My son reminds me so often to celebrate the little things. He gets excited for every holiday – EVERY holiday. From Groundhog’s Day to Battery Day (February 18) to the traditional New Years’ to Christmas Day. Need some fun creative days to celebrate, check out this fantastic calendar! He reminds me that each day has a reason to be celebrated.
But, he also reminds me daily how hard it is to be a parent. Some days, weeks, months (if you have that teenager), it is so easy to focus on the negative. “My kid isn’t…. (fill in the blank) and should be.” Grades are down, a call to the principal’s office, a truancy notice. Some days it can be hard to want to love on our kids.
But, this month of love, I think we can (and should) do better. Our kids need to know they are loved just as much as we need to know our spouse or significant other loves us.
Here are some ways to bring more love into your relationships with your kids:
Encouraging words. We parents are often so quick to bring to light the negative actions of our children. And there is a good reason for that (discipline is essential to growth and development). But how quick are we to bring encouragement? When was the last time you told your kid you were proud of them? Impressed by them? Complimented them? This month, I encourage you to try to do this once a day and see how much richer your relationship with your child gets.
2. Play. This is so hard! Most parents work and parent. By the time work is done, we are exhausted and tired and the last thing we want to do is get on the ground and play blocks or Lego with the kiddos. We don’t have the energy to play a video game or draw. When we spend time with kids, the adults typically chose the activity. I encourage you this month, to purposely set aside 30 minutes a day where your child gets to pick the fun activity and then pour heart into it. After all, aren’t they more important than a replaceable job?
3. Cook. It is amazing what bonding happens over food. The smells. The textures. The colors. Cooking together is a great way to get quality time naturally. Teaching how to cook or experiencing new recipes and flavors together invites conversation, laughter, and play into the home. Enjoy the mess. Enjoy the yummy product. Enjoy the time with these precious children.
4. Apologize. How often have we yelled at our kids out of anger? Frustration? Exhaustion? How often have we gotten on to them about disrespect? Self-control? The choice of words? Too often as adults, we do not practice this vital step in our relationships with our children. Then we wonder why the attitude doesn’t change or the disrespect increases. We must be willing to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness from our children when we respond negatively to them. They will practice what is modeled to them. Apologize. Talk it out with them like you would in the reverse. Grow together. Be stronger together.
5. Date night: We make it a priority in my home to have a date night with my spouse. But, I think this same tradition should be made with the kids. Quality one-on-one time with each child is essential. It allows the child the opportunity to speak freely, laugh honestly, and get needed coaching without an audience of siblings. It is a perfect time to pour in honest discipleship into the next generation – who loves you above all other people. Once a week, take your kid out or spend some time in, just you two, and see how they prosper.
What are you doing to fan the flame of love in your children?
Last week, I spoke of texting some friends about the state of the world and changing the conversation to more positive thinking. When I asked for them to let me know 3 things they were grateful for, the first response was, “Not a whole lot of good these days. I’m alive and healthy. That is pretty much it.”
My heart sank. This person has a wonderful family, two beautiful children, income, and has a spark for life that challenged me to better since the day I met her. Have our lives really come to this? The only thing to be thankful for is breath? (Don’t get me wrong, breathing is powerful, important, and amazing! But, honestly, there is so much more to be grateful for).
This got me thinking. Have you ever heard yourself saying:
“This is too hard/impossible to….”
“I could never do….”
“I’ll try, but no guarantees.”
“This is such a nightmare!”
If you lived through 2020, chances are yes. When we do this, we set ourselves up for failure. We set ourselves up to find the nightmares, the impossible, and to dwell on the negative. Psychological research has found that your subconscious interprets what it hears literally. This means your mind and body will follow the direction your words lead. In other words, your words are POWERFUL! If you want more opportunity, life, love, etc. project the positive things into the world each time you open your mouth – or more importantly, repeat in your mind.
Your words can change how you view yourself and your body. They can transform dreams into goals and goals into reality. They can also create negative thoughts, feelings, anxiety, and depression.
Those who speak negatively, view life and all circumstances as negative. They create a pattern of negativity in their life. Those who speak positively, view the glass half-full to speak, are achieving goals and success in all aspects of their lives.
The language we use impacts on how we are perceived by others. I have created entire teams based on the language they use. Negative language leads to demoralized teams and failures. Making excuses leads to missed deadlines and disunity. Positive language leads to success in the face of difficulty. Giving solutions leads to moving forward on a project.
Our brain and mind are powerful. They ensure our body functions daily without our thoughts. They ensure we learn and grow. They are rewireable! Let’s do just that! Spend 24 hours monitoring your speech (and thoughts). Then, have someone else do the same for the next 24 hours. Then, you can really see where changes need to be made. This puts you firmly in command, shifts your energy and, in doing so, makes you someone others want to listen to.
1. Have a drum major mentality: Drum majors lead bands of hundreds in intricate field shows and parades. Their heads are held high – eyes on the horizon. Their posture is straight, and they march with confidence. Their facial expressions are strong. Their tone of voice carries authority. Stand up tall. Shoulders back. Smile. Take on the world with a posture of authority. This will amplify your presence, and it will ensure the words you say come out in a way that will have an optimal impact on who hears them.
2. Reframe your words and thoughts:As Henry Ford so aptly put it “If you think you can or you can’t, your right.” Stop thinking “I can’t” and “I won’t.” Instead, see yourself accomplishing things and change your language to “I can” and “I will.” Speak “I have love”, I love,” and “I create…”.
3. Absolutes are not your friend: I teach my son taking tests, absolutes are wrong. If the question states only, always, never, etc.; pick the answer false. Ignore that answer in the multiple-choice questions. Don’t use this language in your test-taking or your life. Instead of “They are a complete idiot”, say “they see things differently.” Instead of “I could never” state, “I can with help.”
