Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Slapped in the Head

Monday morning. After dropping off my girls at the bus stop, I drove into my driveway and reached for the garage door remote. It was gone. It is normally clipped to my sun visor, but it wasn’t there anymore.

Keep in mind that it was 7:30. I was up at 5:30 that day and had already been to the gym, whipped up some French toast and gotten two tired girls ready for school.

No shower yet, and I was locked out of my house.

Did it occur to me that I had just used the remote to close the garage door before going to the bus stop? No. I was in full panic mode. It was easier to assume that my husband took it.

Pre-caffeine logic told me that perhaps his remote didn’t work this morning. In his haste, he grabbed mine…thinking that I would be home all day and wouldn’t need it.

I laughed a little and decided to forgive him, and drove to town to get my remote from his truck. On the way, I enjoyed a little holiday music. I patted myself on the back for being so patient. (“Yes, I am a good wife. I am very patient. My husband is fortunate to have such a patient wife. He should realize how patient I am.”)

It was a bitterly cold day. I got out of my car and flipped up the hood of my jacket. That’s when I felt the garage door remote slap me in the back of the head.

It must have fallen into my jacket while I twisted around to stuff lunch money into the girls’ backpacks.

I never got angry. It seems like that red monster is no longer a big factor in my life. It takes a lot to rile me up.

I didn't feel embarrassed either. I called up my husband and told him how silly I was.

But in the final analysis, it seems that two old dogs, Judgment and Pride, are still hot on my trail.

I immediately assumed that my husband took the remote and inconvenienced me — the residue of past wounds. And when I reacted with patience instead of anger, I felt soooo proud of myself. ("I am such a good and understanding wife.")

Phooey. No wonder I couldn’t find the remote. I was blinded by judgment and pride.

Whenever we think we know someone soooo well, judgment tells us to always expect the same result from them. People don't change, judgment says. We don't see evidence to the contrary because we are too busy looking for evidence to keep them on the naughty list.

And whenever we feel the slightest sense of superiority for our views, knowledge, talent or "selfless" acts …that’s pride, baby.

We end up blind, deaf and lame. Locked out of the house. Shivering in the cold and stinky from that workout.

After this latest misadventure, all I know is that I don’t know anything. Somehow there’s peace in the not knowing, the not judging, the not assuming. There is peace in seeing every person and experience with fresh eyes day by day.

Try it with your kids, your love, your friends or co-workers. It's more refreshing than a slap in the head!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

GrATTITUDE on the Path to True Love

Minnesota weather has not exactly treated us kindly in the last couple of weeks. We could be fairly justified in our feelings of annoyance with a frigid fall and a very short summer.

And yet, how does it really hurt us? In Minnesota, weather is a fun topic of conversation that bridges all cultures and backgrounds. We never know what it will bring from one day to the next. Besides, when more than three weeks of snow or three weeks of heat hit us, many of us Minnesotans start getting antsy for change.

So hooray for crazy Minnesota weather!!!

On the path to true love, attitude is everything. You CAN make lemonade out of lemons. In fact, you can make a three-layer lemon meringue tart when you really get this idea of love.

Instead of my usual grumbling and depression about the cold this year, I was strangely surprised that it didn’t even bother me. Instead, I marveled at the beauty of the early snowflakes and got excited about wearing tights and fun boots. I thought about enjoying my canned tomatoes in chili and soups. I thought about all the indoor projects and writing I could focus on once the snow really falls. I thought about tubing and skating with my girls.

One of my friends asked me recently: “Are you watching too much Oprah?”

Nope, I just finally woke up from a long slumber of bad attitude. And WHAM! Gratitude hit me right up side the head. My mind and my life haven’t been the same since.

Case in point: The other day my husband and Nats went fishing. It was a pretty cold day, so I insisted on making them sandwiches and sending along some soup in a thermos even though my husband said I didn’t have to bother. But I did it. I stopped working on my computer, came upstairs and helped them get ready — cheerfully. Now I’m sure that many wives and mothers just do this because it’s the right thing to do. Many of them might even do it cheerfully.

