Attitude

How Do I Change My Child's Attitude?

 Photo credit:  designblossoms

Photo credit: designblossoms

My younger daughter turns 14 tomorrow. While she has been a teenager for almost a year, it's just in the past few months that I have really begun to feel like the mom of two teenagers.

And here's what I've discovered. Parenting teenagers is all about attitude -- theirs and mine. As we've been dealing with all kinds of attitudes and hormones in this household with two teenage daughters, I've learned a few things.

The truth is that it's not just parenting teenagers where attitude comes into play. Our kids have attitudes all the way from toddler (try taking a toddler's toy away and see what I mean) through adulthood (I know sometimes I struggle with attitude, too.) Parenting in general is all about changing attitudes.

We've dealt with some particularly poor attitudes in the past couple of weeks, and here's what I've learned: Attitude is always a heart issue. Luke 6:45 says, "the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." When our kids are spilling attitude out of their mouths, it's because there's something amiss in their heart.

When we recognize that attitude is a heart issue, we realize that we have to deal with the underlying issue if we're going to change the behavior. We can correct the behavior all we want, but until our kids have a heart change, their attitude will never change.

When I came to the conclusion that attitude is a heart issue, I started asking myself these five questions before trying to address my kids' behaviors. These questions work at any age and can help you get to the root of the problem instead of just slapping a Band-aid on the behavior.

  1. Is this a pattern of behavior or a one-time deal?

    • Does my kid normally act like this? Is this something that has happened several times? These are all questions to ask yourself. If it's a one-time thing where your child said something rude or talked back to you, deal with the behavior and move on. We all have bad days. If it's a pattern of behavior, it's time to look below the surface.
  2. Are there outside circumstances affecting my child?

    • What's really going on? Attitudes are almost always affected by circumstances. If your child is continually throwing attitude your way, then it's time to investigate what else is going on in their world. Talk with your child. Ask questions about their friends, about school, about how they feel about themselves. Keep in mind hormones are an issue if you have teens. Sometimes our kids need us to cut them some slack. Other times they need us to figure out how to help them solve what's bothering them.
  3. Who has my child been hanging out with?

    • The company you keep matters. If your child is hanging out with kids who are constantly copping an attitude, then they will learn that behavior. Take an inventory of your children's friends and identify any behaviors that your child may have picked up elsewhere. For younger kids, you might decide to stop spending so much time with those friends. For older kids, it's time to have a conversation about the company they're keeping.
  4. Am I the problem?

    • Sometimes, our child's attitude is a direct reflection of our own. If we're snapping at our kids all the time, it's not unusual for them to snap back. After all, we're modeling the behavior. Don't want your kid to be snarky? Don't be snarky yourself. It may be that we have to change our own attitude and behavior before we try to change those of our kids.
  5. Have we prayed about it?

    • Before you address the issue with your kids, sit down and pray about it. God may reveal something to you that you haven't seen before. Ask your child to pray about it, too. They may not even know why they feel the way they feel. God can reveal that to them, too.

Changing attitudes is all about changing our kids' hearts. If we keep in mind that the attitude is just a reflection of what's below the surface, we become much better at parenting our kids through it.

 


 

The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents (Review and giveaway)

Praise challenge I received a review copy of The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents from Family Christian. The opinions contained in this review are entirely my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

This parenting thing is hard. There are so many days when I'd like to throw up my hands and walk away. Other days I think I've got it figured out -- until I want to scream in frustration.

Parenting is a really big job. It's a 24/7, never get a break kind of job. And it's hard to get it right. I often feel like there are more moments where I fail than there are that I get it right. And I have to tell you there are a lot of moments where my attitude is as poor as the attitudes of the children I'm trying to parent.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working through The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents by Becky Harling. I received a copy from Family Christian to review, and I have to admit that I was skeptical that working through this book could do all the things that the back cover claimed. That little blurb on the back cover said that I would be amazed at how praising God each day would quiet my anxiety about my kids, provide protection for my family, break the chains of generational sin, deepen my children's faith and strengthen my own spiritual life.

I'm not done with all 30 days, but I can tell you that this book has changed my attitude and my outlook on parenting. Spending just 10 to 20 minutes a day in directed praise toward God focused on parenting has helped me to see that obstacles can be overcome, children can change and some of those things that frustrate me so badly about my children can be part of God's plan for their future.

You see, praise is a funny thing. You can't praise God and remain angry at your kids. You can't praise God and not find hope in a frustrating situation. You can't praise God and not feel your own soul lifted up.

When we spend time praising God even in the midst of a parenting nightmare, we find ourselves focused on Him and what He can do instead of focusing on how inadequate we feel in the situation. When we acknowledge all the amazing attributes of God -- His wisdom, His creation, His grace -- and how they relate to our ability to parent our kids, we find ourselves feeling empowered and not alone.

The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents is broken down into 30 chapters, each with four sections: The Invitation, Listen, Pray and Journal. The Invitation is God's invitation to you about that day's topic. Based on scripture, it reminds you of the reason that God is worthy of praise. The Listen section contains suggestions for songs to listen to to enhance your praise time. The author even provides the entire playlist on YouTube and Spotify. The Pray section is a prayer for you to pray based on what you have learned in your praise time that day. Last, the Journal section gives you a prompt to journal about.

Using this book to focus your praise time on your parenting will change how you react to different parenting situations. Spending 30 days in praise will simply remind you that you are not alone, that you don't have to solve every parenting challenge on your own. God is walking this road with you.

So, if you're struggling to keep a good attitude in your parenting, check out The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents. You'll be amazed at what 30 days of praising God will do.

And just to help you get started, Family Christian has graciously given me a $10 certificate to their stores to give away so you can buy your own copy. Just enter below. And be sure to check out Family Christian's Facebook page so you don't miss out on any of the great deals they offer.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a review copy of The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents from Family Christian. The opinions contained in this review are entirely my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

Sometimes We Need to Bench Our Kids

bench My older daughter played in a soccer tournament last weekend and had an experience she hasn't had in a while. In her game on Friday night she spent a good bit of time on the bench.