4. Stop apologizing: My older brother has hounded me on this for years. It is a hard habit to break. I apologize for not agreeing, for someone else bumping into me, for my success. Why? To bring me down so others feel better? As Rachel Hollis put it, Girl, Stop apologizing! You have value. Your success does not minimize others. Stop. Just be respectful.
5. Ditch “Should”: Growing up I wanted to be a Navy Seal. I was told I could not because I was female. So then, I wanted to be the first female president of the US. (I even attended the National Young Leaders Conference in DC and had my first interview at a lobbying firm at age 15). Then I became a mom. My dreams took a back seat. (Don’t get me wrong – I do NOT want to be President or a Navy Seal now). The word “should” entered my life as an excuse. “I should write more, but my son needs…,” “I should work out more, but my life is too busy,” “I should eat more fruits and vegetables, but I am on the road too much.” I had to learn to change “should” to “could.” “I could write more when I plan it in my schedule,” “I could work out more with an accountability partner,” “I could eat more fruits and vegetables when I bring them with me on the road.”
6. Commit. Don’t try: When we say, “I’ll try” we are not committing to anything. When we do not do it, we excuse ourselves. When we commit we congratulate ourselves. A simple change from “I will try to work out this week” to “I will work out this week” commits our minds to accomplishment. There is a reason why Nike’s slogan “Just do it” is still impactful decades later. As I tell my son and the youth I work with, break up with “try” and marry “will.” Stop trying. Start doing.
7. Stop labeling: I love labels! If you look at my kitchen, labels are everywhere! But, labels in life, are limiting and debilitating. Labeling yourself as “lazy”, “fat,” “disorganized,” “spender,” “terrible at…” tells your brain you are those things. Just because you are those things today, does not mean you have to be those things tomorrow. You CAN change! Start saying things like, “I am hardworking,”, “I will be organized,” and “I will be better with money.” Change is one step away.
8. Problems are opportunities in disguise: We all have “problems.” What differentiates successful people is how they look at problems. Successful people look at problems as opportunities. Instead of “I failed” and “Well, that didn’t work” they look at problems as “I know what doesn’t work.” Instead of “What a nightmare!” it becomes, as my son says, “What an interesting challenge.”
You are capable of more than you think. You do not have to live in this state for the rest of your life. You have the power to change. You are amazing. You are wonderfully made. You have a unique purpose. Choose to speak what brings out the best in you. Be more positive and see the change it makes in your life.
I would love to hear how your positive words and thoughts are making impactful changes in your life and the lives of those around you. Drop a comment. If you like what you read, please share. Together, we can make this world a positive one.
Congratulations! You survived 2020! Whew! If you are anything like me, it felt touch and go there for a while.
Welcome, 2021! After last year, it will be really easy for you to be better.
But, how can we be better? Better physically? Emotionally? Mentally?
Five days into 2021 and the world was shocked by riots in Washington, DC. I had a few friends reach out in utter dismal disappointment. Five days. That was all it took for them to feel like they had no hope in the world.
I introduced this group of friends, whom I love dearly and have known most of my life, to one of the five practices I will share with you today. That group text went from disappointment and fear to light and edifying.
How can we be the best we can be in 2021? Here are five simple steps I use that may help you.
Live Loved: Don’t be a slave to emotions. The last year was a roller coaster of emotions – fear, anger, depression, hope, joy, defiance. We have all felt them in such intensity for so long, it is easy to forget the most powerful emotion, word, magic, verb in the world: Love. As Lysa Terkerst so aptly put it, “No one can soar to the place of living loved when it’s a performance-based endeavor.” It is time to stop treating ourselves like we are reacting vessels. It is time to start acting. Time to reclaim the gift you are to the world. You are uniquely and wonderfully made for a purpose for a time such as this. Claim this. Love yourself. Love all the uniqueness that is you. Love the quirks. Love the weaknesses. Love the strengths.
2. Love your body: It took one hour for my inbox to be flooded with weight loss and exercise tips and workout boot camp invitations from when the ball dropped on December 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021. First, let me remind you: the weight loss industry is designed for you to FAIL and they KNOW it. So, ignore that. You know what you should eat and how you should work out. The healthiest thing you can do is start where you are and love your body. I love the above picture – she is so graceful and confident! Find one thing on your body you like and look yourself in the mirror daily and complement it. Eventually, you will come to love it and be able to find more things to love about yourself. When you love yourself, much like when you love a child, you want what is best for yourself. See yourself as the healthier version of you now and you will find you start choosing the healthier food at the store, ignoring the food table at gatherings, and investing in the people you are with more.
3. Speak Life: This past year has brought out the worst in people. Our language has turned against each other – our politics, our friends, even our families have been divided over how we view the state of things. Division is high and our language isn’t helping. Instead of listening to the views of others, we ignore them. Unfollow. Unfriend. We spread hate and insult those who disagree. We speak negativity and hate. But, our words have power. 2021 is a time to take our tongues back. It is time to speak love and life. We are uniquely made, so we have different opinions. That does not make one stupid and the other brilliant. It means our lives are different and the realities of what is happening in them are different. Stop. Listen. Then speak love. When we change our language to love and light we open doors to unity, growth, wonderful friendships, and grand love.
4. Be grateful: If follow me, you know how much I believe in the power of gratitude. There is a change that takes place in the heart when we recognize things we are thankful for. This year, thank you body. Your body does amazing things all day with your consciously thinking about it. Blood cells move to make sure organs work. White blood cells come to fight off bacteria and viruses. You have completely new skin every 27 days! Thank your body. Your family knows the worst of you (you know what I am talking about) and loves you anyway. Thank your family. Your teachers, therapists, and doctors are working diligently (some more than 60 hour weeks) to help ensure a healthy and smart community. Thank them. I practice a discipline of gratitude daily. I attempt to write out 3-5 things daily I am grateful for. This is particularly helpful on those days I am tired or short-tempered. It recenters me.