Unfortunately, a couple years ago I would have probably sent them on their way without lunch — GRATEFUL that at least a couple family members were out of the house so I could work (or sulk or whatever I did back then).

This time was different. I made the lunch and I felt good that I could be helpful. When my husband got ready to leave for fishing, he gave me one of those long hugs that you feel in your bones and soak up like sunshine because it’s so sincere. He thanked me and said he loved me.

If I died today, I would die happy because of that hug. And THAT, my friends, is gratitude. No matter what comes your way, if you face it with gratitude and see the blessing (or important lesson) in each moment — your mind and life will never be the same.

It will be miraculous.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Humility on the Path to True Love

“Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives. Hope that you might have baked it or bought or even kneaded it yourself. For that look on his face, for your meeting his eyes across a piece of bread, you might be willing to lose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even.”

—Daniel Berrigan

I won’t say anything about humility much better than Daniel Berrigan, but I have been thinking about humility for a while now — and why it’s so hard to practice.

Fighting for what we need is human instinct. An infant won’t be fed or changed or picked up unless he fusses and frets and demands attention.

“Look at me! I’m important! I need something from you!”

When children begin to realize that they are separate from their parents, they also develop a self-centered view. They strive every day to control and conquer.

A friend of mine illustrated this beautifully when she said that her toddler likes to climb on top of things, but he doesn’t know how to get down. So he screams in frustration until mom or dad helps him.

Skills like patience and empathy aren’t natural. We think of ourselves first, then we might consider the needs of others. Independence and individualism are celebrated. We clap when baby takes her first steps away from us, when she feeds herself and — halleluia — when she can climb in and buckle her own seatbelt.

Soon she’s stepping on the school bus, going to sleepovers and making decisions about her friends, behavior and morals. If those decisions aren’t consciously grounded in values like empathy, honesty, patience and kindness, the child will default to reactive choices that are best for her in the moment.

“That toy is mine! I need it more than you do! You don’t matter to me!”

We become little kings and queens protecting our domain and using others to go where we want to go, get what we can get and be who we want to be. And society tells us for the most part that it’s okay to strive and achieve and be somebody.

Still, when we hear stories of people who risk or deny their own lives to save or help others, something moves within us. We feel inspired. We feel hopeful.

In fact, ordinary people are serving each other every day. When they get their kids ready for school, when they show up for their jobs, when they run errands for the family or help in their communities and churches, they are providing a service and keeping society afloat.

The question we must ask ourselves then is this: Are we simply giving in order to get? What’s our motivation?

If I go to work, I’ll get paid. If I help in the community or my church, I’ll look good, get a better opportunity or earn favors from others. If I run this errand, then no one will bother me the rest of the day. If I do this for my spouse, he better give me something in return. If the kids have what they need, they better show some appreciation.

If the self is always our motivation, then we will never be satisfied. At some point, people will disappoint us, abandon us or reject us.

When disappointment comes, we can climb on a counter and scream at the top of our lungs. We can build a wall to prevent further disappointment. Or we can shrug it off and focus on the next opportunity to please ourselves.

OR…we can shift our motivation.

If pride is love of self, humility is not its opposite — sacrifice of self — at least not in the way we think. “Look at me. I’m such a loser. I’m less than dirt. Here, you have the last piece of pie. It’s okay. Don’t worry about me. (heavy sigh).”

In fact, we are greater than we know. But we will never reach our full potential and see the miracles and abundance of life until we place the needs and wellbeing of others ahead of our own — in all things and in all circumstances.

What good is my reputation, achievements or stuff if I’m empty inside, alone? To find my life, I must lose it. I must give all, risk all, lay all the cards down with no expectation of a positive result or gain for me.

When humility is a way of life, people will still disappoint, abandon and reject us. But we will no longer react to their pain with a punch, a scream or escape. We will show up with true love.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My grandmother Mabel Dougherty died this morning after a long and beautiful

She was a WWII bride who raised her first son alone for two years while my Grandpa Jack was a German prisoner of war. She then raised six children on a dairy farm in Litchfield, Minnesota. She fought cancer almost to the death in her 50s and survived.