It's been a long time since my daughter has to ride the pine. She had gotten to the point where she just assumed that she would start and play most of every game. She was taking her playing time for granted.

Five minutes into Friday night's game, she wasn't playing well. She was out of position and looked a little lost. Her coach pulled her out of the game, told her what she was doing wrong and sat her on the bench for most of the rest of the half.

My daughter told me after the game that she understood why she was sitting there, but it made her mad. It made her determined to go out there and get it right in the second half. It made her think about what she was doing wrong and how to fix it. And it made her appreciate the playing time that she usually gets.

My daughter came out in the second half and played much better. She carried over Friday night's lesson to her games on Saturday and Sunday and came to each game determined not to sit on the bench again.

After talking with my daughter about Friday night, I realized that there are times when sitting on the bench in life isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can be a learning tool. It can be some much needed time to reflect on the situation. It can be a moment to begin to focus on the things that are important.

Our kids' lives are full. In this world of constant information overflow and activity, sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to bench them. When their choices are poor and their reactions are out of hand, it's time to give our kids some time on the bench. It's time to tell them what they're doing wrong and give them some time to figure out how to fix it.

When my kids were younger, I used "time outs" as a way of benching my kids, but as they get older, that particular method of discipline goes by the wayside. However, even older kids can benefit from time away from an escalating situation. They can use time to reflect and problem solve. Whether it's some time in their rooms without electronics or simply in another room by themselves, asking our kids to recognize the problems they're having and work out a solution is still a viable parenting tactic.

Because the end goal of parenting is to teach our kids to solve problems on their own. We want them to be independent and able to tackle the world. To do that we have to teach them how to recognize when their own behavior is creating an issue. We have to teach them where to find the wisdom to solve their problems. We have to teach them how to make a change.

When we "bench" our kids and make sure that they know why they're being "benched" we are helping them to learn to do those things. When we take the time to talk with our kids and let them know which behaviors need to change, when we show them how to ask God for the help they need to change, and when we give them the opportunity to try again, we move them one step closer to being independent. We help them take one more step on the path from dependence on us to dependence on God.

Benching our kids isn't a bad thing. It's a tool we can use to motivate them to make a change.

Behavior Always Matters

Slide1 My younger daughter was sick all last week. She missed the entire week of school. While she's not running a fever this week, she's still fighting through the remnants of her illness. She has a horrible cough and is exhausted by the time she gets home from school.

Unfortunately, when you miss an entire week of middle school, there's a lot to make up. She's finally waded through all the homework, but she still has a few quizzes to make up. The whole process of making up work has been frustrating for her. Figuring out what's missing and remembering to get it turned in has been stressful. Trying to take tests and quizzes over material from two weeks ago as you move on to new material in class is difficult. Honestly, she and I both are ready for it to be Friday.

We've had tears every night this week over schoolwork. My daughter is exhausted and so am I. She's still not feeling 100 percent. Often her attitude has been less than stellar about all the work she's had to do.

It would be really easy this week to let that attitude slide. And, truly, I've offered a lot of grace. But the thing is, even when we don't feel good, even when we're tired, it doesn't excuse poor behavior, and we shouldn't let our kids think it does.

God doesn't ask us to follow Him, to become like His Son just when everything is going well. He doesn't say "Be a witness for me when everything in your world is perfect, but it's OK to act mean and cranky when things aren't going well." He says "Follow me. Become like me. No matter what."

Paul spent a lot of time in some pretty awful jail cells. Yet he wrote letter after letter from those jail cells proclaiming the goodness of Christ. He shared the good news of Jesus despite his circumstances.

When we let our kids get away with poor behavior because of their circumstances, we're telling our kids that it's OK to let our circumstances get in the way. It's OK to let external things change who we are on the inside, and that's really not the message we want to send.

When things get tough for our kids and their behavior begins to reflect it, it's time to take a step back. It's time to remind them that God is present even the midst of difficult circumstances. It's time to show them that God can be the source of strength and calm in the middle of their storms.

Because it's often how we act in the middle of a tough time that says the most about who we are to others. It shows people our character and who we truly are.

When we teach our kids to rely on God when the going gets tough, we teach them that He is present in their lives in the good times and the bad ones. We teach them that when our strength is gone, His just keeps on going. We teach them that their behavior matters no matter how difficult the day. And that's a lesson worth learning.

What Our Kids Learn from Our Mistakes

mistake I was at my moms' group yesterday for the first time in a month. Between illness and spring break, I hadn't made it in a while, and I was really looking forward to seeing some friends and enjoying some time to focus on God. About halfway through our meeting though, I got a message from a client that I do some editing for wanting to know where their pages were.

Alarm bells went off in my head. I had completely forgotten about those pages, which had to be finished by noon yesterday. So, for yet another week, I ended up not getting to spend much time with my moms' group. I was frustrated, disappointed and just flat out mad at myself for screwing up. I knew I had those pages to edit, but when I slammed my fingers in the door on Monday, I completely forgot about them.

I gathered up my stuff and my daughter and let my group know where I was going. As we were walking out, my daughter wanted to know why we needed to leave earlier. I simply told her, "I screwed up something for some people I do work for, and now I have to fix it."

It's hard to admit when we've made a mistake, whether it's work related or family related. No one likes to mess up. It's embarrassing. It often creates problems trying to get it fixed. It's not fun at all.

But we need to remember that our kids learn from watching us how to deal with their own mistakes. If we get angry and blame others, we teach them to get angry and blame others. If we get mad at ourselves and start talking negatively about ourselves, we teach them to get mad and talk negatively about themselves. If we admit our mistakes, ask for forgiveness and work to make things right, then we teach them to do the same.

