Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Grumpy As a Family

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Such a Grumpy Family

Is your family grumpy too much?

Today Liz Millay from Simple Life Messy Life joins us to give us 10 ways to stop feeling like a grumpy family–and start feeling like a happy family again, even in the midst of school!

School has begun once again and whether your kids are hopping on the big yellow bus or sitting down for math lessons at the kitchen table, one thing is for sure – gone are the lazy days of summer. Life is about to get busy!

I know for our family, when our schedules are full and we aren’t able to spend as much time together, we start to feel disconnected. We are more liable to get cranky at each other and we start to feel just plain “off.”

So, how do you stay connected as a family when your days are filled with activities taking you every which way?

If you don’t want to be a grumpy family, you have to be intentional.

Don’t get me wrong, being intentional about connecting as a family isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated either!

Here are ten simple ways to stay connected as a family. Don’t go crazy trying to do all ten (that wouldn’t be very simple after all!), but pick a few and find what works for you!

1. Have at least one night a week where everyone is home

Especially as your kids get older, it is really easy to have somewhere to be every night of the week. And while some seasons of life will be busier than others by necessity, try to keep at least one night a week where everyone is home together.

On these nights the pace of life can slow down a little. Family members can play, talk, and just spend time together unhurried. These times of rest are so important.

2. Cook a meal together

One of the simplest ways to find time to connect as a family is to combine it with something you already have to do anyway. Since you have to eat, why not have a night when the family makes dinner together?

You could try spitting the meal responsibilities (boys make the main dish, girls make the sides), do a little Chopped Challenge, or tackle a new recipe together. Even the littlest helpers can get involved!

3. Eat dinner around the table

Even if you aren’t able to cook the meal together, there are so many benefits to eating together! You can read more about the benefits of the family dinner table here, but just some of them are: less tension in the house, more talking among family members, and healthier eating all around.

For extra fun or a special evening, put out a table cloth and light a candle (even if you’re just eating pizza!). Put away the phones and make dinnertime a relaxing part of the evening.

4. Turn off the electronics

Speaking of putting away your phones, try putting some limits on all electronic devices. The TV, phone, iPad – being connected to them makes it really hard to be connected to each other!

This past year for Lent, one of the things we decided to do was to not turn the TV on until after our son went to bed. It was such a simple thing, but you wouldn’t imagine the different it made in the atmosphere of our family. You can read more about our experience here.

5. Go for a walk 

Another thing we did along with our no TV rule was to go for a walk almost every evening. Now, you might not be able to go for a family walk every evening, but I highly recommend doing it when you can!

It could be as simple as a quick walk around the block or a bigger adventure such as going on a hike at a nearby trail. Either way, there is something about the fresh air and getting your blood pumping that puts everyone in a good mood. Getting out of the house and away from distractions is also a great time to chat and catch up on life.

6. Play a game

Another fun way to spend some time together as a family is to play a game. This could be a card or board game (we like to play Uno with our three year old!) or something more active like shooting baskets or playing catch. You could even play video games together if that’s more your style! It doesn’t matter as much what the activity is, but that you are doing it side-by-side, connecting with each other and building memories.

7. Exercise together 

Getting in some exercise is something that most people have on their to-do list. One way to increase the odds of it actually happening (and have more fun doing it) is to get the whole family to join in!

My husband and I have been trying to do a short yoga video every night and often our three year old son joins in. It makes it a little more crazy – but also a lot more fun! Plus, he gets to see us exercising and we get to build a healthy habit as a family.

8. Sneak in some end of the night pillow talk

Pillow talk isn’t just for husbands and wives! That quiet moment, with a dim room all snuggled in bed is a great time to connect with your kids. Ask them about their favorite part of the day, read a book, or just get in some extra hugs and kisses.

9. Family devotional 

Sometimes it is easy to think of physical, social, and mental ways to connect, but forget that it is important to connect on a spiritual level too. A family devotional time doesn’t have to be complicated either. You can pair it with dinner or sneak it in at bed time, or even do it at breakfast if you are one of those crazy morning people!

If you need some ideas for family devotions try reading through a book of the Bible (or a story Bible for the little ones) and signing a favorite worship song. There are also lots of great devotional books out there to choose from!

If you have toddlers, try checking out my Play Through The Bible series!

10. Pray 

This goes along with having a family devotional time, but it is so important that I thought it deserved its own separate point! Definitely include prayer both during your devotional time and throughout your day as a family. But, even on top of that, don’t forget to pray for your family.

Pray for your family members individually, and also pray for your family as a whole. Pray for relationships among each other, for your marriage, for siblings, and for the love of Christ to shine in through your family.

Looking for more simple and fun ideas of activities to do together as a family? I have a FREE gift for you! Click here to get family fun cards – 36 printable cards with simple activities for you to do on family night or anytime! 

lizLiz is a twenty-something wife, mother, and jack-of-all-trades. When she’s not looking for ways to teach God’s truth to her three year old you’ll find her reading, cooking, writing, or enjoying the outdoors. Liz Blogs about faith, family, and life’s adventures at Simple Life. Messy Life.

Top 10 Reasons Women Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and a Mom

Taken for Granted Moms: Why you sometimes feel more like a maid than a wife and a mom--and what you can do about it.

Ever feel taken for granted? Most moms and wives do at some point.

To Love, Honor and VacuumAnd that’s why I wrote To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the book). I wanted to help moms who feel unappreciated rethink how they do family so that instead of feeling like a maid, she can feel like part of a healthy family unit that’s all working towards the same goal. And a revised and expanded To Love, Honor and Vacuum is being launched this week!

On that vein, I thought I’d share the top 10 things that we wives and moms do that we think are helping, when really they can actually make our family situation worse. Be sure to read through to #10, because that’s the most important one–and it’s the root cause of all the other ones.

I asked on my Facebook Page last night, “when do you feel most like a maid instead of a mom?”, and many of these 10 things were mentioned! Now, of course, you could answer that question with “when my husband ignores me” or “when my husband sits on the couch all night and does absolutely nothing”, but I think it’s more helpful to give women strategies they can use to actually change things. We can’t change someone else; we can only change ourselves. So whether you’re a stay at home mom or a working mom, let’s look at the things that we women do to undermine ourselves, here on Top 10 Tuesday:

1. Doing all the housework yourself

One woman on Facebook says that she feels most like a maid when she’s doing the dishes–for the fifth time that day. I totally get it! Housework is exhausting. It’s never ending, it’s tedious, and no one really says thank you. So why are you doing it all yourself?

You cannot keep a perfect home and raise kids who are active and engaged all at the same time. Something’s gotta give. And one of the best ways to help you not feel like a maid is to make sure that from a very young age kids are doing chores, too. Tie the chores to an allowance when they’re young. If it’s a struggle with teens, change the password on the wifi everyday, and don’t give it out until they’ve completed their chores. Require your kids to work.