She faced widowhood too soon when Jack died of lung cancer at age 62. She never remarried.

She left the family farm, which she and Jack never owned, and faced an auction of many of her things before moving to a mobile home. Then she moved to assisted living in town. Then she moved to a nursing home. Each time, her possessions decreased. But her talent for an orderly home never did.

Her talents ranged from baking to quilting to horseback riding. I once watched her butcher a dozen chickens in quick succession with the swing of an ax. I also remember strawberry picking and afternoons of bringing lunch to Grandpa and the farmhands in the field. Mabel was a hardworking farm wife who expected a lot from her children as much as she expected help from God. She was a converted Methodist and devoted Catholic who believed in the power of prayer. Her rosary is lovingly worn.

She did the best she could with a large family and the pressures that came with it. Perhaps some could have done better than she in the same situation, and I suspect some worse. But I'll remember her for her home cooking, hugs, her sense of humor and her ability to find faith when life didn't always prove fair or right. She was a sharp dresser and a beautiful lady inside and out. She loved red shoes and dancing.

She used to tell me the story of how she and Jack first met. He came with another gal to a dance. But he left with Grandma! His letters to her during the war are filled with devotion and hope for a grand future.

She made my childhood a dream and her death, though expected, makes me realize the importance of not wasting a single day. Why, when life is at an end, would we ever regret a moment of happiness or begrudge it for another? Why would we fail to forgive or pray for healing? Can't we live every day in that state of compassionate, dying grace? It's available to everyone who believes. We don't have to wait for death to find it.

God bless you, angel Mabel. You quietly slipped away when your children weren't looking. You are watching out for all of us now with your beloved Irish love. I hope his hair is as fiery red as your dancing shoes and that you're sharing a Snickers bar in a field of peonies.

Love, your granddaughter and great granddaughters

Friday, July 31, 2009

Persistence on the Path to True Love

Do you remember the “Easy” button from that office supply store commercial? Pressing a button and having everything done sounds great, doesn’t it?

That’s probably why magic lamps and genies and wishing wells and fairy godmothers and lotteries are so fun to think about. Imagine a poof of smoke, a magic wand or a windfall of money that could take all of our problems and labors away.

Nope, life doesn’t work that way. Do you wonder why? Why do things have to get bad — then worse — before we start to appreciate our families and friends and life?

Um, we’re humans. We can’t point to light without the shadow. We don’t think about slow and fast until we’re stuck in traffic and realize we haven’t eaten. We don’t notice chaos in our lives until stillness…or illness…sweeps in.

This triathlon called life is designed to help us see the truth. We are children. Then we are adults. Then we are the aged. Most of us stay focused on the exhaustion and anxiety of the race. We get distracted by the swimming, biking and running. But occasionally we catch a glimpse of the finish line.

That finish line, my friends, is true love.

Not the mushy, movie “true love.” That love is chemically engineered to get us dense humans to reproduce. Taken too seriously, chemical lusty love leads to further idiocy and sends too many of us bikers and clumsy runners careening into the ditch bloodied and bruised. The world thrives and implodes on the highs and lows of this disastrous love.

No. True love cannot easily be expressed. But when you feel it, you are never the same. It fills you so completely that anger and despair, ambition and envy dissolve like fog. It’s the love a mother can feel for her child at the sound of its first cry. It’s the love that sweeps over us in nature. It’s the love of grace when we don’t deserve forgiveness but receive it in an instant through our most desperate sorrow and repentance. The veil is lifted. We see the truth of who we really are for the first time.

This love shows you that you’ve been running asleep, biking off the path, swimming alone and sick in a sea of brothers and sisters. Every person is precious. You could never again ignore their worth, never again cross boundaries that harm them or yourself. To do so is a living death.

Yep, it sounds like I’m drinking some good wine right now. That’s just because even if you’ve felt true love, you can’t explain it. And it’s hard to BE that love because the world constantly tells you to seek achievement and pleasure, stuff and status. It tells you that you are alone. ALONE. Who could possibly love you? How could you feel it if they did? You’re nothing. You’re bad. And you’re ALONE.