None of us are perfect. We're going to screw up sometimes. Sometimes we'll be able to fix those mistakes, and sometimes we'll just have to learn from them and move on. Whether we can fix them or not, we need to let our kids see how we deal with them. We need to let them know that most mistakes require that we ask forgiveness from the people who are affected. We need them to watch us try to make things right.

Because it's not just about being able to admit you made a mistake. It's about being able to admit to God when you've screwed up. It's about being able to ask Him for forgiveness. If we go through our lives teaching our kids to blame others for their mistakes or to never admit they are wrong, then it's difficult for them to learn to follow the instruction in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

You see, without confession, there can be no forgiveness. Unless we're willing to tell God about what we've done wrong, He can't forgive us. And if we are unwilling to admit that we make mistakes or if we're busy blaming others for those mistakes, then we're letting pride get in the way of God's forgiveness.

We want to teach our kids to take their mistakes to God, to let Him offer forgiveness and direction, to let Him provide comfort and love. They will have a hard time learning that if they don't see us dealing with mistakes in the same way.

When You're Out of Patience by 9 a.m.

9 am It's been a long week. It started on Monday with a never-ending migraine for me. Tuesday followed with a tearful phone call from my older daughter at track practice saying she had hurt her foot. A trip to urgent care, some X-rays and a walking boot later, we got a diagnosis of a possible stress fracture. Wednesday found me consoling a distraught 10-year-old who is worried about heading off to middle school in the fall.

It's not quite 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, and I'm already out of patience with the day. I have a lot to accomplish today between homeschool and work and this is the morning that we're out of edible bananas for my daughter to have for breakfast. That meant taking precious moments to turn the inedible bananas into a smoothie for her to start her day with. And that annoyed me way more than it should have.

I find myself more and more this week grumping at my family and being frustrated with less-than-ideal situations. I really don't like who I am this week, and I'm pretty sure my family doesn't care much for me either. I've been critical and quick to jump down others' throats. I really just want a few minutes of peace and quiet.

We're all going to have less-than-ideal days and weeks. When we let it overwhelm us, and we start taking it out on those around us, though, it's time to take a deep breath. It's time to grab a cup of coffee or tea and take a moment to talk it out with God. It's time to let Him refresh our souls and provide the strength -- and the patience -- we need to get through the day.

I can't make it through the weeks where it all goes wrong on my own. I can't be the patient teacher, diligent employee, and fun mom I need to be on my own strength. Because by 9 a.m. on Thursday morning on a week when it's all gone to pot, I'm out of everything -- strength, patience, humor and compassion. But God's not. He's got all those things in abundant supply, and He's willing to share them with me.

So, excuse me, now, while I go make that cup of tea and grab a chair for a chat with God. Because right now, I'm sorely in need of all that God can provide. Won't you join me?

First Friday: Remember When You Were Awesome

Awesome The longer I live, the more I realize why Jesus thinks little kids are the bee’s knees.

In a world that is cynical, cold and obsessed with junk, it’s our kids that rock the norm.

Not only do these tiny peeps live on the brighter side of life. But warmth also spews out of them. Fighting the cold and telling whoever will hear, “Hey, I’ll share everything and anything---even my boogers!!!”

God bless them.

(And the mamas and papas who must be better than Kleenex.)

Kids sing in the middle of grocery stores. They dance down hospital hallways.  They travel to Africa and back IN THEIR HEADS.

THEY. ARE. FANTASTIC.

And they know it.

Not in an arrogant or pious kind of way.

But in a “If God says I rock, then clearly I do.”

I feel it every day as my son jumps out of the car and shouts back at me, “I’m gonna go be awesome today, mom.  Now you go be awesome, too!”

I see it every time we go to the grocery store and my 3-year-old rocks an Ariel dress, two different sparkly shoes (one that is her sister’s and flops when she walks) and a big giant red bow that only barely covers her syrup-matted hair.

I hear it in the enthusiastic projection of my 8-year-old as she belts out “Let It Go” for the (bless me) 902nd time.  It all screams, “Broadway, I’m fabulous.  And if you haven’t heard me sing yet, watch the hoot out.”

It is an unabashed confidence that  says, “Listen up, y’all. I am fearfully and wonderfully made!!! And if you doubt it for a moment, let me show you what makes me special.  ”

They are the best of us, uncomplicated and without baggage.

And even though they still have moments where even we as parents realize they need Jesus, our kids model daily how to take the truth of our “made in God’s image” selves and rock it.

That is if we learn.

Now the world will work very hard at wearing down that confidence.

It will call them what I often call myself.

Too flabby. Too scattered.  Too slow.

Too against the grain.

But as much as I have accepted those labels for myself, when I see how my kids view themselves and the world God created, I want to fight against those negative monikers.

I want to cast off every piece of nasty baggage and see myself the way my Creator sees me.

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

And it’s why I am keeping three pictures for my babies.  Tucking them close to my heart.  And waiting for the day I hear, “I’m too flabby.  I’m too scattered.  I’m too slow.”

Because when those days come, I will break them out and say, “See this...”

Graces note

“Grace?”

Drew Bowtie

“Drew?”

sophie pink

“Sophie?”

“These are words or this is the look of someone who thinks that if God thinks she’s awesome, then it must be so. Chase that. Want that. Wear that. And no matter what happens, don’t let it go.”

Then I’ll hug her and kiss him and pray crazily over all three, eventually tucking the pictures close to my heart once again.

But before I do, I’ll take one long last look at each and remind myself again of a little boy’s drop-off farewell…

““I’m gonna go be awesome today, mom.  Now you go be awesome, too!”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

 

Our Kids are Watching and Listening

Actions My younger daughter's house league hockey team lost for the first time this season on Sunday. The conditions were less than ideal. It was 63 degrees, and they were playing on the outdoor rink, which quickly went from a sheet of ice to a puddle of water while they were playing their game. The referees weren't on their side either. But the truth is that they didn't play particularly well.

When my daughter's other hockey team lost the weekend before, my daughter was not happy. She had a pretty poor attitude about the whole thing, which led me to write this post last week.