A 3-year-old can dust a coffee table and can clean the bottom kitchen cabinets. A 5-year-old often LOVES cleaning toilets with that toilet brush thingy. An 8-year-old can clean a bathroom well and can certainly do the dishes. So don’t do it all  yourself.

Teach your kids to do chores! Click through to learn why.

Here’s an article on age appropriate chores for kids.

2. Not asking your husband for help

Many men do very little housework if they work outside the home and you stay at home. My husband always worked long hours, and when he got home, I didn’t want him doing dishes. I wanted us spending time together as a family. So I didn’t ask him to do housework (though he always picked up his clothes and took care of his own messes). But if you both work outside the home, you’re definitely going to need some help. Even if you do stay at home, you still will need help with the childcare (and men need to spend time with their kids) and you’ll certainly need help on weekends.

But too many women don’t ask for help. They assume that the men should know what to do, and if they’re sitting playing a video game or if they’re goofing off, they’ve actually decided not to help you. That may not be the case. I asked on Facebook a while ago how many women had actually asked their husbands for help, and I received story after story of women saying, I stewed for ten years about how insensitive he was, and yet when I finally asked him to do the dishes after dinner, he did them no problem. He just never knew I needed help!

Try asking. It doesn’t always get you the results you need, but don’t be resentful if you’ve never even asked. Men often think that because we have systems for things, we would find their help more of a pain than anything else. If you want help, don’t expect him to read your mind. Ask.

3. Allowing your children to treat you rudely

From an early age, make your children say “please” and “thank you”. If they talk back, discipline immediately. If they ask for anything rudely, they never, ever get it. Do not let them treat you with direspect.

When my oldest was five, another five-year-old once stayed with us for a week. That little girl whined all the time. It was her default setting–and I can’t stand whining. So I stopped giving her anything if she was whining. “Can I have some mi-i-i-lk?” she’d whine. And I would say, “when you can ask in a proper voice.” After three days she had stopped whining. I honestly don’t know how her parents stood it. It would have driven me beyond the bend if my kid talked like that all the time. Within a few seconds of her mom walking in the door, though, the whining had started again. Don’t ever reward whining or rude behaviour, or they’ll just keep doing it.

4. Picking up after everybody

Do you spend your life putting stray socks in the hamper and picking up toys? That’s exhausting–and can easily fuel resentment.

But people will keep leaving stuff everywhere if you keep picking it up.

If your ten-year-old comes in the house and drops his coat on the chair and his backpack–with his lunchbox inside–on the floor, and you pick those things up and clean out his lunchbox, you’ve taught him to treat you with disrespect. But not just that–you’ve also taught him to ignore the mess he’s making, so that he likely doesn’t even realize that he’s inconveniencing you.

Don’t pick up people’s stuff. Require them to pick it up–and have consequences if they don’t. For husbands, have a corner of the bedroom/house where you can put stray items if they drive you nuts, so that they can be his responsibility again.

Here’s an article I wrote on how to get kids to pick up their stuff!

5. Rescuing everybody

You’re running late, you’ve got to get to work, and you get a text that your 13-year-old forgot his lunch at home. So you drive back to get the lunch and drop it off, making yourself even more frazzled. Or  you mentioned to your husband that he really needed to send that birthday card to his mom, and he didn’t, and you notice it on the counter the morning after it should have been sent, so you run to the post office and send it express. You had to squeeze it in between appointments, but you did it–and you were only mildly late for the kids’ piano lessons.

Do you rescue everybody? There’s no problem with doing it occasionally, out of love. But if family members start assuming you’ll rescue them, they also stop taking responsibility or even making an effort. They’ve taken you for granted. That’s going to make you feel like a maid, too.

6. Overscheduling yourself and your family

If you’re busy and exhausted, you’ll feel like a maid. If your life is spent chauffeuring everybody, but rarely in the things that feed our souls, like down time with those we love, we’ll go through life with this chronic malaise like something’s wrong.

Beware of overscheduling your family.

Here’s an article on the time crunch with extra-curricular activities

7. Being disorganized

Are you the kind of laid back person who goes along life just fine for about five days, letting the messes get worse and worse, but having fun with your kids, until you finally realize OH MY GOODNESS THIS PLACE IS A PIGSTY and you go ballistic? And then you feel like you need to spend twelve hours in a row cleaning?

Sometimes the best way to feel less like a maid is to get a little more organized, so these crises don’t happen!

8. Asking your children to do things instead of expecting it and following through

When you ask your kids something, do you make it a firm command? Or are you wishy washy?

Compare this:

Johnny, it’s getting to be time to clean up your toys, okay? It’s almost time for dinner.

To this:

Johnny, start cleaning up your toys now. You have five minutes before we eat, and I’m setting the timer now.

In the first case, you haven’t actually asked Johnny to do anything. You’ve just made a statement about the time. You may feel like you’ve asked him, but you haven’t. And so he’s unlikely to listen and do anything, and you’re likely to get your blood pressure boiling! If you want them to do something, make it very clear. Ask firmly. Set a deadline. Expect follow-through.

9. Eating in a rush–and not at the dinner table

You’ve spent an hour making a great meal, but everybody sits at the table, rushing through it, with their phones on. Or else someone grabs it and heads to their room. Perhaps you all sit at the table, but the kids are whiny and picky and don’t like it and the meal is over in five minutes.

Make dinner a family time. Keep conversation starters at the table. Ask trivia questions. Have everyone say their “high” and “low” for the day. Start some family traditions where you really connect and talk over dinner. It’s an important family time–don’t waste it.

Here are some tips on getting picky eaters to eat!

10. Thinking that the goal is to make your family happy

Finally, here’s the most important one: You think that your job is to make sure your kids and your husband are happy. In fact, that’s likely why you do each of the nine things already mentioned. You want them to enjoy life. You want them to smile. You want to avoid unpleasantness. But in doing this, you’re likely inadvertently causing your own unhappiness, because you’ll feel taken for granted. But even more importantly, you’re missing the point.

To Love, Honor and VacuumGod’s priority is not that your kids are happy; it’s that they look like Jesus. And He wants that for you and your husband, too. If you set up your family in such a way that you’re enabling selfishness, laziness, and ingratitude, you’ll be miserable because you’ll always feel put upon, taken for granted, and like something’s off kilter. But the rest of the family will also not learn what it is to look like Christ.

That’s what To Love, Honor and Vacuum is about–it’s to change our perspective so that in everything we do, whether it’s housework or childcare or paid work or even how we do marriage, we’re encouraging Christlike behaviour from ourselves and those around us, rather than encouraging people to take us for granted. It’s amazing how the way that we do the little things in our home, like chores and dinner and school, can have such spiritual ramifications.