Little wonder that true love is rare and hard to believe — a love sasquatch giving free hugs in the wilderness. When you see it radiating from the few humans who have recognized and embraced it, the truth can either bring you to your knees with unspeakable joy or send you screaming down another dark, but all too familiar path.

True love is really, really, really scary. It makes you face your innermost demons and realize that YOU (or who you think you are) has to die. Your life up to this defining moment is one big, fat lie. A travesty. A sin. A truly sad tale.

Who among you is brave enough to believe that a life — your life — can be changed, SAVED IN AN INSTANT? The emptiness and sickness CAN fall away in the embrace of true love. The proof is how you live from that day forward. You can’t go back. You can’t stay the same. And it’s a long race. Some minds will never be convinced. But that’s not your goal. You don’t have to come in first place and get the gold star and have everyone congratulate you on your success and be your best friends. You just have to start and persist and remember to tie your shoelaces every day.

After all, you don’t know how much time you’ve been given to set things right.

But here’s the beautiful irony: You’ve already won the race! When everything falls away and there is nothing left of YOU…true love is the tiny whisper in your heart that remains:

“I love you, kid. You never have to feel alone again. Thank you for coming home to me. It’s about time.”

No. Not easy. Just true love.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stillness on the Path to True Love

My husband and I often go out for breakfast together on Sunday mornings after church. While our children attend Sunday school, we head out to a favorite cafĂ©. I like to look at the couples around me and guess at how long they’ve been married or what their relationship is like; I watch them interact with grandchildren and friends, wonder about their joys and sorrows.

I used to wonder about couples who sat together at breakfast and never talked. They would almost meditate on the ritual of their dining, occasionally make a comment, but mostly sit in silence. In contrast, I tried to fill silences with happy chatter at my husband about my “brilliant” life philosophies and observations.

I have come to realize that one of the most important things we can do in a relationship is to shut up! Sit in stillness. Enjoy the blessing of being together.

When we are silent, we give others the opportunity to talk. This is a gift. It is also a great parenting strategy. My eldest daughter will often offer up the most wonderful stories or some of her concerns while I sit with her silently. A great time to do this is in the car or at bedtime. Avoid distractions like the radio or your to-do list and wait for your child to break the silence. It might take a few car trips, but it works.

Don’t be quick to respond. The other person may have more to share. Take in their comments without judgment. Signal to them that you are listening intently. Ask a question to clarify. Look at them in the eyes.

When I stopped worrying about how to fill dead air, I learned the most incredible things about my family. I created a safe zone for them to express things more clearly. I wasn’t focused on the next thing I wanted to say or defend or debate. I opened space to just be with them.

This is a humbling experience. To focus on another’s wellbeing and needs sometimes requires me to bite my tongue and sit in stillness until the other person feels heard — or is ready to talk. This skill works just as well in business as it does at home. Most people just want to feel heard. Then the project can move forward. The communication can begin.

The worst kind of talking is the kind used to draw attention. Children learn this early. They will prattle on louder and louder until someone pays attention to them (or tells them to be quiet). It is important to teach our children to respect when others are speaking. They should learn the importance of silence and listening — of thinking through their replies. If we don’t teach them about this, they will continue to make their presence known through speech with little value.

There is a time to talk. There is a time to be silent. Both are valuable in their proper turn. May you have the wisdom in life and in business to know the difference.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Contradiction on the Path to True Love

When my daughter came home from school one day and complained that a little boy was teasing her, I smiled and told her that the boy must really like her. I told her that the next time this boy teased her, she should say, "I know you like me."

This idea surprised her. She smiled herself and vowed to try it.

Contradiction can be an empowering experience. It is part of our path to wholeness.

I have a dear friend who is very good at sweetly smiling at people when they ask ignorant or probing questions. Her silence unnerves them. Her smile freaks them out. They awkwardly change the subject and look sheepish.

When people are looking for a great leader and they get a tiny, Indian nun, that is contradiction.