I fully expected for her to come out of the locker room steamed. I expected her to want to blame everything from the ice to the referees. I fully expected to have to have another conversation about losing gracefully. Except that's not what happened.

While she didn't walk out of the locker room with a smile on her face, she did come out with a "we'll get them next time" attitude. She did make a few comments about how awful the ice was and how unfairly the referees had called the game. But she wasn't in tears. She wasn't angry with the situation.

Then she dropped the real bombshell. "I made a speech in the locker room," she said.

"What did you say?" I asked.

"I just told everyone we were still in first place, and we just needed to put it behind us and play as a team in the next game."

Whoa. Is this the same kid that I had to pull out of the locker room and lecture the bad attitude out of after the last loss? Is this the same girl who takes every loss as a personal affront?

You see, the week before, we had had a long "talk" about how to be a leader in the locker room, about how to lose gracefully, about how to encourage our teammates even when we lose. I honestly thought everything I said was going in one ear and out the other.

But the truth is that she was listening. She was absorbing. She was watching me. And God was working on her heart.

Our kids are paying attention to us whether we think they are or not. They are weighing what we say to see if it makes sense and if we truly believe what we're saying. They're watching and listening to see if we are backing up our words with actions.

This isn't the first conversation we've had about losing well. But it's the first one that has resulted in an attitude change for the next loss. It's the first one that has borne any results in my daughter's actions.

However, all those other conversations we had about losing with grace add up. When we consistently say the same thing to our kids, when we teach the same lesson over and over and over again, it does sink in. All that time spent talking to our kids and showing them how to approach a situation differently matters. All that time spent praying for our kids to "get it" is effective.

Because eventually they will get it. Eventually their hearts and attitudes will begin to change. And eventually they will grow into the young men and women God created them to be.

It won't always be easy. It won't always be quick. But our kids are listening, so we need to keep talking.

Be Kinder than You Need to Be

kinder You just never know. You never know when a small act of kindness is going to end up being a big deal.

The other day I read a story about a man who sat down next to an autistic child on an airplane. He could have chosen to ignore her. He could have chosen to be grumpy about it. Instead, he chose to answer the child's questions. He chose to entertain her for a bit. He chose not to be upset with the mom when the child's boredom and frustration turned to tears. And he may never know how much he touched that mom's heart.

You see, she went home and blogged about it. (You can read the full story here.) The story has been shared over and over again. This man's name is never mentioned, but his act of kindness has gone viral. Because that one act of kindness made that mom feel like she didn't have to apologize for her child. He made her child feel like she was someone special. He took the time to focus on the needs of someone else, and he made her day.

I imagine that what that guy did on that airplane is a lot like what Jesus would have done in the same situation. We're called to be a picture of God's love to others, and so much of that can simply be done by being kind.

Somewhere in the past six months, I've picked up the phrase, "Be kinder than you need to be." I don't remember where I first heard it or read it, but it stuck with me, and it's what I've been trying to teach my kids (with mixed results).

You see, our kids need to know that kindness matters. They need to know that God's admonition to be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32) isn't just a suggestion; it's a command. They need to know that simply being kind to another person can make or break that person's day.

Kindness often doesn't take much effort from us. It simply takes an awareness of the opportunities we are presented to be kind. When those opportunities arise, we need to point them out to our kids and encourage them to take advantage of them. We need to help them understand that going the extra mile and walking a few steps in another person's shoes can make a huge difference in this world.

Here are three practical ways you can help your kids learn to be "kinder than they need to be."

1. Be aware of the people around you. Notice when someone is sad or lonely. Then do something about it.

2. Go the extra mile. If someone asks you for help, go beyond what they ask for. Allow someone to go in front of you in line. Hold the door for a mom with a stroller and groceries. Ask how you can help a friend who is struggling.

3. Be creative. Do some random acts of kindness. Surprise the neighbors with cookies. Shovel the elderly neighbors' driveway when it snows. Buy the meal of the person behind you in the drive-thru line.

When we help our kids to understand the importance of kindness, we make the world just a little bit nicer place to be. We find ourselves looking for opportunities to practice kindness. And we quickly learn that if everyone in this world was just a little bit kinder than they needed to be, this world would look a whole lot more like God intended it to in the beginning.

Living in the Moment

Enjoy the Moment Over the weekend, I accompanied my older daughter to a memorial service for her friend's dad. He was 45. We hadn't been home from that service for more than a couple of hours when my Facebook feed blew up with the news that an acquaintance of mine had died following complications from gallbladder surgery. She leaves behind two elementary-school-aged children.

I shared last week that my focus for this year is to be present in the moment, and those two events on Saturday simply confirmed that focus for me. Neither one of those people thought they would leave this life early. The circumstances in both cases were tragic and unexpected. The children they leave behind keenly feel their loss.

I pray that my husband and I get to grow old and see our kids grow up. I pray that my kids will grow up and grow old. But the truth is that we never know what tomorrow may bring, so we have to make the most of today. And, honestly, there are too many days when I'm distracted by work, by technology, by worries about tomorrow to enjoy what today is bringing me.

So, today, I'm pondering the what ifs of living in today. Today, I'm wondering what would happen if we all changed our thinking and instead of spending so much time worrying about the future we enjoyed the simple moments of today.

What if when our kids speak, we put down whatever we're doing and look them in the eyes and really listen?

What if we set aside our smart phones and iPads and chose to interact with our families?

What if when our kids ask to sit on our laps and snuggle, we didn't put them off because we're in the middle of something?

What if when our children need help building a Lego set or setting up a dollhouse, we took the time to help them even if it means dinner is going to be late?

What if when our kids have questions about God and the world around them, we took the time to help them investigate the answers instead of giving them a pat answer?

What if we simply took the time to sit and enjoy God's presence instead of rushing headlong into our day?

We're not promised tomorrow. God tells us to make the most of today: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34). If we choose the things that are best -- time with our families and time with God -- we will never look back and regret the choices we made. If each day is focused on enjoying the moments we have, we will never wonder where the time went.