So be careful that happiness doesn’t become your goal. If it does, you’ll almost guarantee that everybody will be miserable. Raise a family to be responsible, though, and you’ll likely find that peace and joy you really want.

If this is resonating with you, pick up To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

Now tell me: when do you feel most taken for granted? What have you tried to do about it? Let me know in the comments!


10 Ways to Stay Close as a Family

For Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, Dayna Bickham shares some great tips to stay close as a family.  It’s never too late or too far gone to build relationships–or rebuild them even! Here’s Dayna…

10 ways to stay close as a family
My family was not always close. It was an “us versus them” universe: a cosmic battle between parents and kids. I was a young mom who made lots of mistakes along the way. I thought that meant I would be stuck raising the products of that bad parenting for years to come. But there was hope.

Slowly we made changes that grew us closer as a family, gave my kids room to develop into productive teens, and relieved a mountain of stress from off of our shoulders as parents. Here are ten suggestions to make your family closer. They are all inexpensive and (fairly) easy to do.

1. Take an honest survey.

Ask your kid how you are doing. Make sure you ask both open ended and yes or no questions. Be prepared for whatever they may say in response. For example, I ask my kids things like this: “How do you know Mom/Dad loves you?” or “Can you name a time when I gave you good advice?” or “Am I a good listener?” followed by, “How can I be a better listener?” These are just suggestions, but kids will generally tell you what they need if you know how to first ask and then listen. Don’t bombard them with twenty questions all at once. Make these casual moments. Just listen closely for the answer.

2. Stop parenting from the couch.

I used to sit on the couch giving instructions to my kids from there as if it was a throne and my house was a fiefdom. I established my territory and soon my kids just stayed away altogether. They found their own sanctuaries – their rooms, a friend’s house, or in front of a computer. There was disconnectedness between us. When they weren’t showing up when I bellowed from the couch I started parenting via text. “Cln ur Rm” equaled clean your room and “DYH” meant do your homework. I realize that there are times when communication must come in other forms than face to face, but limit these as much as you can. Once I began entering their space and taking the time to “find” them in the other room our relationship began to grow closer. They also stopped yelling from the other room for me (wonder where they got that?) and that was a pleasant consequence I could live with.

3. Date your kids.

Each child has special interests, hobbies, and quirks. Spend time with each one doing something meaningful to them. Is one kid a science geek? Then go to the Natural History Museum. Is one an artist? Take her to a gallery opening. Does one live, eat, and breathe hockey? Go to a sports shop and check out the latest gear or go watch a local team practice. Not every “date” has to be super expensive or extravagant. Sometimes a trip to the local drive in and an ice cream cone are enough. Taking the time to spend time with them speaks volumes.

4. Eat as a family.

I know everyone has busy schedules. Practices, study dates, work, and other busy events pull at our time. But if we do not give priority to the things that matter then we end up with a life void of matter – otherwise known as emptiness. One meal a week. If the average family eats 3 times a day for seven days that is 21 meal times. Surely at least one of those times can be a coordinated effort to sit around a table together eating at the same time. During Tuesday dinner, Saturday breakfast, or Sunday lunch find time to talk to each other about your day, your plans, projects, or current events. Make it less about the food and more about the togetherness of it all.

5. Have a pizza night.

This is different than eating as a family at a table because first, it can happen less often (once or twice a month makes it routine, but special enough to take time out for) and secondly you don’t have to cook. Win – win. Rent a movie, order the pizza, and just spend some time relaxing together as a family.

6. Create an activities bowl.

This is super easy to do and gives your family ideas for inexpensive (often free) activities. I’ve got a downloadable list of 30 activities to get you started right here! If you’d rather do it yourself, just write activity ideas that are budget friendly down on strips of paper, fold them over and toss them in a bowl. If you are a more scheduled and structured type of household you can pre-assign one activity a week together at the beginning of each month, or if you are more spontaneous you can draw one out every Saturday morning and do whatever it says to do. Some ideas are seasonal, so you can throw those to the side when they are out of season – you can’t go snow sledding in July. (Maybe you Canadians can, but here in Texas, snow is never really an option.)

7. Check in face-to-face once a day.

Face time may be a new feature on your latest gadget, but it isn’t anything new. We all need to know we are seen and feel like we are being heard. Seeing each other face-to-face is one way we do that. If we are constantly ships passing in the proverbial night, then soon our lives become independent from one another and we drift farther apart. This is all about growing closer. So take the time to see your loved one’s face every day.

8. Figure out your kid’s love language.

Love languages are the way we hear or receive love in our lives. Some feel more loved when they are held, some when they are given gifts and others when you wash and fold their socks. There are 5 love languages altogether. This is a concept written by Dr. Gary Chapman and the wisdom in this approach to communication has borne out in my life over and over. You and your kids can take a test here.

9. Hug once a day for eight seconds.

This can be a part of your face time, but I highly recommend it. We hold the things we value close. We wear our favorite earrings, we feel at home in our favorite sweater, and we cozy under our favorite blanket when we feel under the weather. Holding these things makes us feel better. Apply that logic to your kids. Mom’s arms are special. They are where we feel the most loved. Dad’s arms are special too. They are where we feel safe. Our body language changes when we are hugged. We bond when we hug. We relax when we hug. You may not be a touchy-feely person, but every human needs physical touch to thrive. So hug your kids every day.

10. Stop yelling at one another.

I left this for last on purpose. The volume with which we communicate is as important, if not more important, than what we have to say. “I love you” is hard to believe if the rest of the communication you have is several decibels higher than average. I do not care how many times you say it. I used to yell (mostly from the couch) at my kids all the time. We fought constantly. They thought I was a nag and I felt like no one listened to me. There was no easy way to stop yelling. I just had to stop. At first I still wanted to, so I stage whispered through my teeth. My kids say when I did this for the first time it was one of the scariest moments of their lives. We laugh about it today. But it made them have to strain to hear me. Over time I lost the scary talk-through-the-teeth-like-a-crazy-woman look and the volume came down on a regular basis. The kids noticed. It took a few months of consistent effort, but it did work. We are better for it and have grown closer because of it.

You may or may not use all ten of these suggestions, but even small stones thrown into the water eventually make big ripples. You may think of some suggestions I might have missed. So tell me about what does and doesn’t work for your family? Leave your comments below.

Don’t forget to download my Family Activities Ideas!