When people are looking for a huge sign that they are going in the right direction and they get an overflowing toilet, that is contradiction.

When people are filled with resentment and are confronted with love, that is contradiction.

When people want a way out and they end up digging a deeper hole, that is contradiction.

When people have to lose themselves to find themselves, that is a definite contradiction.

Consider one person right now who you are not very fond of, who gives you bad feelings and makes you want to spit or swear. Now replace those bad, damaging feelings with the image of a flower, a silent prayer for their wellbeing and success, an earnest wish for peace in their lives.

This is the ultimate contradiction that brings love and peace flowing into your own life. We are all children of a loving God and universe. We need to change our perspective or continue to suffer.

By the way, the advice I gave my daughter worked. The boy didn't tease her anymore. And she handled him with loving contradiction.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Praise on the Path to True Love

A thought for today: Count the number of times today that you praise your children for something compared to how many times you criticize them.

Now listen for words of praise for yourself compared to criticism from others. Criticism can come in the form of not saying anything as well as a verbal critique of what you have failed to do or how you've done it.

We are quick to criticize and find fault. We are slow to praise and see the good.

One suggestion for this is that we do not love ourselves and therefore we cannot truly love others. Our minds are filled with self-criticism for what we have done or failed to do, how we look, how we handle our lives.

To love and care for others, we must first love ourselves. That does not mean mirror-gazing narcissism. That form of self-love is damaging in that it closes the heart to others and leads to isolation and spiritual emptiness. No one measures up, including ourselves. We are constantly seeking the attention, pleasure or power that will fill us. We hate people when they fail to meet our emotional needs. Our love barely touches the surface of another human being, and eventually we feel nothing from or for them.

Here are the marks of true self-love: We are slow to anger with others. We recognize the good in them. We see life as an opportunity to serve our neighbor, not grudgingly or because it will get us something in return, but because it brings us joy. Our work is fulfilling because we know that it serves a purpose for others, not ourselves. Our friendships and relationships are respectful, honest and loving to the point that it would wound us deeply to hurt another person. We are grateful for any small kindness. We are moved when we see others acting with love.

We have nowhere to go, no one to be, nothing to get. We are enough. We were created to be enough.

If these traits are not true for you today,is it because the praise in your life is so much less than the criticism? Have you gone so far down the road that you are numb to any kind of feeling or concern for others?

Start on a new road with more praise and less criticism for your children, your spouse, your co-workers. Actively look for ways to praise others. Praise is contagious. It creates chinks in your emotional armor so that true love can come in. When you finally meet this love, no other will compare!

You will finally be free to love your neighbor as yourself.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Use Conflict as an Opportunity

Some of you may sit down tonight to watch the season premiere of Jon and Kate Plus 8, the TLC show about a couple with twins and sextuplets. You may already be a fan, or you may have heard the rumors about the instability of their relationship.

We are drawn to conflict. Adult conflicts can seem pretty complex and it may be difficult to see a resolution to the terrible things we do to one another. However, if we can look at conflict in terms of how we teach our children to resolve it, the path may be clearer.

What do you tell your children when they have wronged another child?

1. Tell me what happened.
To fix a problem, we need to know what happened. We ask each child to tell us the truth about what happened. Some children may lie. Other children will begin the story by talking about what the other child did. They learn early in life that talking about the other child will deflect blame from them. It is a natural reaction to getting into trouble. "I didn't do anything!" "He started it!" "She hit me first!"

Telling the truth is only effective if your children realize that they share responsibility in the problem. Insist that they start at the beginning and talk about what they did to either create the conflict - or what they failed to do. Once children take ownership of their part in a conflict, they can move on to the next steps.

2. Say you're sorry.
You can tell when a child is sorry. There is a sadness in the eyes, a sincerity to the voice. The apology is not rushed. It is not glossed over with mindless chatter about the other child. You can simply feel the difference between a real apology and one that is uttered just to get it over with.

Apologizing is difficult because it places blame. By apologizing, your child is acknowledging misbehavior and accepting the consequences of that behavior. Don't allow them to play victim or to shift blame. That just causes all kinds of difficulty later in life.