And if we make the effort to be present for our kids and spouses and to spend time with God, we will never have to wonder if our lives were spent in the pursuit of what was important. We will live rich, full lives filled with the things that matter.

More than anything, that's what I want in 2014. How about you?

Choosing to Be Present in 2014

Be present It's hard to believe that 2013 has just two days left. I've been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in the new year. I'm not much for resolutions because I think they are so easily broken, but I do like to start the new year off with an idea of what I'd like to accomplish in the next 365 days.

There's a trend going around Facebook to choose one word that represents what you want to focus on in the new year. In year's past, I've resisted boiling my goals for the year down to one word. I had no intention of choosing a word this year, but a few things happened over Christmas that made me change my mind.

We host a brunch every Christmas Eve for family and friends. As I was standing in the kitchen with my kids and parents preparing for the arrival of our friends, the heavy cover for my main kitchen light fell. No one was standing underneath it at the time, but my daughter had been standing there not 10 seconds before. If it had hit someone on the head, it would have at least caused a concussion, if not worse.

Thirty-six hours later, my parents were getting ready to go home after a fabulous Christmas Day spent together. My dad had his hands full and was walking out to the car when he slipped on some black ice, fell backwards and hit his head on our front step. He's got a 3-inch gash on the back of his head but no other damage to his body or his brain.

As I thought about how lucky we were that neither of those incidents resulted in lasting damage to anyone, I was reminded that each day is a gift. And I was reminded of how much time I squander. How often I don't pay attention when my kids or my husband are talking to me. I was convicted that each moment is precious because you never know when a slip on the ice, a broken light fixture or some other freak occurrence can grab those moments away from you -- permanently.

The Bible tells us that God has numbered our days Job 14:5 says, "A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." We don't know the number of days we're going to have with the people that we love. We don't know the day or the hour when Jesus will return, but we do know that we have today. We do know that we have these moments.

That's why for 2014, my one word is going to be "present." I want to be present in the moment. I want to savor and enjoy the precious moments I've been given with my kids, with my husband, with my extended family, with my friends, and even with the stranger in the grocery line. I want to be reminded that every moment is, indeed, a present. I want to focus on being in the moment, on grabbing every precious minute of 2014, and using it to the best of my ability.

So, this year, I'm declaring war on those things that take me out of the moment. I'm going to deliberately choose to be present. I'm going to fight against the things that distract me from being present in my relationships -- from my phone to worrisome thoughts to stress from work. My word for the year is "present" and I'm going to start choosing to be present in the moment today. Won't you join me?

First Friday: More Than Crumbs

crumbs

My darling eldest girl has a penchant for the dramatic.

And I’ll freely admit my part in it.

My side of the family most definitely has DNA code written for the stage.

My brother. My sisters. My mama.

D to the N to the A.

And as for moi?

Forget about it.

I not only own my drama, I also taught the masses how to be MORE dramatic.

Penchant. Firmly. Planted.

So I hardly balked at the overblown Scarlett O’Hara sighs coming from the living room the other day as I heard her chastise baby sister, “SOPHIE!!!! You got crumbs ALLLLLLLL over the FLOOR!”

Without a beat or interruption of my laundress duties, I bellowed back from above,

“In this house, people are more important than crumbs!!!!”

“Mother, what does that even mean??!?!!???”

“Well, sister, I’m glad you asked…..”

And thus began the crumb project.

A mad gab of input by my three in an attempt to create a little we-love-you-more-than-crumbs manifesto.

The process was in a word, hilarious.  The ideas, a bit novel.  And the hearts behind it, pure if not Purelled.

Call it our own little way of reminding ourselves this holiday season that no matter the busy, the guest, or even the heartbreak, people are our purpose.

Always.

 

MORE THAN CRUMBS

We love you more than crumbs, we do.

We’ll show you how to love you too.

We’ll kiss your boo boo’s before we clean.

We’ll wipe your tears and stop the mean.

We’ll make crazy cool doors for you to walk through.

We’ll share our cows and goldfish too.

We’ll poop in the potty and not on the floor.

We’ll say, “PBBBLT to crumbs, we love you more!”

We’ll give you a show or two or ten.

We’ll even add drums, just tell us when!

We’ll give you Christmas day after day.

And we won’t give up on you if you run away.

We’ll search for you with all our might.

Just like we did for Sophie last night.

We’ll scour the halls and the in-betweens.

We’ll look high and low and over fairy wings.

We won’t slow-up until we see your face.

And then to you we will gladly race.

We won’t care a hoot from where you came.

We’ll just love on you and shout your name!

We’ll break out the goldfish, the best we’ve got.

Maybe even a cow if you like that a lot.

We’ll dance.  We’ll sing. We’ll even shout.

And you can best be guessing we’ll get those drums out!

We’ll wash your hands and feet and face.

We’ll clothe you in Avenger gear or even lace.

We’ll kiss your boo boo’s and say “Don’t cry.”

Pray with you or sing a sweet lullaby.

For it must be said right now, right here.

You are the gift we expected this year.

We missed you like crazy, that much is true.

But more than crumbs, we love you!

 

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

 

Inspired Holiday Bundle - 25 products for holiday inspiration at only $25 #InspiredBN 

 

When the One Complaining is You

grumble

I was tired. My head hurt. It was pushing 7:30, and I hadn't had dinner. My baseball game had just started. I had just put on my pajamas. Then the printer ran out of ink.

No big deal, right? I could grab some when I went out the next day. Nope. My older daughter had an essay due in the morning, and she was printing off the final copy to turn in. I knew I had to make a trip to the store. And I didn't want to. All I wanted to do was sit in my nice, warm house in my comfy pajamas, eat my dinner and watch the Red Sox in the World Series.

All weekend, I had been helping my daughter with her various homework projects. It seemed they were all due on Monday. I even took both girls with me when I went jean shopping (for me) to give my husband a few minutes to himself. It was my turn for a little solitude and relaxation, wasn't it?

