller sections. As we all learned each small chunk, I began putting them together. The girls were amazed that they could recite larger sections of scripture. Again, that feeling of accomplishment and success is what kept them motivated!
Proverbs 6:20-22 says, “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.”
Psalm 199:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Give your kids the ammunition they need to fight the battles that will come in their lives. Scripture is the living breathing word of God and will enrich, encourage, and protect them wherever they go.
We as parents would never let them leave the house in the dead of winter without a coat, right? Why would we let them go out into the world without the protection and guidance that God’s word provides.
Helping to bind His words on their hearts is not hard. A little paper, glue, and 30 seconds every now and then over breakfast will give them a lifetime of blessing.
If you’d like to know which scriptures we started with, here is the list:
2. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
3. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Philippians 4:8
4. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
5. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I Timothy 1:7 NKJV
6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
7. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20
8. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105
9. For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
10. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
It was a Wednesday morning, and I was dutifully going through the mom routine of making sure my kids were fed, dressed, and actually wearing sweaters, because doggone it, it’s freezing outside and it’s not even November yet. The goal of said morning routine is to make sure they are ready to leave the house for school in a relatively peaceful and timely manner. I had my morning groove rocking in full effect, which looks like soft praise and worship music playing, morning checklist out and visible, and school bags packed the night before. See my blog post:
When all of a sudden, breaking my peaceful morning mojo came a blood curdling scream from the bathroom. “Katherine! You uuusseeddd my toothbrush! Aghhh!” Well, there went my utopic version of my morning routine aspirations for the day. This statement was immediately followed by, “I DID NOT! That’s MY toothbrush!” Then, “It is not! Mine is the pink one, yours is blue and mine is WET! That’s so GROSS!” Followed by, stomping and loud grunting/screaming noises by said offender as she retreated into the other room to dissolve in a pile of tears.
Yep. That was my “peaceful” morning. More like my morning was falling to “pieces”. So I did what every normal mother would do. I began fantasizing about running out the back door to an awaiting private jet piloted by John Travolta (from the Grease days) who was ready to fly me to Bora Bora where my over-the-water bungalow stocked with a myriad of fruit juice drinks awaited me. And then I snapped out of it.
I did however, in a calm voice, explained to each of them that we would come up with a solution and talk about it in a civilized manner once everyone had calmed down. Right now, their job was to finish getting ready so we could get to school before it was time for lunch.
After the huffing and stomping subsided, and the focus went from the falsely accosted toothbrush to our puppy who, thankfully likes to do goofy things at just the right moment, we successfully made it into the car.
Now I had them. You know what I mean, moms and dads. The car is our power play. The kids are strapped down, and locked into a moving vehicle that if they try to escape will cause extreme bodily harm. They are at our mercy. (Evil laugh here.)
But in all seriousness, as much as I dislike situations that cause chaos and disruption in our family; I look at them as learning opportunities. This was a perfect chance to reinforce much needed skills of communication, problem solving, and compromise. And I do this A LOT with my girls. I want them to know how to handle conflict, and be able to communicate their side of the story. More importantly, I want them to learn to listen to the other person’s side of the story and solve problems through compromise.
This is how I typically mediate these types of conversations:
First I state the problem using “I” statements.
“Girls, I can see that there is some confusion about which toothbrush is yours in the bathroom cabinet. Is that correct?” The response from the backseat is often the offended jumping down the offender’s throat again which I immediately try to stop. I have found that if I can keep my voice calm and maintain that calm in the conversation it helps A LOT. Once we are all on the same page and each person has stated what the problem is then I move onto a question.
“How did that make you feel when (whatever the offense was) happened?”
I lay down clear guidelines that all parties are held accountable to, and those are: respect for the person speaking, eye contact, and no interrupting. After each person, including the offender, has had a chance to share their feelings then it’s time for question number two.
“What would be a good solution so that (XYZ problem) doesn’t happen again?”
Those same guidelines of respect come into play, and each person takes a turn sharing an idea that they feel would help rectify the situation. This often takes time and usually the first ideas are pretty unrealistic, but I help guide the conversation and show the girls where each one can give a little so that ultimately THEY decide on a final plan. Did you catch that? I said, THEY, decide on the plan. Do I help direct and maybe throw a few suggestions to give them ideas that I know will be successful? Sure! But they are taking ownership in the plan so therefore, they are invested in it and the outcome.
Then lastly, we complete the loop. By that, I mean each person apologizes and asks the other for forgiveness.
Apologize and Ask Forgiveness
Don’t forget that last part! The forgiveness piece is KEY!! Start teaching your kids the importance of not only asking for forgiveness, but also giving forgiveness. Even if they don’t feel the forgiveness in their heart at that very moment, even speaking the words out loud, “I forgive you”, is healing.