Say that your child attends a party where there is drinking or use of drugs. Even if your child did not participate in the drinking or drug use, their presence at the party suggests blame to the authorities. In this case, they should apologize for their choice to go to the party - or for not leaving as soon as they saw what was happening.

3. Make it better.
Some parents stop the discipline after step two. But it is step three that supports change. Talk to your children about how you expect them to behave in the future. "Hands are for helping, not hurting" and "We love each other" are simple ways that we teach our children about caring for others. For older children, it might be a phrase like, "We avoid even the perception of wrongdoing by our words and actions" and "What you do also represents and reflects on your family."

Children who learn how to make things better in the midst of a conflict will be better at conflict resolution as adults. They will learn to view conflicts as opportunities for improving their relationships or improving themselves. Conflict won't be something that they try to avoid by lying or pretending it's not there.

Too often, the world tells us to hide the truth, avoid apologizing and do very little to make things better. We have lost our ability to talk through problems, preferring to ignore or avoid the potential for more conflict. We are told that it's better to "move on and forget about it." It might seem like a good idea to forget, but forgetting only invites the chance for it to happen again. And yet, nursing our pain forever will breed resentment and probably physical illness.

How do we make things better? If only a hug or handshake would do the trick like it does for our children. But adult minds are often too set in their ways and belief patterns.

Instead, I invite you to work through steps one and two and then spend the rest of your days living in ways that show care and concern for others. Some relationships are easy to demonstrate this, like with our children. But others who have been hurt by our past actions or inaction may require more time and effort on our part to prove positive change.

Thank goodness that most of us don't have to work through conflict in front of a national audience. For Jon and Kate, I hope they and their children have a strong support network that promotes communication and reconciliation — and forgiveness in time. Be patient. Use this storm as an opportunity to make it better - to become the person you've always wanted your children to be.

Now that would be a great television show.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

A couple months ago, a friend called for my husband. I was serving my girls some lunch and my husband was napping. When the friend asked to speak to my husband, I told him that my husband was out running errands. I fibbed.

Hearing this, my 8-year-old immediately said in a loud voice, "No, he isn't! He's home!"

Instead of realizing I was caught in a fib and making it right, I put my finger to my lips to shush my daughter. The look on her face, of shock, filled me with shame.

Later, when my husband called back his friend, I told him to tell his friend that I fibbed. And I talked to my daughter about the lie. I thanked her for reminding me that any lie is wrong, even one with good intentions. Even though I didn't want my husband disturbed, lying wasn't the solution.

Our children observe what we do and will take our actions to heart more than the words we tell them. This is a hard lesson, given that I'm a writer and spend all my time thinking about words. How I live my life and model to others is so much more important.

Think about how you act around your children, and how you interact with others. Do you grump at other drivers on the highway? Do you gossip in front of your kids? Do you throw litter out the window? Do you treat salespeople rudely? Do you do anything in your life right now that would put you to shame if your children knew...if they understood that your words and guidance for them don't apply to your actions?

If the mama or papa duck is swimming in circles, how will the ducklings learn to swim?

The other day I heard my youngest daughter singing about God. I have been listening a lot to a Christian radio station in the car. I used to listen to pop music, and my daughter used to talk about being a rock star. Now she wants to be a veterinarian. Amazing what a change in modeling can do for our kids.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Hate You!

I was just featured on the Cute Kid Parent Center. Check out my thoughts on how to respond when your kid says, "I hate you." Tell me about your own responses, good and bad, to this type of angry kid outburst.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Makes a Good Parent?

This question was recently posed by writer Joelle Klein on the TLC Slice of Life blog. Here is my response from my own experience as a parent...so far.

1. Good parents model patience by putting themselves in another person's shoes before responding, staying in the present moment and trying to be of service in any situation.

2. Good parents are aware of their stress triggers and practice healthy self care and communication. Instead of yelling at the kids, they take a walk or step away to cool down. Instead of arguing with their partner, they schedule a time to talk calmly about concerns.