I threw the words, "I'm going to the store to get a printer cartridge" at my kids and my husband and quite literally stomped up the stairs to get my keys and jacket. My older daughter yelled "I'm sorry" at me on the way.

I got in the car and drove to Wal-Mart, stewing all the while. And then I heard it. That still, small voice that said, "Isn't this the exact behavior you've been trying to correct in your daughter? Where do you think she gets it from?"

Whoa. Ouch. I'm not that bad, am I? But I stopped for a moment, and I realized that in this instance, I was that bad. I was giving my daughters, especially my younger daughter, the exact example of the behavior we've spent the past three months trying to correct.

When I tell my girls to do something, I want them to do it with a minimum of complaining, even if it's not something they want to do. Yet, when my plans got changed the other night, I was the one stomping and complaining. I was the one with a poor attitude.

The truth is that my daughter can't learn to follow the words of Philippians 2:14-16 (Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the skyas you hold firmly to the word of life) if I'm not showing her how. If she sees and hears me grumble and complain every time something interrupts my plans or I have to do something I dislike, then that's what she learns.

For her to learn to not grumble and argue about things, she needs an example of how that's done. She needs me to see doing things for my family as an act of service. She needs me to work at the things I dislike as if I'm doing them for God instead of man. Because that's what I'm expecting of her. And that's what God expects of us both.

As I walked through Wal-Mart (quickly because I did still want to get home and watch my game), God spoke to my heart. He forced me to recognize the same behavior in myself that I find in my kids. And that's tough. It doesn't feel good to know that you have to let God work on you before He can work on your kids.

But I'm grateful for that moment of enlightenment because I have a better grasp on where I'm at, and yesterday, I was able to spend some time talking with my daughter about how we all struggle with doing things that we don't like without grumbling. I was able to point out that God's still working on me, too.

So, now, we're walking the path to learn to not grumble together. We're headed toward the same goal, and God is working on us both. Inspired Holiday Bundle - 25 products for holiday inspiration at only $25 #InspiredBN

Every Morning is a New Start

start

I was having a rough day yesterday. I woke to my older daughter having an ankle so swollen and painful she couldn't walk from a soccer injury the night before, which necessitated a trip to the doctor for a brace and some crutches. With the schedule thrown off from the doctor's visit, my younger daughter and I struggled through a grueling day of school. When I left to get my haircut at 2 yesterday afternoon, walking out the door by myself was a breath of fresh air.

A friend of mine cuts my hair from the basement of her house. She lives just up the street. I knew my reprieve wasn't going to last long, but I was going to enjoy every minute of it. When I left with my new haircut to pick up my older daughter from school (something I don't usually do, but we decided crutches and the bus would be too difficult), I felt refreshed and encouraged.

You see, a long conversation with my friend reminded me that what I'm dealing with now with my strong-willed younger daughter is not the finished product. Through a couple of stories about her own childhood, my friend reminded me that even those frustrating days are molding character and producing fruit -- even when I can't see it. She reminded me that a 10-year-old's behavior isn't really a prediction of the future.

And I needed that reminder. I needed to remember that God isn't finished with me, and I'm 39. So, He's certainly not finished with my 10- and 12-year-old. What I see now is not necessarily an indicator of who she's going to be when she's 25, 45, or 85.

Sure, what I do now has an influence on who she becomes, but God is going to continue working on my girls' characters long after I'm not the primary influence in their lives any more. It's my job right now to guide them through these moments of becoming adults. It's my job right now to provide advice, correction and encouragement. It's my job right now to help them find the path that will lead them closer to God.

And since my girls are still growing and learning, a bad day or a bad week doesn't mean they're going to grow up to be difficult people. It simply means they're having a bad day or a bad week. Every day is a new beginning -- for them and for me. As I work to mold their character, I find myself being thankful that God gives me a new start every morning -- a new way of looking at things. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). And because they are, every day can be a new beginning with my kids. Every morning is a new opportunity to lead them one step closer to God.

I'm so thankful I got my haircut yesterday, not for the outward renewal (although my hair does look great) but for the inward one.

Letting God Work in Our Kids

desires

My older daughter had an abysmal school year last year. The transition to middle school was much harder than we thought it would be. The switch from one soccer team to another turned out to be a terrible decision. She lost her confidence and her spirit.

This summer, though, we made some changes. We switched to a different soccer club. We dropped her out of the accelerated math class that was just a bit out of her reach. We worked with her to take a different attitude toward school. And we sent her to a week of camp with our church's student ministry.

That week away was the best thing we could have done. God worked on her in ways that we couldn't. She came home with a renewed confidence and a renewed set of purpose. Instead of letting the school year attack her, she attacked it. She became confident that God was by her side every step of the way.

I went to parent-teacher conferences on Thursday morning, and every one of her teachers told me that while she was quiet, she did participate in class. They knew who she was, and more importantly, they knew something about her. It was a drastic difference from last fall's parent-teacher conferences where her teachers struggled to find something to say about her because she never spoke in class.

While I want my girls to try their hardest and receive good grades in school, I was more proud of this set of parent-teacher conferences than any I've attended before. Because those comments from her teachers meant that my daughter had recognized a problem and changed it. She had worked to overcome her innate shyness in a group setting. She had not let one bad year turn into another one. She had let God work on her to change her actions and her attitudes.

The older my girls get, the less able I am to "fix" things for them, the more they have to change things themselves. I can't change attitudes. I can't change behaviors. I can't change how they approach a situation.

But I can offer advice. I can pray for them. I can help them seek wise counsel from someone other than me. And the amount of time I spent on my knees last year praying over this child is proof positive that God hears our prayers, He knows the desires of our hearts, and He loves our kids more than we ever could. And sometimes we simply have to get out of the way and let Him work on our kids.

Because sometimes no amount of talking on our part, no amount of trying to solve the problem from our perspective, no amount of pushing our kids to do something differently can get results. Sometimes it takes them deciding to change. Sometimes it takes God working on our kids to change their perspectives, their hearts and their actions.