Dayna BickhamDayna is a writer and speaker. She is also a wife, mother, and part-time missionary. She loves great music, food, and laughing. Above all she loves laughing. Dayna blogs at During the summers she leads mission trips around the world. Her passion is teaching people to hear the Lord for themselves and to pursue whatever He says with their whole heart. You can friend her on Facebook and Twitter. Dayna is the author of Chosen for Purpose: Overcoming Giants and Living Your Dreams, available at online retailers everywhere.

Reader Question: How do I Bring God Naturally into Parenting?

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I want to tackle bringing God into parenting naturally, because I’ve had quite a few questions like this:

You always talk about keeping the lines of communication open with your kids if you want them to grow up and make good decisions. But I don’t want it to sound forced! And I don’t know how to mention God without sounding preachy. How do I make it natural?

We want to raise our kids to love God, but it can certainly seem awkward. And all too often we get scared that if we “push” it too hard, then our kids will naturally rebel.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Certainly if you push it, that can backfire, but if God is already a natural part of your life, then kids tend to see that and naturally gravitate to it.

As my daughter liked to say in her post about why she didn’t rebel, stress relationship, not rules. Christianity is about relationship, and when kids have that with you, and see you having that with God, it’s only natural that would spill over into your parenting.

Bring God into Parenting

1. God has to be a natural part of your life.

You can’t just “naturally” talk about God if you don’t actually know Him. If you’re feeling nervous, and you don’t know what to say, and you don’t want to sound stupid, and you’re wondering if your kids will even listen to you, then I’d suggest taking a month or so and really trying to get closer to God. Snatch moments through the day for your devotions if you have to. Join a Bible study that meets weekly and start praying out loud there–force yourself! I know it’s awkward, but the more we can do these things, the less awkward it gets. Things are awkward when they’re new. When they’re not as new, it’s a lot easier.

So if you’re feeling awkward, it may be a sign not that your parenting is off but that you need to spend more time with God first!

2. Take time to talk

Dr. Laura once said that “quality time grows out of quantity time”, and I totally believe that. You can’t expect to have deep conversations with kids if you don’t actually get much time with them. So limit your extracurricular activities (I can’t stress enough how important this is!). Have technology free times, like over the dinner hour, when you can talk. Try to eat dinner as a family, rather than scattering.

If you know you’re growing apart from one of your kids, your instinct may be to grab hold hard. That often causes the child to withdraw. A better approach is simply to find more time when you aren’t busy when you can just be with your child–with no agenda. The best conversations come from times when you’re just hanging out.

3. Do things together

My youngest daughter and I get into the best talks when we go for walks together, which we try to do daily, especially now that the weather’s cooperating more. Getting outside is somehow calming, too. You can hear the birds, and see nature, and the computer and phone aren’t always beckoning.

Other people swear that their best conversations happen in the car. If that’s true for you, try to chauffeur kids to things one on one, if possible. Have your husband watch some kids and have some special time in the car with one child.

4. Own up to your mistakes

The best teaching times I’ve had with my girls are when I’ve messed up. When I haven’t been the best mom, and have lost my temper too quickly, or have let them down, that’s when I can really model God to them.

Take those opportunities to offer a heartfelt apology, and then model a prayer of confession when you remind your kids that you’ve also sinned against God. Ask for their forgiveness. When we’re open about the ways that we’ve messed up, it makes it easier for kids to see where they also mess up. And I honestly don’t think you can have a relationship with God unless you first see that you mess up. Without sin there’s no need for salvation. So let them see it, and let them see that confession isn’t weakness. It’s good to acknowledge our faults, and to do it quickly when we make mistakes.

5. Make use of great resources

The first four suggestions will give you more time to talk and will hopefully open the doors to communication because you’re spending more time with God and with the kids. But if you want to be really intentional, sometimes we still need some help!

Here are just a few resources that I love for this purpose exactly.

Learning to Speak lifeFruit of the Spirit: Learning to Speak Life

Many of us want to do “family devotions”, but we don’t know where to start.

And I have to admit–the vast majority of family devotionals I’ve found in Christian bookstores are, to put it simply, lame.

Learning to Speak Life isn’t. It’s wonderful! Each fruit of the spirit has a week to work through, and there are stories, role playing games, verses to memorize, family activities–even a big volunteer activity you can do as a family if you so choose.

It’s got thoughts for different ages, which is so important if you have kids spanning a wide age range in your family.

And it’s super easy to do. It doesn’t need a lot of set-up. You can just incorporate it into your dinner together. If more families did this, we’d be raising kids who were excited about God!

The Talks

The Talk(s)Preparing your kids to make good decisions when it comes to dating and the opposite sex has to start when they’re young. And it’s not about having “the talk” with your kids. It’s about having an ongoing dialogue–multiple “talks”–that help keep the lines of communication open so they know that they can ask you anything.

This is one of those big picture issues that lots of parents do badly. And one of the best resources I have found for teaching parents how to make this natural is Barrett Johnson’s book The Talks. It’s easy to read, filled with great stories, and tons of practical advice.

Get it as an ebook or as a paperback.

The 50 Best Bible Verses to Memorize

50 Best Bible Verses to MemorizeMemorizing Scripture is swiftly going out of fashion. It used to be that families would memorize together, as a key spiritual discipline. But we’ve not stressed memorization as much lately.

Children having a repertoire of key verses that they know, though, puts them in such good stead for the life ahead of them. I’ve written out my favorite 50 Bible verses to memorize. You can use that post as a resource, but I’ve also got a downloadable file you can purchase so you can print out all 50 verses, or you can buy them as a set. However you use it, try memorizing one verse a week with your family. That will give you 50 in a year, and it will make a tremendous difference!

I know sometimes bringing God into conversations can feel awkward, but take a deep breath and remember: I’m just sharing with my kids my own heart. I’m sharing something that’s important to me. If those things are true, then you’ll find it much easier to parent with God.

Now let me know: how do you bring God in to your parenting naturally? Leave a comment and tell us!

Teaching Kids to Cook: Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life SkillsI’m a big believer in teaching life skills to kids. I think too many moms do too much for their kids, which ultimately does them a disservice. When they move out they don’t know how to fend for themselves, but they also grow up feeling a little entitled, since little is expected of them.

When Jillian St. Clair asked if she could sponsor this post to share about her new resource, My Very Own Cookbook, I agreed, because cooking alongside my girls has been one of my most fun memories of their childhood!

I grew up with three sisters and a brother. The kitchen in our home was not very big, so not surprisingly we were not allowed to do much in it. When I got married I was not confident with my cooking skills even though I majored in Home Economics in high school.

My mother, aunt and grandmother cooked many delicious meals that I don’t know how to prepare. I don’t want the next generation to follow in my footsteps, so I’ve created My Very Own Cookbook for parents to share time with their children teaching them how to cook. It’s also a wonderful record of time shared with loving relatives who will help them become capable, self-confident adults.

