Category: Mommy Encouragement Files

Shifting Sands. . . and Teens

Life has shifted.

My oldest has been away at college for three years. The next three teens graduate high school in the next three years. One right after another.

I had four kids in five years when I was in my 20s.

It was exciting, it was fun, it was exhausting.

Well-meaning people would be sympathetic to the work and energy required, and would offer advice and encouragement. “remember, they are little for such a short time!” I embraced that. The days are long and the years are short, was my mantra when I was knee-deep in laundry and nursing and noise.

What those well-meaning people didn’t remember to say was that they are only teens for a short time, too. One day they would all be starting high school, then I would blink, and they would be gone.

We did treasure the early years. We have happy memories of making play dough and building pyramids and the Sphinx. We did treasure the middle years. We built our family traditions. Even now the kids know to expect socks and underwear in their Christmas stickies, along with some candy and an orange — a tradition started during our leanest years when I tried to make the gifts under the tree look more abundant with necessities.

Your memories are likely much like mine, full of funny family stories and laughter. You were intentional, investing your time and yourself into your children. Even when you remember the struggles, I bet overall you feel like it has been a joy.

Life is good now, too. Yet, I feel a shift in our family dynamics — and something isn’t quite how I want it.

I don’t have the energy I once had, and the intense emotional and intellectual needs of teens is hard. I’ve felt myself become more distracted — distracted both by the logistics of life and the technology right at hand.

I love my teens dearly, and we’ve been a close family. Yet, I get surprised by what I don’t know about them. I’m sad that we aren’t as attached as we once were. I know that they are growing and maturing and that is good — and at the same time, I feel like we can get to a place of being more connected.

This has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s been in my conversations with Hubby and even with the teens. I don’t want us to just drift through these last years at home and drift apart. We need connection.

“It is surprising how seldom books on parenting talk about prayer. We instinctively believe that if we have the right biblical principles and apply them consistently, our kids will turn out right. But that didn’t work for God in the Garden of Eden. Perfect environment. Perfect relationships.

And still God’s two children went bad.
“Many parents, including myself, are initially confident we can change our child. We don’t surrender to our child’s will (which is good), but we try to dominate the child with our own (which is bad). Without realizing it, we become demanding….
“Until we become convinced we can’t change our child’s heart, we will not take prayer seriously….”
Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life


Grace (& Self-Compassion)

“…the fact that so few of us really live as loved people shows that there is nothing easy about accepting grace.  We would rather be in control of our worthiness, and it’s hard to relinquish this to the reality of a grace-filled God. “

A must read.

When (Little) Kids Don’t Listen

Several friends recently linked to this helpful article, Six Ways You’re (Unintentionally) Telling Kids NOT to Listen.

It’s a good article written by a mom of four boys. Much of it is common sense — but isn’t that what we often need as moms? Reminders to do what we know we want to do with our children?

I found myself drawn to respond in the comments to one mother who asked, “So… what would you do if you say to your child, “You need to join us for dinner now” or “Please pick up your shoes” or “Please come down from the playground now. It’s time to go home” or “You need to climb into your car seats so we can buckle up” and your child doesn’t do as asked/told? That is often the case with my kids.”

Here are some of the tools I’ve used with my five boys. Of course it depends on the child, the situation, and the personality. . . but in general these strategies work for me.

1. For a 2 or 3 year old. “You need to get in your carseat.” (No response from child.) “Do you need me to help you or can you do it yourself?” (For a 2 and 3 year old, this harnesses the strong “I’ll do it mySELF!” drive that they have! Usually my kids do it themselves at this point.) If my child still doesn’t get in the carseat, I say, “Here, let me help you,” pick them up, and help them. Really, my attitude at this point needs to be HELPING, not “punishing” them by forcing them. Keeping my attitude helpful rubs off on the child, and they seem to cooperate and accept my help.

2. Similar to the commenter Jon said, but a little different. . . I often link the action that needs to be done with the following action. I find that my younger kids don’t respond well to an “If you don’t do X, then we can’t do Y” sort of statement. What works better for us is a “When. . . then. . .” statement. It is subtly different, but for us, gains more cooperation. Using Jon’s example, I would phrase it, “When the toys are picked up, then we can read our story together.” To be honest, the “When… then…” works well with my teenagers, too. “When you are finished unloading and loading the dishwasher, then you can go play your guitar. . .”

3. Even smart kids, even kids who are very verbal, are STILL very physical when they are little. I find that when I help them physically start something, then they are able to “hear” what I said earlier and start complying. Like with the toys before book time, I might say, “When the toys are picked up, then we can read our story together.” And then, I’ll start picking up the toys, or putting the basket the blocks go in near my child, or other things that physically help him start the task.

4. Hug&Pray. . . when my kids (especially toddlers or preschoolers, but also older kids) are not complying or start having a meltdown, I like to pull them onto my lap and hug them. The hug helps calm me and calm them. It gives us a moment to reconnect and have that physical affection that helps put the big emotions into context. And I pray for wisdom. . . sometimes silently, sometimes out loud with them, so they see that I am not perfect but want to do the best thing. We both calm down usually, and then can address whatever situation brought up all the big feelings or disobedience.

Hope this helps with some practical ideas for when kids aren’t responding to your directions!

Look What Came in the Mail!


TulipGirl Joy of Relationship Homeschooling

The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling” by Karen Campbell!

For years I’ve gotten my mommy-encouragement from Karen, who blogs at Thatmom.Com. The “ThatMom” podcasts are great for when I’m doing dishes and folding clothes. I appreciate her emphasis on “one-anothering” in our families.

I have been reading through on my kindle… slowly… But wanted the paperback copy to lend out. Plus, some books are just better when holding them in your hands. I’ll have a review up. . . eventually.

(Ooooh! Looks like Anne received her copy, too!)