And I'm good with that because I know that God is much more effective at changing hearts than I am. I know that God's plan for my child is much greater than my own. And I know that God loves my kids much more than I ever could.

Is there a place in your child's life where you need to step back and let God work?

 

Are We Teaching Our Kids to Judge Others?

judging

It's parent-teacher conference day for my older daughter. (I guess it could be parent-teacher conference day for my younger daughter, too. I could have a nice conversation with myself.) For the past eight years, I've gone to parent-teacher conferences and listened to my daughters' teachers tell me nice things about my kids. I often leave my conferences thinking "were they talking about my kids?"

My girls are pretty good at behaving themselves in public. They do the right things and say the right things at school, at church, and at practice. No one would ever guess that at home we struggle with controlling our tempers, hanging onto our tongues, and obeying our parents.

Don't get me wrong, I love that my girls are capable of demonstrating self-control and respect when they are out of my sight, but I think it drives home the point that we often make assumptions about other people's lives based on what we see in public. And so often those assumptions are wrong. Those assumptions lead us to judge others based on the small glimpse we see of their lives.

That mom in with the tantrum-throwing toddler in the aisle of target? Maybe she's not a bad parent. Maybe her child got his shots that day and she just found out her mom is in the hospital.

That kid who disrupts your child's day at school by constantly speaking out in class? Maybe it's not that his parents aren't working with him on the behavior, maybe it's that he's a foster child who has just entered a new foster home.

That person who cut you off in the carpool line? Maybe it's not that they were trying to get there first. Maybe they're the grandparents who are picking up for the first time because mom and dad have gone on their first trip alone since they had kids.

It's easy to jump to snap judgments about other people. It's easy to make snap judgments about other people's kids. But until we've walked a mile in someone else's shoes, it's impossible to know the real story. Those people with "perfect" kids may be dealing with anger and anxiety issues at home. Those parents of the star athlete may have a marriage that's crumbling behind closed doors.

Assumptions are dangerous things. When we judge (whether good or bad), we automatically take ourselves out of a place where we can minister to others and put ourselves in a place that looks down on others. We become unable to see the hurts behind the behavior because we're so busy judging the behavior. And our kids are learning from us.

When our child comes home hurt by the words or actions of another child, what's our first reaction? Do we verbally pass judgment on the other child's behavior or do we remind our kids that while the behavior was wrong, there's usually more going on than meets the eye? Are we teaching our kids to judge or are we teaching them to look for the hurting person underneath?

Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." God doesn't want us to judge others. He doesn't want us to teach our kids to judge others. He wants us to love each other, to look on each other with a measure of compassion. He wants us to remember that we never really know what's going on behind closed doors.

So, the next time you're tempted to pass judgment on another parent or another child, remember that things are not always what they seem, and a little grace and compassion goes a long, long way.

Lessons from a Stubborn Child

stubborn

We were working on my younger daughter's math the other day when she got stuck. She got frustrated, and she got stubborn. What should have taken just a few minutes to complete ended up taking close to an hour. Because she's stubborn.

Now, both my kids come by their stubbornness honestly. I've been known to tell my girls that if they think they're going to win a battle of will, they're wrong because they got their stubbornness from me.

There are days when those stubborn streaks in my kids drive me nuts. I wonder why they have to be so persistent. I get frustrated with their inability to move on or let go of whatever it is they're holding onto. Some days it feels like all I do is battle their stubborn wills.

Yet, that stubbornness is part of their personality. It's what makes my girls such tough defensive players on the field and on the ice. It's what makes them ready to stand up for what's right. It's what gives them the ability to struggle through a difficult time.

In the midst of a battle of wills, though, it's often easy to lose sight of those positive qualities of stubbornness and only focus on the negative. Our kids all have qualities that have the potential to drive us nuts. But most of those qualities also have a good side. It's just up to us to find it and nurture it.

After we struggled through the math lesson, my daughter looked at me and said, "Why was I so stubborn?" It was a great opportunity to talk about how we can let stubbornness work for us or against us. It's our choice. We talked about how she needs to get stubborn when she gets stuck, but she needs to channel that stubbornness into a thought process that makes it a battle between her and the problem, not between her and me. She needs to think "I'm not going to let this problem get the better of me."

When we focus on the positive side of the traits that have the potential to drive us crazy, we help our kids see the positive side, too. God didn't make a mistake when he made your child stubborn or talkative or full of energy. He has a plan for each and every one of those traits. He needs those character qualities to accomplish something great in His plan. But if we, as parents, can only see the negative side of those traits, then we often try to stifle the very behavior that God created for His purpose. Our kids are "fearfully and wonderfully made" and that includes those character qualities that have the potential to make us pull out our hair.

So, the next time you find yourself annoyed by one of your child's particularly frustrating traits, take a minute and examine how your child could use that trait for good. Find the positive side. Then talk it through with your child. Point out the frustration their current behavior is causing and help your child see ways that the same behavior could be used in a positive way. You just might see your child in a new light, and you will help mold your child's character to better be able to fill God's purpose for them.

The Value of Learning to Wait

waiting

We like to joke that when God was handing out patience, my younger daughter was standing in another line. Since birth, she has been my child who wants what she wants, and she wants it now. As she's grown, we've been working to teach her patience, but it hasn't been easy.

It seems that some kids are naturally more impatient than others. My older daughter probably has more patience than I do. She, it seems, was born knowing how to wait for things. That's not to say she never gets impatient, but she seems to instinctively understand that some things are worth waiting for.

Whether your child understands the need to wait or demands everything right now, patience is an important character trait to teach. There's value in learning to wait.

When we teach our children to wait, whether it's waiting patiently for their turn or waiting for us to finish something so we can help them, we are teaching them to value others before themselves. We are teaching them that the world does not revolve around them. We are teaching them that not everything good comes immediately. And we are teaching them how to wait on God.