There are many “grown-ups” who have no experience in preparing nutritious, healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Together, parents and young children can create memories of learning useful, cooking and management skills. Perhaps you were given many gifts/presents as a child but lack the training and confidence to care for a home, keep up with the laundry, and prepare delicious, healthy dishes or even how to set a table.

If You Didn’t Learn These Skills, It’s Not Your Fault!

None of these skills come naturally to any of us. We must count on others to help us learn them and this learning can begin as early as 4-years old.  My grandchildren are 10, 8 and 4. When we’ve enjoyed family vacations, we’ve prepared recipes together. Sadly, many children don’t get to spend much time with their parents. This is something they especially crave when they are young. Time passes quickly; if we’re not careful, we may miss the chance to make an important impact in our children’s lives.

When we don’t cook from scratch, too, we tend to eat out more. Not only is that far less nutritious and far more expensive, but it also means that you lose the potential to really bond as a family the way families used to do around the dining room table.

Beware of Technology Undermining the Dinner Hour

Often when we’ve eaten in a fast food restaurant I see parents texting instead of sharing conversations with their children. My concern is that this pattern will go too far and when these children are pre-teens or teenagers, they will no longer want to spend much time talking with or listening to their parents. Cooking and eating together creates opportunities to share important daily events in our lives. Studies show children who share meals with their parents make better decisions and earn higher grades.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to expose our kids to everything we can that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives. Good manners, respect for others, kindness, acceptance and patience are learned behaviors. Who else is best to teach these than the parents who love them?  Setting up this kind of relationship early will benefit both the children and their parents. Knowing your children can care for themselves is a huge blessing!

The Best Gift of All from Teaching Kids to Cook: Quality Time With Your Kids

Research shows that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day of quality time caring for their kids. Perhaps you have heard this scripture verse before:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

The Food Network has featured many young children taking an interest in preparing recipes and even full meals. This early training will be very valuable to them as they mature into adulthood.

My daughters were 7 and 10 when I became a single mom. I was a stay at home mom until that time and when going back to work, the girls pitched in and helped take care of the laundry, their rooms and the home we lived in. Today, they have careers and homes of their own. Thankfully, they spend a great deal more than 19 minutes a day with their children.

As parents, we can help our children become adults by teaching them many things they’ll need to know so they can care for themselves when they leave home. Most parents with grown children remember and cherish the special times they’ve spent with their children. Teaching children how to be independent and self-sufficient is a precious gift.

My Very Own Cookbook is a blank recipe journal encouraging children to share time with their parents and other loved ones. Filling in the details of a recipe being prepared with help from loved ones will be a cherished gift and record of special times spent together with loved ones and a timeless record for their future children to enjoy.

Want to start teaching your children to cook? Download Jillian’s FREE ebook: 15 Recipes You Can Make with Your Kids–and get started today!

10 Ways to Help Your Husband Stay Healthy

Help Your Husband Lose Weight

Today’s guest post is from personal trainer Jenni Kenyon.

Getting fit and staying healthy are often pushed to the wayside when life gets busy. It’s not unheard of for newlyweds to put on a few pounds or for couples to gain weight as they have kids and grow older. However, there’s no getting around the fact that maintaining a healthy weight is critical when it comes to preventing health issues later in life.

Top Ten TuesdayAlthough we don’t love our husbands for their bodies, there’s no shame in admitting that it’s nice when they take care of them. I’m sure that they would say the same about us wives! So here are ten tips to help motivate your significant other to start getting fit.

Remember our Top 10 Tuesday philosophy: We throw out a bunch of ideas, and from that smorgasbord you choose 1-3 to actually DO. Don’t try to do all at once; it won’t work. Pick the 1-3 ideas that resonate the most with you, and decide to embrace them wholeheartedly this week!

 1. Pray for him

 Obviously, Jesus can do much more to motivate your husband than you can. The power of prayer is much stronger than anything you can ever do or say.

 Pray that your husband will realize the importance of taking care of himself, that by staying fit he’ll be able to better care for his family and serve God’s kingdom. Intrinsic motivation like this lasts longer than the “I want to look good” type of motivation and is centered on pursuing a life he desires. God gave us one body to serve him through, so it’s important to care for it appropriately.

 2. Be an example

 If you are overweight as well, it does no good to order your husband to start working out while you sit back with the kids. If you’re trying to lose weight, be a good example to him. Show him that it isn’t that hard or depriving. Cook healthful meals, work out on a regular basis and form habits that last for the long term. Whatever you do, take care of your body. Weight loss from quick diets statistically doesn’t last because you don’t learn how to live a lifestyle at your new weight.

 Have a conversation with your husband about why you choose to be fit and healthy. Never tell him he’s fat, say that you are concerned about his health. Talk about what you can do or enjoy as a fit person. Be honest and open with him about your desire to lose weight and perhaps it’ll inspire him as well.

 3. Encourage him

 Even if your husband isn’t pursuing a healthful lifestyle right now, you should still encourage him every day in any matter. Make him feel like he’s the protector and man of the house. Tell him how much you appreciate what he does, who he is, and how happy you are God has matched you up together.

 It’s hard to motivate yourself to be fit or exercise if you are depressed or down. Boost his confidence when he comes home from work, make him feel good about himself and he’ll be much more likely to choose exercise instead of zoning out on the couch.

 4. Talk about the future

 It’s scary when your parents get old, especially if they didn’t take good care of themselves when they were younger. It’s probable that there’s someone with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension or some other type of ailment caused by excess weight in your family. There’s plenty of other diseases or conditions that could be relieved with exercise too, including osteoporosis, high cholesterol, or cancer.

 If you’re worried about following in the same footsteps as someone in your family, talk about it. Tell your husband that you exercise so you can play with your grandkids. Ask him if he wants to start getting healthier and listen to him, his reasons, and his experience. Your husband most likely had a lot of life before you came around, so perhaps you don’t know about his grueling wrestling practices as a kid or other bad experiences with working out.

 5. Schedule a checkup

 How long has it been since he’s been to the doctor? Getting a blood workup and a physical isn’t a bad idea if it’s been a while. In fact, some doctors recommend it every year. If your husband is as stubborn as mine, you’ll know that he may not listen to you, but a doctor can be hard to ignore.

 6. Find a hobby together

 Did you and your husband have an active hobby together before the kids came along? Perhaps you should try to resurrect it! Finding time can be hard, so volunteer to trade off babysitting with a friend once a week so you and your husband can get back to salsa dancing, hiking, or golfing together. Join an adult soccer league or start a church softball games. There’s nothing like a competitive sport to help your husband realize that he needs to start exercising more often in order to perform like he used to!