5. Take Chances: The new year is a great time to evaluate where we are and decide where we are going. What will your path be this year? One of anger and hate? One of love and acceptance? One of accomplishment? One of excuses? Be honest with yourself when you make this evaluation, and start moving those dreams to goals. Dreams are passing thoughts – goals are paths to reality. Goal setting can be easy and fun. So dream big and start making the reality you have always wanted. If you are new to goal setting, pick a small goal. Maybe you want to lose weight and have yo-yo dieted for years. Instead of a diet, set a goal to drink more water daily, or eat less sugar. This is quantifiable and you can it in baby steps. The single change will have a big change. Maybe your goal is to write a book – but you are not sure you’re an author. Set a goal to write 10-15 minutes two days a week. This is measurable and will get you in the practice to write the book later. Whatever the goal, if you survived 2020, you are set up with more grit, strength, and perseverance than you ever had in the past. Claim that and use it as fuel to take chances of making your dreams a reality.
If 2020 taught me anything, it is that I am stronger than I ever knew and able to do great good. I want you to know: you are loved. You are smart. You are important. You can do all you set your mind to. You are uniquely made for such a time as this.
I would love to hear your goals and thoughts on how you are going to make 2021 the best year yet. Drop a comment. If you like what you read, please share. Together, we can make this world a positive one.
Happy Halloween! Belated as it might be. I apologize for the silence the past two weeks – technical issues abounded. All bugs have been sorted and we should be fully operational. Thank you for being patient with me.
This month is all about gratitude. Thankfulness. Something most Americans, and I would wager most first-world citizens, are in desperate need of.
This past month, as a mom of an adolescent, I found myself often frustrated by the poor choices my son made. It felt like no matter what we as parents did, my son was determined to make poos choices. My son was successful in breaking something every – single – day for one week straight. Dealing with crazy work demands and trying to figure out how to balance everyone’s needs seemed more complicated than usual.
Honestly, there were some days it felt hopeless. I felt the world against me. I felt frustrated with the special needs I have to deal with, the demands of work for both myself and my husband. I felt very alone. But that is never the case, is it?
So, how do we pull ourselves out of these dark moments as moms and dads? How do we remind ourselves of the enormous amounts of blessings that are part of our lives daily? How do we develop a Gratitude Attitude?
Here are my five steps to having a Gratitude Attitude as a parent, and for life:
PERSPECTIVE: Did you know, according to an article published by Anup Shah in 2013, at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day ($3,640 annually)? Almost 2 in 3 people lack access to clean water to survive on less than $2 a day ($884 annually)? More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day? More than 385 million live on less than $1 day ($364 annually)? Or that 1.6 billion people (1/4 humanity) live without electricity? The stats are a bit outdated, but the principle remains the same. The first world has champagne problems.
As I write this, I am sipping my fair trade Laughing Man coffee (super yummy), my son is creating art with actual paper and pencils and we are enjoying a beautiful sunny cool fall day on the deck in our backyard. We have a wonderful home, a beautiful big yard, and my husband and I both have jobs. Our bellies are always full, and we can pull out water from any faucet (or our fridge) whenever the notion strikes. And my son had enough in our house to break something every single day in one week and still, our house functioned just fine. I find a gratitude attitude starts with the right mind set – reset your mind.
2. RENEW YOUR MIND: If you are like me at all, what you watch, read, scroll through, etc. all affect your state of mind. When I watch scary movies, I get scared. When I focus on the negative comments in a scroll, my mind is negative. When I read an intense book, my anxiety rises. We need to renew our minds – start treating them like we do our bodies.
Just like a healthy body needs exercise and quality food nutrition, a mind needs exercise and quality food nourishment. Reading is essential to renewing your mind. Don’t just read novels (though I like those). I find reading historical books, world solution books, and culture books help me to see the world from another’s perspective more. I have attached some of my favorite books to help get you started in this.
3. MEDITATE: This sounds New Age and for some a little hippie, but what a difference it makes! Most people picture meditation as sitting on a yoga mat with your feet crossed and saying,” om,” in a quiet voice. There is so much more to it. Meditation is simply the practice of focusing your mind. What you focus on is just as important. Focusing on whatever is true, beautiful, pure, lovely, admirable, think on these things. For those who pray, this is a great time for that. I find doing this throughout my day is beneficial to keeping my mind in a good place. There are a lot of apps that can help make this a daily practice. I like Calm and the Abide podcast.
4. WORKOUT I try to do a 30-60-minute workout four times a week. Ideally, we should be moving our bodies cardiovascularly at least 30 minutes a day, but in life, I find that is not always possible. I have a love-hate relationship with working out. I hate the getting started part…and doing the workout part. But, I love how I feel when I am done. I find I feel less stressed, more energized, and sleep so much better. There are other benefits to working-out too – higher happiness levels, better success setting and meeting goals, improved memory, and concentration and so much more.
5. GET OUT IN NATURE: In a world of computer screens, tablets, phones, and social media, we often forget the importance of getting outside. So often, people get their dose of nature from a documentary in the comfort of their own home. But that does not have all the same benefits of actually walking outside, getting sun on your face, and enjoying the sights and sounds around you.
There is a great article, The Positive Effects of Nature on Your Mental Well-being, published on October 16, 2020, that goes in-depth into the numerous benefits of nature. Here are just some of the highlights. Nature helps emotional well being, and memory focus (for those with special needs kids, this is a wonderful FREE tool). Nature lowers stress and helps those suffering from depression. Nature walks and other outdoor activities help build attention and focus. This is a great way to spend time with the family and increase school focus later. And one recent study shows spending more time outside and less time in front of a computer can help increase our problem-solving and creative thinking.
