Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How I Got My Kids To Listen

When I call my kids names I am met with silence. My voice no longer makes their ears turn on, in fact it might do the complete opposite! They don’t hear me over the TV show or playing or reading books. My voice has lost some power.

Their lack of response makes me unsure if my directions are going to be followed. Often, they leave the room so I have a false sense of certainty that they are following directions. When they return thirty seconds later it becomes obvious they heard the noise of my voice but not the words.

It’s time to take the power back!

We need to get their attention before we start giving them tasks. We need to allow them to stop what they are doing so they can listen. Kids don’t multitask, they cannot think or play and take in extra information. Parents cannot remain patient and kind when completely ignored.

I am always surprised when visiting my kids classrooms at how the teachers keep things quiet and calm. How they aren’t yelling over the volume of the kids and how the kids turn their heads and listen.

In an interview with The New York Times, Robert Abramson, director of the Dalcroze Institute in Manhattan, says, ''When children can't stop talking, teachers wind up screaming. You make a game of it, so children have to listen, move, balance, watch…combining established rhythm and movement techniques…help students learn to pay attention”.

So, I began to use a simple technique heard in many schools, a rhythmic clap that my kids have to repeat. This is acknowledgement that they know I am asking for their attention. It is an audible signal to stop what they are doing. It is clear and direct. It doesn’t make me want to scream and yell in frustration!

Kids like to move. Have you noticed how quickly they can memorize things, sing songs and learn short simple tasks? This easy action of clapping is developmentally appropriate. Expecting them to pause the TV show or put down the toy when I start talking is always going to leave me frustrated. It is unrealistic to think they will learn to do that without a few beginning steps.

Clapping has become a training step in showing respect, responding in a timely manner, obedience, and how to listen for cues. It has created a habitual response that keeps their brain engaged.

What was unexpected was how it gave our kids independence and confidence to get our attention in a less demanding way! Do you ever tire of hearing your kids yell for you across the house? Worse, from the bathroom? One way we helped our children learn to respond to us quickly was by letting them use the clapping technique to call for us. When we would come to them and praise them for not yelling our names across the house a new language was created between us. A language that allowed us to hear each other and communicate clearly, to give each other the attention deserved!

**This Post originally was published on

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Becoming a Resilient Mom: A Way Out of Overwhelm & Discouragement

My husband climbs into bed at night having to dust the fruit loop crumbs off the sheets. He doesn’t like it. I wipe them out of my side knowing why they were there---it was easier.

Easier to not say “no”
Easier to not fight with kids about where we eat food and where we don’t
Easier to go to the bathroom alone and let them do what they want.
Easier to not engage.

But, I keep questioning, “Is my husband right?” I don’t like crumbs in the bed either. I often ignore what I like and give in to make it feel easy. I confuse resilience, the ability to withstand or recover quickly from a difficult situation, with being laid back. I think I am withstanding the toddler years because I am not entering the battle with them over e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g they do. I think I recover quickly because a Diet Coke or a cookie later and my mood has changed.

Looking back on those years with three little ones, four-years-old and under I actually think it was survival. That is how we ignore self-care and how we grow numb. We stop caring. We aren’t enduring or withstanding difficult things, we are hiding from them! I started to become resilient when I decided to start caring again. When I saw how much the numbness was stealing from me. It allowed me to not be so bothered but it also confined me to not feeling joy.

I think it happened slowly for me, this awakening to all I had let die in my heart. I pushed away hurt feelings, I pretended like a good mom who wouldn’t let their toddler’s yelling tantrums hurt their feelings. I didn’t ask my husband for help because I wanted to be a good wife and a mom other moms envied and I was deceived in thinking that meant I did everything. I believed a lie that I shouldn’t need to recover from difficult situations because I shouldn’t think motherhood is difficult. This should be easy for ME.

There is a lyric in a Kenny Chesney song, The Woman with You that says, “Been juggling, struggling, closing big deals. Dancing backwards in high heels.” I felt that like when I worked full-time before kids. I could manage 100+ people and big budgets and multitask and thrived under stress. So, this mom thing, why was it getting the better of me?

I reacted to the hurt feelings when I would yell back at my kids. When they asked me “for one more thing” during bedtime, I said those white lie words “after I do the dishes I will bring it to you” knowing full well they would be asleep and I wouldn’t have to go back in their room. I also knew that because I didn’t say “no” I wouldn’t have to deal with their dislike of my answer.  I wasn’t being honest with them because I wasn’t being honest with myself.

If we are not aware of how we feel or react in a situation we will easily be defeated by it. Motherhood can blow us around like a plastic Kroger bag in the parking lot beating us against buildings and hooking us onto tree limbs, leaving us dangling for someone to rescue us.

Honesty is where resilience begins; when we become aware of this challenge called motherhood and are confident enough to admit we can’t do it all with a smile on our face.

When I began to teach my kids that I needed a quiet time too, that I couldn’t do all the chores without help, and that their tone of voice hurt my feelings I learned and taught my family who I was. They don’t just need a mom, they need me. “Me” is different from the other moms and that is what I was hiding from them. I was hiding it from myself too, believing that all those comparisons to friends revealed my failings. The release from my expectations or assumed expectations of others prompted honesty, vulnerability and freedom which gave me the opportunity to withstand the difficult situations because I could admit they were just that and no one was asking me to be perfect or unaffected, just to not run and hide.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Free Forgiveness

We desire forgiveness, we desire to be known, to be loved for who we are. To have the freedom to eat ice cream in our swim suits with our wide thighs and bellies and a huge smile and not be judged. We long to have the acceptance of inviting someone over for dinner and it be leftovers. We want people that we can call on the phone sobbing hysterically and their response be, “I’m on my way over”. But, we hide. We strive for perfection and efficiency. We cry in our pillows silently. We clean the house before guests arrive not in an effort to show hospitality but to reveal: how great a housekeeper we are, how efficiently we can care for our children, tidy our home and cook a great meal all at once. We put on masks that protect us from revealing our weakness. We change who we are around different people because we long to be worthy, approved of, loved and accepted.