Especially in the world we live in, one that is terribly divided and hurting from so much hate and anger, start teaching your children how to love one another. Learning to love one another during conflict begins with stating the problem, respectfully listening to both sides, coming up with a solution that is full of compromise, and then apologies and forgiveness.
You may be wondering how the whole toothbrush saga turned out. The girls decided that they each needed their own shelf in the bathroom cabinet so there was no confusion over which toothbrush belonged to who in the communal toothbrush cup. How did that affect me? It meant an immediate trip to Target to buy shelf organizers, two matching cups, and alas, two clean toothbrushes.
I was happy to take one for the team.
Being a busy mom can be tough, and I think it’s very easy to get lost in all of the things we see around us that need to get done each day. But I am learning to remember the importance of going back to my most impactful job description and that’s MOM. I have one shot (cue the Eminem song) to be the best mom that I can be to my kids. Do I get it right all the time? Absolutely NOT! However, I can focus on those moments when I have the opportunity to invest in my most valuable assets. My kids.
I had a great reminder of this recently. It was a particularly busy day, and there was a lot that I was feeling the pressure to get done. Work, clean the house, plan meals, etc. Out of the blue the girls decided that they wanted to have a tea party. Honestly, this is the dialogue that went through my mind at that very moment.
“A what? Seriously? Do you have any idea what a mess that will be? I don’t have time for this right now. I just picked up that area of the house. This feels like it’s going to be a lot of work.”
For a split second I battled with these thoughts, and part of me reeeeaaaallly wanted to say no, but I realized that this was one of those moments that I couldn’t pass up. It was an investment moment. So instead of shutting their idea down, I said, “Done!”
In the midst of the craziness of the world right now, I am choosing to find the beautiful moments in my life. This was definitely one of them. Even though my house looked like a disaster, dirty dishes were piled in the sink, my To Do list was endless, and I had ZERO plans prepared for dinner, I chose to let all of that go.
Instead, I dug out my fine china, rummaged in the attic for a fancy gown, and had tea with my sweet girls. We talked in funny accents, and danced a waltz in the sunroom. But most importantly, we had a moment.
Maybe you’re a momma of boys that love sports. Get out that football and run around in the yard with them. Whatever makes your kids tick should be on your radar. Figure out what they love and engage on their level. Even if you think stabbing your eye with a chopstick sounds more appealing than sitting down and playing a video game; pick up that joypad and go to town.
For me, this tea party was a moment with my girls that I will cherish for a long time. Even though our world has “slowed” for a minute, life is still going by fast. Don’t miss out on the opportunities to be present with the ones you are with. And here’s a tip, doing it in a funny accent makes it even that much better.
I haven’t posted in awhile mainly because I’m still flying by the seat of my pants with our ”new normal”. Every morning when I wake up and look at the clock I feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s all been a bit surreal, a tad challenging, and a lot enlightening. To spare you from a monstrously long post I thought I would give you a few of my random thoughts/realizations, and a smattering of pictures from the last few weeks. So here we go:
1. I’m realizing I need some better loungewear. Maybe even something that actually matches.
2. Man, do you go through a lot of dishes when the majority of your family is home ALL DAY LONG!
3. I have no idea what day it is.
4. I never thought I would get so excited about getting in the car to pick up dinner. It’s officially an “OUTING”!
5. My kids thought homeschooling was super cool for about the first 24 hours. Yeaaahhhh….now…..not so much.
6. Our dog is getting massively spoiled with having us home ALL THE TIME. This is not going to be good once things go back to normal. She may need therapy.
7. I might be binge eating chips and salsa. Okay, I am. Yikes. My elastic waist loungewear “look” may need to extend through the summer.
8. I am deeply grateful for our medical and essential workers that are putting their lives on the line for all of us. THANK YOU.
9. Yep. My kids get ”TV Time” EVERYDAY. Not ashamed. Don’t judge. It’s this non-drinking mom’s version of a glass of wine. So there.
10. My husband is a rockstar, and I’m so proud of how he is handling the stress that has come from all of this. Not only as a leader at his business, but here at home too. He seeks God daily and I see how life-giving it is for him.
(Lately he’s been asking me if I feel comfortable cutting hair. Nope. Not unless he likes mohawks.)
11. I am LOVING this time with the girls. It’s given me an opportunity to pour into them in ways I’ve always wanted to, but “never had the time.” It’s taught me that there is always time. Especially when you make it a priority.
12. I really miss my friends and seeing their actual faces. I never want to take for granted the ability to spend quality time with people, in person.
13. My faith in God and His promises to carry us through any and all trials has only deepened. Even those times when stress and anxiety want to creep in, He reminds me of 2 Corinthians 12:9…”But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
I am FAR from strong and my house often looks like a tornado hit it, but I‘m doing my best and trusting that like ALL things….
GOD’S GOT IT.