 7. Bake fewer cookies

 The kids might like cookies when they get home from school, but your husband doesn’t need the temptation. Start serving the children healthier snacks like apples and peanut butter, cheese and crackers or healthier baked goods so there isn’t an abundance of dessert lying around. It’s an easy way to help him lose weight. He might not even notice that he’s eating less!

 I will make a note here to say that food policing doesn’t work and can become a point of contention. Just keep less sugary treats around the house instead of telling him what he can and cannot have. Keep the fridge well stocked with ready to eat to produce like cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, diced pineapple or honeydew as snacks to replace the sweet stuff.

 8. Sneak in more veggies

 This approach is a little more sly, but just as effective as decreasing the amount of treats in the house. Vegetables have a lot of fiber and necessary vitamins and nutrients. They’re also very satiating when added to meals, which is why weight loss is so successful with them. If you aren’t a vegetable lover, start experimenting with them! It’s usually a mind-set issue when it really comes down to it. They can taste good, but you need to figure out how to cook them

 There’s plenty of online recipes that use grated or blended vegetables in cooking or baking. Start making more stir-fry’s or fajitas, use blended cauliflower in mac-n-cheese to decrease the fat and calories, and add chopped bell peppers to enchiladas to boost fiber and satiety. I promise that you won’t sacrifice flavor by using this approach to cut calories of your meals as long as you do a little searching on the internet.

 9. Hide the snacks

 Studies have shown that when food is out of sight, you are less likely to feel hunger or a desire to have it. Start by taking all the unhealthy chips, cookies, and crackers off the countertops and storing them in the pantry. If they’re already in the pantry or cupboards, rearrange so they aren’t front and center, so that it takes a bit of looking to find the not so healthy options.

 If your husband specifically requests snack type food that you know are really bad for him – think chips, most crackers, twinkles etc, perhaps you should discuss the food budget. I’m serious- those packaged types of food cost a lot more than basic veggies, fruits, canned goods, milk, meats, and carbs like pasta, rice or bread. You might have to give up a few things too, but in the name of good financial stewardship and physical stewardship of your body, it’s probably worth it. You don’t have to throw out every single high calorie snack in your cupboard, but only storing a few (less than three) is better than not taking any action.

 10. Plan more active activities

 Start planning more active outings with the family. Go sledding with the kids or practice soccer with them at the local soccer field. If you and your husband go on date nights, ask if you can take tennis lessons, a bike ride or kayak together. If that much activity is too far of a jump right now, start with walks. If it’s beautiful outside, ask your husband to go on a walk with you. Fresh air is rejuvenating and can do a lot to decrease stress, so a short walk to enjoy the evening might be just the thing to kickstart the desire to move.

 Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility to get your husband to lose weight. You can’t badger and guilt trip him in to it because that won’t work in the long run. He needs to know that he is loved at any size (just like you need to know that) and that you support him. It may take a long time for him to realize that he needs to get healthy, and once that happens you need to support him through it.

headshot-FitzalaJenni is an NASM certified personal trainer and loves helping women find balance in health and exercise. She and her husband live in Central Washington and spend as much time as possible outdoors. Find her on her blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


Reader Question of the Week: My Husband is Inconsiderate

Reader Question of the Week

It’s Monday, which means it’s Reader Question of the Week Day! Today we’ve got a question from a woman who asks, what do you do if you have an inconsiderate husband, but you don’t want to nag? How do you put up appropriate boundaries?

Are there “consequences” that I can give to my husband when he’s been inconsiderate for lack of a better word? I know he’s not a child, and he’s truly a wonderful man. We’ve been happily married for over a decade and sex is great! The only major issue I have is the fact that he has no sense of time at all and this has lead to a few occasions where I’m at home worried sick wondering if he’s had an accident.

This happened again this evening: he left home at 7:15 to have our van checked by this mechanic who works out of his house. He should have been back within an hour. After 2 hours, I think, ok, they’re chatting. I text him. No answer. I call. His phone appears to be off (highly unusual). 3 hours later, I’m starting to worry a bit, but keep reminding myself of his track record. By 11:45 I’m in a full fledged panic, picturing him dead. Finally he comes home and says he’s sorry, his phone was out of range and he just totally hit it off with this guy and had no clue what time it was. Really?!? You didn’t notice 4 hours went by?!? My husband can be so inconsiderate!

That’s a tough one, and I would have been worried, too. So how do you make sure this doesn’t happen again, when he’s the kind of person who Living with an Inconsiderate Husband--How to Problem Solve Togetherdoesn’t think of you sitting at home, worrying? A few thoughts on how to deal with an inconsiderate husband.

Make Sure this is a Personality Issue, Not a Relationship Issue

This likely doesn’t need to be said in this particular instance, because this woman seems very confident in the relationship, and the sex is great. But when a husband is consistently gone for long periods and you can’t get a hold of him, and he doesn’t have a good reason, it’s likely good to make sure that it is simply because he’s forgetful or inconsiderate at times, and not that something else is going on behind your back.

I’m not trying to see adultery when it isn’t there, but many women have been blindsided, and it’s likely good to make sure.

If Your Husband is Inconsiderate, it May Be More that He’s Spontaneous and “In the Moment”

Taking this note at face value, and assuming nothing more nefarious is going on, some people just are more spontaneous and go with the flow than others. Many inconsiderate husbands, for instance, are actually just spontaneous husbands. For them, they throw themselves into the here and now and pay total attention to what’s in front of them. On a Myers Briggs personality chart, since we were talking about that last week, they’d be Ps rather than Js. Combine that with extroversion, because they like being with people, and you have someone you can easily label inconsiderate, because it’s easy for them to get carried away in the moment.

Likely this is a trait you enjoyed when dating. When he was with you he was completely with you. It was as if you captivated him. He’d drop everything and do something crazy with you. It was fun! But once you’re married, what seemed spontaneous and fun can also seem inconsiderate. So just remember that this trait in him also has a beneficial side. It does make him more fun, and it does make you feel more the center of attention when he is home.

Think Strategies to Solve the Problem so You Don’t Feel Like He’s Inconsiderate

So what do you do to stop the problem so you won’t worry? Nagging or yelling at him won’t work, but you can sit down and problem solve together.

Figure out a way to HELP him do what you need him to do, rather than to punish him for not doing it. That way it’s not “You’re being inconsiderate and selfish and you’re the problem”, it’s more “we have a problem because I feel nervous when I don’t know where you are”, and you can then work on that together. It’s just a different dynamic.

So what are some possible solutions? Maybe it means every night YOU plug in his phone to make sure it doesn’t run out of battery. Maybe it means that he sets reminders on his phone to ding every two hours to call you or text you. Brainstorm together! This way you’re helping him remember to contact you and tell him where you’ll be, and you won’t worry because it’s easy to get a hold of him.