   When we don’t reveal our shortcomings, when we hide our weakness, and cover up our failures we keep ourselves from feeling true love. We lie to the outside world because being honest is vulnerable and risks getting hurt. But this armor we wear makes those lies more believable not only to the onlookers but to us. We start to believe we aren’t worthy and we aren’t enough. And so, we put on another layer of armor to protect our hearts. And after a while, some of us get very good at the cover-up.  And then, a new lie materializes as the world tells us we are amazing and we don’t have to prove ourselves. But, that isn’t the complete truth either. Whichever lie we believe, that “you aren’t enough” or that “you are the greatest thing this world needs,”  we miss out on the grace God freely, abundantly gives to accept our failings. We don’t have to hide them, we don’t have to creatively explain them. Ephesians 1:7 says “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.” (NIV)

   We turn our backs to that truth and believe the lie that if He knew us He wouldn’t give the gift. But, that is just it…He does know us and He already gave it! He chose to give us the gift not because of our perfection but because of His, because of Jesus’ perfect work on the cross declaring “it is finished”. Redemption is the act of clearing a debt. See? He already knows your sin exists. He knows what will happen tomorrow and He has already cancelled that debt too. Before we were selfish, judgemental, controlling, liars, indulgers, He died for us! We put a lot of effort into what people see, into “being good”, loving people well, showing patience, loving sacrificially. We should, but we should do those things in complete freedom to fail. We should do those things because Christ did it for us and His grace and love is so life-giving it pours out of us!

   King David writes in Psalm 23 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” David, who was an adulterer and murderer, who ignored God’s laws for years and chose His own way, saw at the end of his life the majesty and beauty of God’s power and forgiveness. God richly blessed David, His favor rested on Him despite his lies, despite his taking control, despite his lust. David’s cup overflowed not because he won wars, had rooms full of gold, people under him to rule or beautiful places to live. His cup overflowed because in the midst of his enemies and his own sin God rescued him. This is redemption, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6,8 ESV).

   This is perhaps the hardest gospel truth to believe and yet it is the most important, the most critical to our faith. We hear it and long for it to be true but Satan whispers that it is true for everyone but us. We think we are below it, lacking too much to ever reach His love. Sometimes what we believe in church or bible study or at our friend’s kitchen table we forget alone in our bedroom. The chaos of our house, the whining of our children, the urgency of work all vie for our attention. Satan uses these things to berate us with the lies that we can’t measure up, we can’t control, and we can’t perform. He distracts us from the beauty of the Gospel, from the reality of redemption by speaking truth. Satan is right! We cannot gain control of our emotions or our children, we cannot perform at work, home and family.  Just as all good liars do, He makes it sound so right. He says just enough to hook us and then stops before hope of being rescued is revealed. Just as he did in the garden of Eden he whispers “Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1 NIV). He questions us, confuses us and argues against us until we are confused. But the Gospel offers hope and in the daily routines and relationships of our lives. It redeems our thoughts and our fears. It brings life where we should have death. Redemption is victory over a hopeless situation. Without Jesus the hope is that we can muster the patience, courage or strength to not give up, that we can work hard enough and long enough to prove we are loveable, special, worthy.

   If we were worthy God’s grace wouldn’t be lavish. If we earned it forgiveness wouldn’t come from His riches, redemption wouldn’t come from sacrifice. Have you ever had anyone lavish something on you? Maybe there is a specific birthday you remember, or your engagement or a friend who cheered you up from something with all your favorite things. My best friend once went to dinner with her husband and couldn’t decide which entrĂ©e she wanted so he ordered both! I have been to dinner with this same couple and they ordered every dessert on the menu. It was extravagant and celebratory! This is how God loves us…lavishly, extravagantly, abundantly. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t give you forgiveness in doses as you need it, because, you need it lavishly all the time!

   He doesn’t require you come running to Him begging for it. He “is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV). You don’t have to do good on your own strength. You do not have to perfectly and intentionally love your children at every waking moment, you do not have to serve your husband with kindness every time he gets off work, you do not have to control your anger or resentment over that lost promotion or grieve without hope over your lost child or failed marriage. The ability to do any of that doesn’t come from your nature it comes from His!

   He desires our childlike faith to come running up to His wide open arms knowing just as my children know that I will always forgive them. They can hit me, scream at me, fight me and complain over everything I tell them to do, and although I will be heartbroken, I will never turn my back on them because they are mine. “…you are His people, His treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 26:18 NIV). Something He desires, He loves, and someone He will fight to be with. He will forgive your silent judgement, your secret cravings, your performance, your mask of perfection, your struggle for control when you confess your failures. Not when you change your ways, not when you prove you are sorry, but when you run to Him alone. For grace is free, unearned blessing and “…if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:2,5).

   So run to the Father who created you. He didn’t rescue you because you were so creative, beautiful, efficient and patient that He couldn’t stand to be without you. He came and got you back from Satan because His love is abundant. So ask for His forgiveness, knowing that when you do you are worshipping God for His lavish love that you didn’t earn but have already been given!

How I Got My Kids To Listen

When I call my kids names I am met with silence. My voice no longer makes their ears turn on, in fact it might do the complete opposite! Th...