6. CHOSE JOY: This may sound the simplest, but it can be the hardest. It is so easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of life – the doctor’s appointments, the tantrums, the politics of the world, the pandemic. There is so much negative out there. It is easier to find the negative and focus on that than it is really to choose joy. This is different than happiness (a fleeting feeling). Joy is a deeper peace and understanding that it is good in the world. Good will win. Joy is actively counting our blessings and naming them one by one. This is hard in a society where we judge each other instantaneously on 15 different social media platforms. This is hard when everyone’s voice is fighting to be heard. This is hard when we encourage the negative in our feeds. To make this a higher priority in my life, I have ceased actively participating in social media – outside of this blog and its Facebook page. Oh, sweet relief! Oh, calmer and happier self! I highly recommend at least a social media fast for a bit and see how it affects your mental and emotional state.
Having a gratitude attitude is not always an easy process. It is often contrary to our society’s love for drama, negatively, and sin – let’s call it what it is. Our society has been constructed to be all about Me and less about others. When we change our perspective to helping others and focusing our minds on what is true, noble, pure, and good, it is amazing how grateful we are. It is amazing how truly blessed we are. It is amazing how these small actions can change our lives for the better forever.
For more tips and tricks on how to have a gratitude attitude, check out my Facebook page.
Remember those days when you first met your partner and everything in the world was seen through rose-colored glasses? That person could do no wrong. All you wanted was to spend every last minute with them.
Then you got married.
Then you had kids.
Then you realized being an adult requires more work, patience, and determination that you ever thought possible.
Where did all the romance go? With the doctors’ visits, the football practices, the late-night homework sessions…oh, yeah, and the cooking, and cleaning, and the working two full-time jobs that sometimes take even more time.
This is particularly difficult for those who have children with special needs. It takes longer to trust other people watching your kids. If you are lucky to find someone qualified, they usually charge an arm and a leg for their services. As one of our daycare providers in Maryland once said, “We charge more because we know we are the only ones in the area who does this.”
In the special needs’ world, it is extortion at its best sometimes. According to MarketWatch, in America, 29% of people aged 18 to 34 are more than $500.00 in debt from overspending on dates spending an average of $1,596.00 a year on dates! Just dates. For those math folks, that is $133.00 a month and $33.25 a week.
Watching my parents, who married at age 16, had their first kid at 18, lost a child, had 7 more, and have gone to college (earning JD and PhDs) while raising us, I learned a successful marriage requires date night. My parents did it at least once a week – leave the kids and spend time with your spouse. So, when I married my husband, we agreed this is a requirement for our marriage too. Thank God, he agreed!
How do you find time for romance in the chaos without breaking the budget? First – make a budget. When you have a good budget, you can really enjoy things more.
Also, for those who qualify, look into your local Respite Care providers. Respite care is short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center. We use this to help with grocery shopping, errands, prepping for holidays and so much more.
Before You Get Started
Before you get started, make sure you are scheduling this and putting it on the calendar. This is a priority. Then take turns planning them – surprise each other. Use this time to talk to each other (not about work, kids, or household). No excuses – date night is a priority. Never make excuses outside date night. I promise you date nights in your marriage will help you in parenting, relationships, and life in general.
Here are 12 creative no cost dates that helped our marriage cultivate instead of breaking our budget:
Without a sitter
1. Movie and Wine: When we first married, this was a great one! We would move the couch out of the way, lay down some pillows and blankets, and start a fire. The lights low, the cozy setting was perfectly matched with our favorite wine and a good movie. It is important the movie is something you both can enjoy. Some of our favorites are The Princess Bride, The Greatest Showman, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future series, and Indiana Jones series. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
2. Craft night: This is one of my favorites! My husband got me a subscription craft kit for Christmas. Instead of doing the craft alone, he does them with me. We like Adults and Crafts. For $33.00 a month, we get everything we need for a great date night. Once the kids are in bed, we enjoy time creating together. The nice thing about this date night is it can happen over multiple days sometimes. Certain crafts require setting/drying time, so date night becomes date weekend.
3. Themed movie marathons: This is a fun one that can also extend beyond the single night. We like to do movie marathons. Movies with sequels are great, but you are not limited to just this. We did a marathon of watching all Disney Animated movies in order. Our next one will be to watch all their live-action movies in order. This is also a great time to binge your favorite shows! This is great because it lets link back to our childhood, and often springs great conversation. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
4. Play video games: So many times, I hear wives complain their husband spends his time playing video games instead of investing in them. Use this. Before I met my husband, I did not know video games had stories…like movies! Apparently, they do – and some are really interesting. Husbands, play the stories. Wives, watch the story (and your beau) conqueror all cheering him on. Not interested in the story, I paint or do a craft while listening sometimes. I am with my spouse, participating with him, and learning more about him.
5. Game night: This sounds like a cliché, but there is truth in this. Games have the power of sparking great conversation, building trust, and bringing the gift of laughter. We particularly like this night when we find new or unusual games (but the classic Sorry, Boggle, Scrabble, and Chess is just as good). Some of our favorite games are Shut the Box, Liars Dice, Vertell’s, and Qiddler.
6. Read books: I am an avid reader as it is, but it is so much more fun reading with my hubby. I like things like novels where he likes ghost stories. We have both really enjoyed historical pieces as well. This often has given us ideas for travel, routines, and date nights. We often switch between the two. Or, my favorite is when we start with his ghost stories and finish with my devotional or scripture reading.
7. Karaoke: There is something special about getting crazy in front of a mic with your special someone. No matter your skill level, this is a great date. Not ready to show off in public, show off in the safety of your living room with those you trust the most. Laughter is guaranteed no matter what on this date.
With a sitter
Movies and dinner are great. But search out happy hours, Taco Tuesdays, and specials first. The occasional, movie, fancy restaurant and trampoline park are great. But do not make these the go-to.
8. Coffee/Brew dates: These are so much fun and cost as little as $5.00 a person. We like to find a local brew company or coffee shop and enjoy the local fare. This is great for nights that have trivia or open mic. If nothing else, it is cheap entertainment supporting the local small businesses in the community to reminisce about for years to come.