Setting Consequences if Inconsiderate Behavior Continues

If being late is hindering you in other ways than just causing worry–ie. he’s never home for dinner, or you’re consistently late for appointments and events, you can certainly implement consequences for that. The family can go ahead and eat at 6:30 whether he’s home or not, unless he’s texted you to tell you when he will be home. You can put his food in the fridge to heat up when he’s home.

Boundaries in MarriageIf he’s not there and you have to leave to go to an appointment, you can leave without him. In Boundaries in Marriage, Cloud and Townsend describe it like this: one of the main ways that God put in motion to teach us things is the adage “you reap what you sow”. The problem in many marriages, though, is that one person is sowing confusion, but the other person is reaping it. So in this case, one person is sowing inconsideration, but it is the wife and kids who are bearing the burden by being late, or by not eating on time, etc. etc. To right the situation you just have to make sure that the one who is sowing the bad seed reaps it by instituting these consequences. It’s not about getting angry or punishing him; it’s just about setting proper boundaries.

So those are some quick thoughts. Recognize that if your husband is inconsiderate, there’s likely another side of that personality trait that you actually enjoy. Make a point to notice that! Try to problem solve together so the particular issue doesn’t rear it’s ugly head again. And if it’s a consistent problem, implement consequences so the right person bears the brunt of the behavior.

I hope that helps! Now let me know: have you ever dealt with an inconsiderate husband–or a husband who seemed inconsiderate? What did you do? How did you solve the problem? Let’s talk in the comments!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!

Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

When Your Kids are Picky Eaters: 8 Ways to Stop Whining at the Table


How to Deal with Picky Eaters: Stop Whining at the Table!

Do you dread dinner time? Do you spend an hour making a decent meal, one that you’re going to enjoy, and then your kids sit down and whine and play with their food and make everyone miserable? Today let’s talk about how to deal with picky eaters!

When my kids were little one of my daughters decided that anything that looked like an herb was obviously poison. So if anything had any parsley, or basil, or flecks of anything at all–meaning that if anything had any actual taste–she would refuse to eat it. It was quite the battle.

We finally won it by instituting the “Rice and Beans” rule (elaborated below), but I thought today I’d take off my Marriage Hat (since I usually talk about marriage on this blog), and I’d don my Parenting Hat and give us some tips on how to deal with picky eaters.

1. Distract Picky Eaters by Making Dinner Fun

Picture this:

You’re at a dinner party with food you’re not totally sure of. It looks like something foreign. You want to eat it and keep smiling, but all around you people are talking about something you have no interest or knowledge of. You feel left out. You’re wondering how much longer you have to sit there for, and how long before you can politely excuse yourself. You’re definitely not enjoying the meal.

What was the main problem? Was it the food, or the conversation? I know for me the problem would be the conversation. I can eat food I don’t particularly like if I’m having fun with those around me. But if I’m miserable to begin with, the food’s going to seem even worse.

I think we do the same thing to kids. We sit at the dinner table, but then the conversation is one of two things: it’s either us talking to our husbands, or it’s us yelling at the kids to eat or getting up from the table to fetch something they need. We’re not actually engaging them in conversation!

And I’m a big believer that the most effective discipline is to stop the bad behaviour before it has the chance to start–simply by engaging kids.

Dinner time is not couple time. Talk with your husband at another time. At dinner, involve the kids!

Once kids are 3 1/2 or so, they can participate in dinner time conversations. So here are some quick ideas:

1. Keep a trivia game near the dinner table and ask questions.

2. Get a game of “conversation starters” and use a different one each meal.

3. Memorize some Bible verses (I’ve got a list of the 50 Best Bible Verses to memorize here, along with some cards you can download).

4. Talk about nutrition and money–what food groups are here? What’s in each food group? How much did this meal cost to make? These are all great things for kids to learn!

5. Go around the table and play the Hi-Lo game: name the highpoint of your day, and the low-point of your day. Especially good for involving all family members, even the little ones!

6. Or you can do a different kind of game–like choose a utensil. Everyone uses chopsticks for one meal, or everyone gets an odd thing to eat with, like a spatula, a whisk, or an ice cream scooper. Or once a week you can have “backwards day” where everybody wears their clothes backwards to dinner. I wouldn’t do this every night, but periodically do something special that makes everyone laugh.

When we talk at the dinner table, then dinner becomes more fun, and kids are more likely to want to be there! Make sure you eat dinner at a table, too, so that it’s an event. Make the table pretty. You may think it doesn’t matter with little kids, but kids see when something is special. Treat dinner like it’s something special, and even picky eaters will start to feel that way, too.

2. Involve Picky Eaters in the Set Up–and the Meal Planning

Have your kids set the table. Leave it to them to make it pretty. You can ask them to make a centerpiece earlier in the day. It can be their job to fold napkins–any way they want! This way your picky eaters can start anticipating dinner and taking pride in it.

And if you plan your meals the week before, you can ask for their input. Even name a day for each person, like “Mommy’s Day” and “Brian’s Day” and “Katelyn’s Day”. That way everybody has their day of the week where they’ve chosen the meal. On that person’s day, make them feel special. Pray for them especially at the meal. Talk about what you love about that person. And the deal is: if we honor Brian on Brian’s Day, then we have to honor Mommy on Mommy’s Day, too.

3. Give VERY small portions of everything to Picky Eaters.

Okay, we’ve set the stage for them to look forward to dinner. Now let’s talk about what to do about getting them to eat the actual food!

When you put the food on plates, give extremely small portions of everything–the minimum that you would accept them eating of everything. So if they love mashed potatoes, but hate carrots and meat, put the minimum amount of everything, including the mashed potatoes.

Then if he wants more of any one thing he can have it, but this is the minimum that he has to eat. That way it’s not overwhelming.

4. If a Picky Eater Whines, give a warning.

Tell the child firmly, but without yelling, “you cannot whine at the dinner table. You need to eat your food. If you choose to whine, you’ll have to get down from the dinner table and sit in time out until the rest of us are finished.”

Time Outs Work! Stopping Whining at the Dinner Table

5. If he whines again, have him sit in a time out, away from toys, until the rest of the family has finished.

Don’t let him just go to his room, or he’ll see it as an escape. I whine, I get to go play! Instead, have him sit in a time out where he can see  you having fun, but he isn’t participating. If he wants to come back up and eat his food that’s fine, but no whining.

Most likely a child won’t sit nicely in a time out. You may have to physically get up and keep returning the child to the time out, or take away another privilege, like a toy or something. But speak firmly without yelling, and let the child know you mean business. This is far harder the first two or three times than subsequent times. So stick it out!