3. Good parents are grown-ups, meaning it's not all about them anymore. They see their role as parents as a beautiful opportunity to make a difference in the world rather than a burden. They take that role seriously. They give up unhealthy behaviors that could impact the children in a negative way...be it drinking or spending too much time away from the family.

4. Good parents are present. They spend time with their children. They understand their children's top emotional needs and fill them, whether it's quality time, hugs or words of affirmation.

5. Good parents model and teach their children about responsibility, honesty and patience. They don't take a child's side if the child is wrong. They have expectations and deliver appropriate discipline that helps the child become self-sufficient and respectful.

6. Good parents are not a child's friend. They are mentors, guides and teachers about life.

7. Good parents let a child know that although they don't always love their actions, they still love them. They are a soft place to fall when life gets rough and can support their children in making better choices and turning their lives around.

8. Good parents make mistakes. Then they own up to those mistakes with anyone they've hurt and they learn from them.

9. Good parents have a spiritual life and model it in how they treat others and the legacy they leave behind after a lifetime of bumps, mumps, achievements and bereavements. In the end, good parents feel confident that they've done the best they could with no manual, no experience and no single definition of success.

10. Good parents are messy, moody and human. And their kids love them anyway.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Visit Parenting Examiner Minneapolis

Minneapolis has a new resource for parents. It's called Examiner.com. It's a new community of local citizens who are blogging and writing articles on a number of topics, including parenting and child care.

I became one of the parenting examiners for Minneapolis last month and have posted a couple articles already. Check them out by clicking on the title of this post. Keep in mind that I also answer parenting questions at ParentalWisdom.com.

This social networking thing is really fun for writers like myself to share ideas and network with other parenting experts and professionals. I just joined Facebook a month ago and linked this blog to my profile page. I have not, however, decided to post photos of my children yet. I have also noticed that some people do not post photos of themselves, but instead use cartoons called "avatars" to represent themselves.

This is something to consider. While we are concerned about losing our connections to others, there is also a matter of family privacy. How much do we really want to invite the whole world into our living rooms? Do we really want to be famous...or infamous?

There are security features on these sites that allow you to pick and choose who sees certain information that you post. Learn how to use these features. More importantly, assume that anything you write may be viewed by your second grade teacher, pastor, next door neighbor, mother or the milk man. It's a small world, even online.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Stop Touching Me!!

Siblings. They are your first test in learning how to get along with others. I recently had a question from a parent about how to get her son to stop touching his brothers inappropriately. I suspected that he was doing it to get their attention as well as his mother's attention. Kids learn to get attention in lots of ways, some of them we would consider bad ways. To them, it's just about getting attention.

You can still see bad attention-getting behavior in adults who haven't learned to get attention any other way. They talk loudly. They shove people. They make off-color jokes.

Best to help your child learn appropriate ways of getting attention so he doesn't become that annoying co-worker, embarrassing spouse or friendless practical jokester.

When the behavior happens, call your child and his siblings over and tell them that their behavior is inappropriate. Then ask them to apologize and tell each other one thing they like about the others. You as the parent can offer a compliment to each of them. Do this in a calm and cheerful way so they witness your positive attention for their good behavior.

If the sibling rivalry is particularly intense, you will probably have to repeat this game several times over a week or so. Stop the action. State your expectations for behavior and play the compliment game. If a child refuses to play or makes fun of the idea, send that child for some quiet time until he can come up with some nice things about his siblings. He may just need some time to settle down after the horsing around.

Talk to your kids about personal space. Make a game of it by giving examples of invading personal space and then how each should respond. Talk about using manners like please and thank you, respecting the toys and personal space in bedrooms of each sibling. Even if siblings share a room, they can each have a personal area that is just theirs.

In order to relate well to others, we also need private time for ourselves. Create that space in your home. This is important for parents, too!

What you may find is that your children will ask to play the compliment game or volunteer compliments when they realize that someone has been upset by their behavior. It will become a great ritual for bringing everyone together and showing mutual respect and love. They can offer compliments to you, too.

How have you helped to improve relationships between your children? How do you give them positive attention?