9. Painting with a Twist: This is a great night out as a couple. Creating art (with someone to help if needed) and some wine/beer of your choice. You both get to be a little goofy and come home with a souvenir at the end. This is usually a splurge night for us as a couples event can range from $15.00 per person to $50.00. It is best to look in advance to ensure you like what is being taught to make in advance. We especially like to do this on fundraising nights as we know the proceeds help a local non-profit.
10. Dinner at a bar: This can also be a splurge night. But we like to go during happy hours and specials. With the right happy hour and special, we can spend less than $50.00 in total. This is a great way to sample new places. It is also fun to re-enact the first date or enjoy the simple pleasure of trying something new on the menu together.
11. Fishing/hiking: We love the adventure of the outdoors. A great hike (even in the winter with some hot chocolate) or sitting on the side of the bank with a book while he fishes are perfection. This FREE activity lends itself to experiencing nature, getting much-needed vitamin D, and feeling like you accomplished something together. Fish at the end of the day is also a great FREE meal.
12. Beach day: There is something about the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand that brings a peace in the sole. The sun, surf, and sand are a great way to get out and be silly. We like to pitch a tent and then enjoy playing in the water, watching dolphins, and building sandcastles.
13. BonusSex: I debated putting this here, but I think it is vital to all marriages. All marriages. Going too long without sex is detrimental to the foundation of the marriage. Many marriage counselors, pastors, and your parents (who are still together after decades of marriage) will all say sex is essential to the relationship. Sex reinforces the foundation, reconnects intimacy, rebuilds, and strengthens relationships and so much more! For more on this, check out this great article on healthy sex in marriage, and this article on why married sex is the best sex.
There is something about the cooler weather and beauty of the leaves turning colors that bring a refreshing change in perspective. Nature is discarding the old to make way for the new. There is a fresh beginning in the atmosphere as school starts across the country and fresh excitement builds.
Starting a school year is a great time to re-evaluate your goals. Remember those New Year Resolutions? If you haven’t checked in on them yet, now is a great time. Never made a resolution? Now is a great time to set some realistic goals. This is a great time for students and parents alike to set up goals for the year. This is a great time to set up a vision.
Where do you start? How do you set goals that will make a lasting impact? Should they be long term or short term?
Let’s demystify the practice of great goal setting. Here are 9 simple steps to goal setting and achievement.
1. Evaluate/Discover Your Why: Goals, by nature, are to help you become a better person, better at something. They are a progression toward success. Before setting a goal, it is essential you discover your strengths and weakness. What are you good at? What are you not good at? What skills do you have? What skills do you need? What are your fears? Weaknesses? Passions? Values? Knowing where you are starting from is essential to know how to get where you are going.
2. Dream Big: Life is short. What is the point of goals if we are not dreaming big! Some questions to ask might be if today was your last day, what three things would you like to do? What legacy do you want to leave behind? Why is that important? What does success look like in 3 months? 12 months? 5 years? Make a mission statement. Have a word to ground you this year. Put that mission statement and word in a place you see it daily. I use my planner and have the mission statement and word as my wallpaper on devices.
3. Triplets: Setting goals takes utilizing little action steps. I use the triplet technique. What three things will I do every morning and every evening? What three ways will I connect with my family and friends? What three things will I avoid? What three ways will I reward myself for success?
4. Vision Board: I love a good vision board! I also, love one that is easily changeable. A good vision board should show the END GOAL. This will serve as motivation on those days you have no energy or desire to put in the work. Those days will come. I use magazines, art, leaders, and celebrities I would want to immolate, and quotes on mine. I have a financial advisor that had a voided check written out to him in the amount of $1,000,000.00 on his board with a glamourous house. I have a friend who wanted to go to Harvard. Her board had a picture of the school and the campus colors. Once you have a board, put it where you will see it all the time. My son has his in his room. I keep mine in my planner (so I can see it no mater where I am).
5. Set some realistic goals: Often I am asked if a student for school should focus only on academic goals. I say no. A student is a person; a person should focus on all aspects of their life when goal setting. When setting goals, consider setting personal goals, family/friend goals, and academic/professional goals. Each goal needs to be clear. Have a purpose behind the goal. The reason for doing something is essential to motivation to succeed. Set the action steps up right then. Set target dates to achieve. I like to start with three goals in each category for the year.
Target dates are flexible, but help give a deadline to work toward. These should be specific. The key to goal setting success is specificity and motivation. The more specific the goal, action steps, and target date are, the more likely you are to succeed.
6. Monthly focus/Action Steps: Each month, I choose a new word to focus on that supports my yearly word. I start the month looking at what I need to do more of and what I need to less of. This helps me set my monthly smaller goals in each category (personal, family/friends, and professional/academic. I also use this time to break each goal down into tangible smaller action steps I can reach in a month.
7. Track Progress: It is easy to get discouraged when you do not see progress. Good progress is slow progress. Those who follow me, know I love tracking progress in all aspects of life. I bring this same practice into my goal setting. Each month, I use the Habit Tracker for each goal I have. This lets me know which days of the month, how often I am succeeding, and how often I am not succeeding at my goals. This is a quick look at where I have succeeded and failed. I use this simple document (free download below). Each goal gets its own monthly tracking grid.
8. Reflect and Review: Achieving goals is a process. We learn through reflection and review. Without evaluating where we have been and where we are, there is no way to achieve accomplishing what we set out to do. Weekly, my family reflects on what we are grateful for. Life is hard and failure is a part of the process. But focusing on this can be debilitating in a number of areas. Finding one to five things a week you are grateful for, helps change that process. Each month, we look at the top 5 things we accomplished. Then we look at where we failed to make progress (or flat-out failed). The Habit Tracker helps us evaluate. But, we also discuss how we are feeling about our progress and WHY we failed or succeeded. I know I am pushing knowing the why, but reasons we do things helps us understand our success and failures.
9. Revise: Reviewing and reflecting on goals is not helpful if you do not take action on what you learned. Use this time to re-evaluate and revise your goals. Life moves at a fast pace. What may have seemed doable a month ago, may not be impossible in that time frame. You may need to move your action dates. Or maybe, you realize a goal is not for you. This is the time to see what needs to change in your goals, your life, and action to make success a reality.
