Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Just Say “No”

             I have been there…that place where you say ‘yes’ to everything because you are trying to just survive. You are trying to just survive through breakfast, just survive until naptime, just survive until daddy gets home. I have been there, in that place where staying home all day with kids felt impossible, insurmountable. It felt so hard you couldn’t get out of bed or you did, but you never took off your pajamas. I have been in survivable mode where we turned on a show after each hour because it was a celebration of them eating breakfast, me sweeping one floor or I just needed to nurse the baby without the two-year-old eating the dog food. I didn’t say “no” other than in response to “Can I run through the parking lot?”

            I tried to say “no.” I said “maybe”, I said “not right now”, I said, “I will think about it”. But, those answers were never clear and they just produced children who were still very hopeful that mommy would say “yes” if they kept asking; and she usually did.

            My son recently began asking, “Can I watch a show? Just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” I quickly realized he was shutting up all my excuses and reasons. So, I just said “no”. I didn’t give him the whys and whens. He walked away with little reaction and found something else to do! Was this real?

            With the opportunity of screen time removed his imagination is free to come up with other ideas. I have found my kids playing UNO while I cook breakfast, I have heard them playing farm animals while I do the dishes, I have sat down and read (only two pages) while they played trains, I have had the trash taken out and the silverware unloaded from the dishwasher. Tonight, I watched as all three of my kids played Lego together and then my jaw hit the dirty floor I was sweeping when I heard, “May I have that blue Lego please?” “No, I am using it.” Silence…not screaming…not someone taking what they wanted…Silence!

My kids were not taking things out of each other’s hands…shock!
My kids were building their grandfather’s boat out of Lego and putting their family members aboard…hurray!
My kids were working out conflict without me…gasp!
My kids were not watching TV and I was still happy…thankful!

We all need breaks. We need to catch our breath, fold a load of laundry or cry in the kitchen or take a shower! But, so often I allowed screen time because I couldn’t face the tantrums of rejecting their desires. I said “yes” because I was afraid of being overwhelmed, yelled at or exhausted. It was a fear I needed to face.

            I needed to say “no” so that I could find enjoyment in playing with my children. I needed to say it so that I believed I was in control and not that I was run over by my kids all day. I needed to feel powerful by overcoming and surviving the fits that used to happen every time I said denied their request or turned off the TV. I needed to say “no” for me just as much as for them.
            They needed me to remove the possibility. When I did, when I do, they find ways to be creative and inventive. And, yes, sometimes, they find ways to get into trouble which just gives me more practicing at saying this awful and powerful word.

            Saying “no” gave them an opportunity to practice playing together. It gave them time to have a conflict and work it out without me silencing the screaming with tablet time in their own room to get them off each other. I always expected that they would play with each other because they are siblings. That they would know how to resolve conflict because I explain it often or that they would create and invent because there are kids with big imaginations. But, without the time and freedom and removal of other options they will always gravitate towards TV, video games and their tablets. I would too! Sharing our stuff isn’t a natural response, working out a disagreement takes self-control and nothing amazing was ever created without thought in ten minutes.

            So, we work together to find good uses of their time. I give them ideas of ways to play or work they can help me with. I turn off my Ipad while I cook dinner and listen to them play and I find that in trying to say “no” more often, I am actually saying, “yes” to so many more things we didn’t know we wanted!

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

Hope for Feeling Overwhelmed & Discouraged

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.

Just Say “No”

             I have been there…that place where you say ‘yes’ to everything because you are trying to just survive. You are trying t...