God does not always answer our prayers immediately. His plan is not always readily apparent. Sometimes He asks us to wait. If our kids never learn to wait, then they might miss out on the blessings God has for them because they're busy rushing ahead of God's plan. We want our kids to follow the words of Psalm 130:5: "I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope."

But our kids can't wait for God, they can't wait for His plan, they can't practice patience unless we teach it to them. We have to be intentional about teaching our kids to wait. And much of that teaching comes from our own attitude. If we moan and groan every time we have to stand in a line, we teach our kids to be impatient. If we get frustrated when we're waiting on someone else, then our kids will learn to be frustrated with waiting on others. If we grouse every time we get stuck in a traffic jam, then we teach our kids to do the same.

However, if we place the emphasis on enjoying the wait, then we teach our kids to value waiting. If we choose to use the time in line to talk with our kids or enjoy the people around us, then we teach our kids that there can be joy in waiting. If we turn up some Christian music on the radio and sing while sitting in a traffic jam, we teach our kids we can praise God in the waiting. If we choose to focus on the things we love about the people we're waiting on, then we teach our kids how to value others while waiting.

In this go-go society, we have lost the ability to be patient. Our kids are growing up in a world where they have to wait for very little. Think about it. The Internet is slow when it takes more than 5 seconds to load a web page. We can buy something online and have it at our door the next day. We can instantly download songs and movies straight to our phones and TVs. The wait time for things gets shorter and shorter.

Yet, God is not an instant download. We still have to wait on His timing, on His plan. When we teach our kids to be patient, we are teaching them to better understand God. We are teaching them there is still value in waiting.

Offer Grace

Grace

We all have them -- days when nothing goes right. Maybe we're tired. Maybe we're sick. Maybe something has gone horribly wrong at work or at home. Maybe we're simply overwhelmed.

On those days, we often don't react to others well. It's easy to see simple mistakes on the part of other people as things designed to trip us up. It's easy to lose our temper. It's easy to let the little things frustrate us.

On those days, we need grace. We need others to overlook our own frustration and mistakes. We need someone to give us a hug and remind us that this moment isn't going to last forever.

On those days, we don't need others to judge us. We don't need others to throw obstacles in our path or ask for more than we can give. We don't need someone to point out all the things we're doing wrong.

Yet when someone else is having a bad day, we're not always quick to offer that grace. I was reminded the other day that we often have no idea what's going on past the smile and the "I'm fine" of many of the people that we know. We're quick to judge others' actions but not quick to offer grace.

As a friend poured out her heart to me the other day, I was reminded that those who seem to have it all together on the outside may just be crying out for some grace on the inside. And a bad day or a bad attitude is often a symptom of something else happening in someone's life.

The truth is that we never know what's going on in someone else's world. We never know what hard things they're going through. We never know what lies beneath the surface. For that reason, grace should be our go-to reaction.

Because grace is God's go-to reaction. As often as we screw things up and choose not to follow the path God has laid out for us, it would be easy for God to throw up His hands and turn His back on us. But He doesn't. He offers grace. And He offers enough grace for us to have plenty left over to pour out on others. Too often, though, we choose not to pour out that grace. We choose to judge instead.

I wonder what the world would look like if we changed our go-to reaction to grace. I wonder what if:

What if we started with grace instead of judgment?

What if we looked for the hurt behind the action instead of focusing on our own reaction?

What if we taught our kids to offer grace rather than a knee-jerk reaction?

What if we really listened to each other?

What if we looked beyond the "I'm fine" to the hurting heart of the person beneath?

What if we spent more time looking for ways to help than focusing on how another person made us feel?

What if we offered forgiveness first?

What if we chose to love the unloveable?

What if we simply chose to follow God's command to "love one another as I have loved you"?

What if we set such a great example of how to love others that our kids followed in our footsteps?

What if doing these things began to change the world?

Calling a Do-Over

do-over

Some days you just have to start over. For whatever reason, both my younger daughter and I woke up on the wrong side of the bed the other day. Our first hour of school was miserable. She was in tears. I was ready to pull  hair out.

She goes up to our elementary school for PE, and I was sure that break would get us back on the right track. No such luck. She came out of school as grumpy as when she went in. When we got home, I looked at her and said, "We need to start the day over."

"Does that mean I have to take my spelling test again?" she asked.

OK. Maybe we didn't need to start completely over. But we did need an attitude change. We did need to leave behind what had already occurred and start again. So we did. We took a few minutes and did our Bible reading for the day. Then we both prayed for better attitudes.

I'm not going to tell you the rest of the day was perfect, but we did make it through without killing each other. We got our work done before noon and were able to have some fun in the afternoon. We both had better attitudes for the rest of the day.

Some days are like that. For no reason at all it seems that everyone is in a bad mood. Kids are snapping at each other, and mom is grumpy. When that happens, we have two choices: We can continue on like we are and watch the day slide into chaos, or we can call a do-over.

Calling a do-over doesn't mean we've failed. It doesn't mean we've given up. It simply means we've realized the direction we want to go is not the direction we are currently going. It means we recognize the need to take a time out and change the play.

My older daughter's soccer coach stops play during practice all the time to point out what he wants the girls to do differently. They take a minute, listen to him explain what he wants done, then resume play. Sometimes that's what we need to do during our day. We need to reset the play.

Sometimes pride keeps us stubbornly on the road we started on. We think we have to accomplish a certain task or we have to do something a certain way at a certain time. But the truth is that our plans can be changed. We can take five or 10 minutes to redirect our day because if we don't, then our day probably won't go as planned anyway.

When you need to call a do-over in your day, remember this. God calls a do-over for us every single time we come to Him asking for forgiveness for when we've screwed up. Isaiah 1:18 says, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." God wipes the slate clean for us when we need a do-over. There's no reason we can't follow His example when our days are dissolving into disaster.

So, the next time your day has disaster written all over it, call a do-over. Sit down with your kids, pray together, reset the tone of the day, then head out to conquer whatever task is next on your list.