10. Reward: I love rewards! I am a firm believer in rewarding yourself for achieving the difficult. Knowing there is a reward at the end of the line, is great motivation to keep moving when things get hard. Sometimes it is a simple matter of making a deal with yourself. When a goal is achieved, or a significant milestone, reward yourself. Lost weight? Get new clothes. Learned a new instrument? Set up a concert or video share? Mastered the sewing machine? Share the product with your family and friends. Rewards can be big or small.
Goal setting is so important to self-growth, growth in business, growth in our relationships and so much more. Teaching our children how to set and achieve goals is a life lesson that will benefit them in more than just academics. Doing this together as a family will strengthen your bond. Goal setting as a family also gives an added benefit of built-in accountability partners.
What do toddlers, pre-teens, and teens all have in common?
They cry out for independence. “Don’t help me!” “I can do it myself!” “I’m not your little girl/boy anymore!”
They are not wrong. Kids can do so much more that we think they can. So how do we know when to step in and when to let failure happen? How do you teach accountability and responsibility to children who think they know it all already? Here are 6 tips I use in my household.
1. Pick your battles: I hate messes. Call it a pet-peeve or OCD or what you like, but I like a clean, neat and tidy home. My siblings (sorry guys) growing up and kiddo now, have other ideas of what home should feel like. I learned early on as a parent, to pick my battles with my very strong-willed* child. Now, when the room doesn’t get cleaned, I shut the door (out of sight out of mind) and my kid knows he doesn’t get to watch TV, play video games, play outside, create anything until the chores are done. It has created a much more harmonious environment.
2. Offer Choices: When I was younger, my parents divided chores by age (ignored gender rules). Occasionally they would re-arrange as family dynamics changed. I liked this. But recently came across a “Chore Market.” (This works very similar to Silent Butler). What is that? Much like the Stock Market, a Chore Market is when your children bid on chores they will do. The catch? Lowest bid wins and that is now their allowance. This is a great way to start teaching financial responsibility, family responsibility, work ethic, and start the conversation on investments as they get older.
3. Provide Flexibility: Flexibility is a key to success. This prevents kids from thinking they must be perfect all the time. Perfection can be rehabilitating. So, teach flexibility with deadlines. One of my favorite practices in home school is offering a Fun Friday – this is a five-week school scheduled offered to be completed in four days, at their pace. We do not set days for subjects to be taught, my son gets a weekly schedule and he can finish it at his own pace. Some very motivated weeks, he does two weeks in one, and some weeks there is carry over to Fun Friday. But, he has the flexibility to finish his tasks as he needs.
4. Support Growth: This one is hard. We always want to be the protection for our kids. It is nature. Reality is – we will not always be there for our kids. We must support them. When I was five, my mom took me on a mile walk from my house to my kindergarten class. That was it. After that walk, I was on my own for getting to and from school. As my younger siblings joined, I became responsible for them as well. Different times, I know. But, really, not all that different. Teaching kids how to play in the neighborhood, get to and from school, and ultimately fail at school or chores teaches independence and that we are all human and make mistakes.
5. Encourage healthy risk: My son loves to cook! But, he is also easily distracted. But, when he asked to learn to cook his own breakfast at age seven, who was I to stop him? So, he learned (first very closely supervised) how to make his own eggs. This has now become gourmet eggs, sausage, and fruit in the morning. After six months (I could have let go of the reigns sooner), he took over his own breakfast. He knows makes all his meals except our family dinner. But he also catches our family dinner often – taking responsibility for providing for our family.
6. Embrace Mistakes: We are not perfect! Your kid will be less perfect than you. Embrace the mistake. Everyone spills milk. Everyone burns a dish here and there. Everyone skips to the back of the book at least once for the answers. The trick is not to dwell on the negative and failure but to use that to encourage growth and learning. As Einstein put it so well, “Failure is success in progress.”
Our kids are miraculous beings. Our job is to help them see that – without inflating their ego. Finding a balance between independence and responsibility is hard. But possible. The more we practice these steps the easier they become. The more we encourage independence in a healthy way, the more our children will learn problem-solving, critical thinking, and fundamentals of life.
How have you found this balance? What has worked? What has failed?
“You can’t trust kids these days.” “They never do what you ask.” “Kids always talk back.” “Kids today don’t know how to follow through.” “If it doesn’t require a social media post, don’t count on your kid to do it.”
I have worked with youth and their parents for more than 20 years. I hear the same things time and time again from parents, youth leaders, coaches, and the like.
But, in my experience, kids act this way because of the models they have. In my experience someone meaningful in their lives is absent (maybe spends 60 hours a week at work or just not there at all). Someone may be in their life but has broken promise after promise. That weekend promised to teach them to ride a bike or go see them in the school play comes and goes with an apology only.
Children are taught how to behave by adults in their lives. Great children are taught to be great adults by adults who invest in them. It is that simple.
I was lucky to be raised by a man who worked long hours during the day and went to school at night. But, every school play, every graduation, every school assembly growing up, if I asked, Daddy would be there.
Daddy taught me three significant lessons that have instilled in me the very foundations of who I am and how I raise my little one. These lessons are at the very core of what it is to be me. These lessons are what I hope to pass on to all those young kids who come into my life.
Honor Those Who Came Before You
There is no one in the entire history of the world who accomplished great things on their own. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Martha Tereasa all built on pioneers like Martin Luther, Thurgood Marshall, and John Weasley.
American freedoms, the very foundation, were built on the hard work and determination of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson who tirelessly worked together writing not just the Declaration of Independence, but researching every known government in preparation for the Congressional Congress created our Republic.
Great-great-great Granddad John Adams, though admittedly opposed to the rule of law of the day, represented the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre to ensure they received a fair trial successfully negotiated the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolutionary War), and went on to be the first American Vice President, Second President and his son became the fourth President.
These men denied everything, fighting for life and liberty, for a world that NEVER existed before. In fact, it took over 20 years, war, and near collapse of a nation under the Articles of Confederation from the Declaration of Independence to the signing of the US Constitution and the birth of American freedoms. Our nation, imperfect as it is, was the first in the world to allow basic human freedoms to the average citizen.
When I look back at my accomplishments (graduate degrees, excellent job, published, author, award-winning public speaker), I know that those accomplishments are a direct result of those who invested in me. My parents, my coaches, the amazing adults who poured into me through Youth Focus, Inc. all impacted not only my success, but the trajectory of my life.
Daddy taught me, not only to be aware of this, but to thank and acknowledge those who invested their time, money, and energy into me. Thank you, Coaches, Mr. & Mrs. S; Mr. and & Mrs. G, Shim, and Brandy, Florence, Carl and Mary Carol, Patty, and most importantly, Mom and Dad. Your efforts have helped create the amazing life I have. I could not have done this without you.
Let Your Yes Be Your Yes and Your No Be Your No
Daddy taught us, no matter what, yes is yes. Sounds easy. But in a world where we glorify a social hierarchy that loves self-image, self-entitlement, and immediacy, this is a hard thing to grasp as a kid.
Simply put, if you make a commitment, follow through. If you said you would help you kid sister learn to ride a bike, but the lead cheerleader invites you to a party, you help your sister. If you said you would watch your little siblings so Mom and Dad can have a date night once a week, you do that instead of going to the weekly football games. It means, if you said you were committing to the school play, track team, debate team (pick a team), you follow through with your best the entire season long – especially when it gets hard.
This allows everyone to trust your word – the very basis of integrity. People will know they can count on you in the big things because you showed up in the small things every day.
Find Something Worth Dying For and Go Live For It
The most important lesson Daddy taught me is to “Find something worth dying for, and to live for it.”
That has been Daddy’s motto for as long as I can remember. And when you think about, it is perfect for finding and understanding your calling.
A key characteristic of leadership is the belief in the cause. The causes that pass the 24-hour news cycle, are those whose leaders are willing to walk the walk, and lay down their life, if need be. IF we want to raise excellent leaders, we need to know what their passions are and help teach them how to cultivate them for good.
As our children grow, we often ask them, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” or “What are you going to study in college?” But these do not get to the root of a person’s passion. Passion is what will keep one motivated through the dark woods of real life. Passion is what will change a weak leader to a strong leader.
Instead, let’s ask our children, “What excites you?” or “What gets you fired up?” “What are some things that you want to change?” When they tell us, regardless of what we believe about those passions, celebrate them. Help them cultivate them. Because they will find a way with or without your help. Use the opportunity to help lead and teach them to be the best at whatever they chose.
These questions will start leading our kids to find their passions so that they may LIVE for them.
This #fathersday week, let us honor those who came before us. Let us stay true to our word. Let us find those things worth dying for, and go live for them. Let us be the beginning of positive change for our children.
“I can’t seem to find a groove.” “All the doors keep shutting in my face.” “If schools don’t open back up, my kid and I might not be on speaking terms till graduation…eight years from now.” “Last night I ate an entire bar of cookie dough and hid in my closet for an hour just for some peace and quiet.”
Parenting was hard before COVID-19, but at least there was a break with school and playdates. At least there was a distraction with school projects and team sports. At least it did not feel like you were in this on your own with no instruction manual. Can you relate?
Countless friends of mine who were so excited for a “forced stay-cation” with their spouses only a few weeks ago, are now praying diligently for their spouse to go back to work and leave them alone.
Work, for those who are blessed to be employed, has begun to feel like every move is the wrong move. Teams no longer work like well-oiled machines. The discord and frustration have heightened as plans to re-open and get “back to normal” seem to be weeks away or worse ill-advised. Minutia seems to be the focus instead of quality production.
Emotions are high. Patience is low. The threads of relationships have started to fray. As a friend jokingly stated a few weeks ago, “We are failing the apocalypse on easy mode.”
Before those emotions take over, think about what that statement means. We are not combating corpses that have come to life to eat our brains. We are not fighting Thanos. We are not fighting aliens who want to take over the planet.
We are fighting a virus invisible to the naked eye. We are fighting our own selfish desires to have what we want when we want it how we want it.
The playbook for this fight? Be in the comfort of our homes, watch Netflix, eat bonbon, and enjoy a walk outside with the people we love the most.
So why is domestic violence growing at an alarming rate globally? Why are we finding ways to yell at each other? Why do we feel like we are alone in the fight?
“Why” is the wrong question. We know why.
It’s time we ask what are we going to do to change this behavior and emotional state? In ourselves. For our families, friends and coworkers.
1. Metrics: Anyone who has worked a single day in any industry hears the word metrics and knows their bottom line will be affected by this one six-letter word. Those in production industries work diligently to get their metrics up and keep them up. Metrics are great for giving us an insight into how we are doing and where we need to work a little harder or differently. This is a successful model in businesses across industries. Let’s use this model in our personal lives.
Set a metric for the production of quality family life. How much time do we spend investing in our families compared to watching that Netflix show? How often do we have to nag/ask our teenager to do their laundry versus them doing it themselves? How often are we serving others versus serving ourselves? These key metrics can give a great baseline for significant growth in our personal and professional lives.
2. Change your Focus: The most impactful leader in history, once stated, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Another way to say this is where your focus is, there your heart will be also.
In his book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Hans Rosling gives an excellent realistic view of the world using stats and studies from his years as a physician and academic. Rosling uses global trends in health economics to show how much better the world is than we allow ourselves to believe. Understanding stats and metrics are so much more important than the number. Let’s use stats as therapy. Change the focus from the negative to focusing on the positive and the progress made and keep moving forward.
3. Be Grateful: We are not fighting zombies! We are not fighting aliens! We get to spend time with our families. We get to have a home-cooked meal at the kitchen table. We get to get back to our roots. 1950’s America has been idealized for decades. Now is our chance to get that back; only this time we are working from home on a more flexible schedule. For more ways to shift to a grateful attitude check out my blog on the power of words.
4. Work on that New Year’s Resolution: Did you know 80% of New Years Resolutions fail? There is a lot research into why this is. Time. Thinking not doing. Doing it alone. Not tracking progress. Forbes, BusinessInsider, and Psychology Today all address this.
We have been given the opportunity to not only have the time to work on these resolutions, but to do it in an environment with our best support system – our family. Want to lose weight? Use the time you would have been commuting for a work out with your partner. Want to get better in your industry? Read together for one hour a day. Want to know what is really happening in your teenager’s life? Get on the video game with them. You get healthy, spend quality time, and invest in each other. For more ideas check out my blog on surviving social distancing.
5. Be the Solution: We know there is a problem. Instead of complaining about the problem, choose to be the solution. Find ways to get involved. For some great resources on how to get involved in all aspects of the community including first responders, teachers, religious leaders and more, check out my articles on ways to give back and Captain Corona and the 19-COVID Warriors by @MelissaGratia.
This is not the apocalypse. There is time to redeem 2020 and really begin to change the world, our world, our communities, for the better. We don’t have to fail quarantine and social distancing. We have everything we need to use this time to reset and refresh. It’s time to choose. Where is your focus?
Most of the world has been operating within the realm of the same four walls for the majority of the year. Those in America have been at this at least a month, some longer.
Day after day I hear the same exhausted frustrations of parents: “My kids are driving me crazy! I keep repeating myself. I feel like all I do is nag!”
Well, you are not alone. We all get there (even in the best of circumstances). The question is do we stay there or do we something to fix it?
For my family, we do something to fix it.
Let me introduce you to one of our best friends and colleagues – Silent Butler.
Before you freak on the price tag, this friend has given his services for FREE. This is so simple it will shock you.
How many of you have asked your kid to clean their room, only to find it hasn’t been completed or everything has been shoved under the bed/in the closet/crammed into drawers?
Out of exasperation, you now beginning the powerplay of taking things away, the battle of either teaching to clean (or, be honest) doing it yourself. By the end of the day, everyone is tired, you don’t want to be around each other and you just feel defeated?
Enter Silent Butler.
Instead of going through that battle, hold your child accountable. An easy way to do that is a large plastic laundry basket (we use this one).
When your child says the room is clean. OK. Great. Go play.
Then take the basket, and fill it with all things left on the floor, under the bed, in the closet, out away incorrectly. (NOTE: You must have taught the proper way to clean a room and what Silent Butler prior is to implementing Silent Butler).
All those toys, books, TABLETS, video games, etc., that they claim to love so much, but do not treat as though they do, are now in the possession of Silent Butler.
But don’t worry, this is not forever!
When your child does something good, unexpected, helpful, you just ring the bell for Silent Butler. Things like helping a sibling with homework without being asked, picking up the dog poo or doing the dishes, (for those on the spectrum) having a good playdate or losing a game without a single reminder of good sportsmanship all can trigger Silent Butler.
The important thing is that it matches where your child is (age, mental ability) and it cannot be a chore already assigned as part of their daily routine.
When you ring that bell, Silent Butler rolls out once again. Only this time, instead of taking, our Butler is giving. The child can take one toy out of the basket. They have earned it back.
TWIST * TWIST * TWIST
For those with siblings, this becomes particularly effective. There are no rules on whose toys are picked when Silent Butler rewards.
This means if Suzy left her tablet on the floor in her room when she was told to put it away, and Johnny earned a Silent Butler reward, Johnny can pick Suzy’s tablet.
What does this teach?
I know you are wondering why use this method? It seems sneaky and rude. Well, that is true. But so is the world.
As parents, we are tasked with raising children into quality adults who contribute to society in positive ways and are aware that the world is not rainbows and butterflies.
This teaches so much:
1. Responsibility: Whose tablet? Whose responsibility? Whose homework? Whose responsibility? When you shirk your responsibilities, someone else will swoop in and fix it AND get the credit. Silent Butler begins as Positive Punishment/Negative Reinforcer.
2. Teamwork/Family building: Working in a family is the first practice of teamwork. We are teaching children what it means to be on the team by showing them responsibility falls on everyone. When we reward good extra behavior, it acts as a positive reinforcer that modifies the negative behavior. Silent Butler is now a Negative Punishment/Positive Reinforcer.
3. Integrity: What is done when no one is watching will be seen. What is done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. All secrets come out. That is why integrity is so important. It is who you are when no one is watching (or you think no one is watching) that ultimately defines your character.
4. Accountability: Teaching accountability starts with parents. I have said this before practice what you preach. You must hold yourself accountable to follow through, kind words, and tones, working as a team. Once this is done, Silent Butler teaches that all kids are held accountable for their actions all the time. Silent Butler is ALWAYS in play. Both the good and the bad.
This is a simple idea that when put into practice can help SAVE MONEY on those reinforcers, help create a POSITIVE and HARMONIOUS environ for everyone in the house, and ultimately, help create HONEST, RESPONSIBLE adults to help create positive change in the world.
I encourage you test this out in your own homes. Give it a couple weeks. Track your progress and setbacks (there will be setbacks as with all changes). And let me know how this works for you. Don’t be afraid to share this blog with others you think might benefit from the simple induction of my friend Silent Butler.
You have this. You are good parent. You are a good teacher. You are a good coach. You are good leader.
***Disclaimer: I did not come up with this idea AT ALL. I was raised with this. The credit all goes to my parents who successfully raised 7 children and numerous “family friends” with to the sum of all six entrepreneurs, a lawyer, two opera singers, (one lawyer waiting taking his first bar), over fifteen degrees, all are fully employed, and the creation of two non-profits.