6. Keep his plate in the fridge. If he gets hungry later, reheat it.

Don’t give the child any other snacks. Some pediatricians even recommend saving the food for breakfast, though I wouldn’t necessarily go that far. But they have to learn to eat what you serve, especially since you’re only putting out a very small amount of everything–like three small bites of everything. No overwhelming the child!

7. Offer Picky Eaters a Once-A-Week “Out”

I’d suggest keeping hot dogs or something easy in the house so that once a week the child can choose to have an “out”–but only once a week. That way, if the child doesn’t like what tonight’s dinner is, he or she has to decide whether it’s likely that something else later this week will be served that he or she hates even more.

8. Africa Week Cures Many Picky Eaters

When we were in Africa on missions trips, the girls quickly learned that most people have beans and rice 3 meals a day. Actually, most people eat something closer to a maize meal, and beans and rice were actually a luxury. But the point is, in most areas of the world, people eat the same thing every meal of the day. There is very little variety.

So when our kids got really whiny, we threatened Africa Week, where all we would eat, three meals a day for a week, was beans and rice. We never had to follow through; they got the picture. But it’s always good to remind kids that we are fortunate to have variety!

The good news is that kids do eventually outgrow this. Very few kids end up leaving for college eating nothing but spaghetti noodles. Both my girls now eat lots of foods, including sushi, Indian food, and anything that’s normally thought of as “British”. They even eat parsley! So you just have to get through those whiny years, and you will one day enjoy a wonderful family meal around the table–with no one whining or falling out of chairs or spilling their milk.

What about you? How do you deal with picky eaters? Let me know!


Does Your Kids’ Schedule Make Life Too Busy?

With the school year starting up again, I started thinking about something I’m very passionate about: some families are just too busy. A few years ago, before my blog really took off, I wrote a three part series on creating a kid’s schedule that contributes to sanity and family time, not detracts from it. Most of you haven’t seen it, and so I’m going to tweak it a bit and run it again today, tomorrow, and Thursday. It’s so important that we think about the big picture–and what we really want for our families.

Does Your Kid's Schedule Squeeze Your Family Time?Do you feel like your family is too busy?

My 12-year-old daughter has recently started intense figure skating lessons. She’s never taken lessons before, and she’s learned quite a bit on her own. But she decided it was finally time for lessons, so we signed her up for one night a week.

It was then that I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. When we showed up for lessons, there are about 25 other children there, with various coaches. One coach immediately grilled me, “why only one night a week”, in a rather judgmental tone. Turns out everyone else is there for at least two nights a week, if not more (and this costs a fortune, too!)

Now these lessons are two hours long. They interrupt the dinner hour (they’re 4:30-6:30). But I felt that it was okay to do once a week, since we’re together most other nights. It was important to Katie.

But she’s starting to question it. She said to me this week that nobody there actually smiles. They’re not practising so that they can have fun and learn a skill; they’re practising to be the best. In fact, many girls are only there because their mothers want them to be. Watching them this week I felt like standing up and yelling, “Take a chill pill, everyone! Nobody here is going to the Olympics. So just have fun!”. But I didn’t. I didn’t want the other mothers attacking me.

And the other mothers are strange, too. They seem nice enough, but everyone I’ve talked to has every child in an activity–or multiple activities. I talked to one mom who is out with the kids four nights a week. I gasped and said, “when do you eat dinner”? She laughed and said, “we don’t! We just grab it on the run, or eat in shifts.”

On the surface everybody looks like nice, middle class families, but I really feel when I’m entering that place that the whole world has gone mad. No child should be away from their family that much. Families need to be together. And stressing sports over family life gives a mistaken idea of what’s really important. I have seen so many nice kids grow up in a particular sport, working like crazy at it, and not having a life. Or, when they’re older, not being particularly attached to their families. Even though they were good kids, they didn’t spend that much time with their families. They did school, did the sport, and did their homework. And that was it.

How can you raise a child to be a Christian like that? You need time to just sit around and do nothing. And you need to eat together.

Before You Let Your Family Get Too Busy, Take the Long-Term View

So let’s take the long-term view and figure out what we’re really aiming for as a family. Let’s focus on one specific goal, and one very general one. First, the specific: we want our kids to develop fitness habits. After all, one of the reasons that we put our kids in sports lessons is so that they can stay fit! We live in a very sedentary society, and we need to encourage all the exercise we can, right?

Do Kids Need Extra Curricular Sports to Stay Fit as Adults?

I’m not so sure. I took ballet as a child. Two nights a week when I was 13 and 14, one night a week from 6-13. I actually was quite good. And you know what? I can’t do any of it now. I took adult ballet lessons when I was 30 for fun, and wrecked my knee because I tried to do the “turn-out” as much as I did at 14, and found my body no longer cooperated. Ballet isn’t the type of thing you can just keep doing. It doesn’t keep you fit. Sure it keeps you fit then, and it does help your posture (and it taught me to suck my stomach in, which I still do today), but you can’t keep it up. There’s no natural place “just to do ballet” in your life. So it doesn’t encourage long-term fitness.

What about sports? Hockey and soccer are almost the same. Some men are involved in leagues as adults, as are fewer women, but it’s not widely done as an adult. So you can’t rely on those things to keep you fit. You may love them, but if you’re only playing hockey as an adult once a week over the course of four months, it isn’t going to cut it.

Skating or gymnastics? Don’t even get me started.

There’s really only one sport that I can see that does have the potential to keep you fit, and that would be swimming. (And, of course, track and field, but few children do this as an extracurricular activity.) So you may have your child in some sport for 5-10 hours a week, and that sport will do diddly squat for them when they are adults. It isn’t going to encourage fitness. It’s simply going to keep them fit right now. There is some benefit to that, of course, and those kids who like being fit are more likely to adopt other fitness activities, but the sport itself won’t do much.

If you really want your children to be fit, they need to develop habits that they can continue easily as an adult. Biking. Walking. Playing soccer and frisbee and touch football with family. Working out at the Y together (if they have kids’ programs). Swimming together. Cross-country skiing. Jogging. As kids get older, these are all things you can do with them, which will keep you fit, too. They contribute to family time, they don’t take away from it. And they’re more likely to meet your goals of raising a child who is healthy than putting that child into hockey 10 hours a week. Even more importantly, if your child is in extracurricular activities multiple nights a week, you won’t have time to develop these activities as a family. So they won’t get done.

How Do Extra Curricular Sports Impact Kids’ Values?

Now let’s look at something more general. I believe that children who are most likely to adopt their parents’ value systems are those children who most identify with their parents and their family as the primary influence in their lives. They’re kids who enjoy their parents, enjoy their family, and want to remain close. Kids who primarily identify with peers do not tend to adopt their parents’ value systems, as Judith Harris’ book The Nurture Assumption showed.

How, then, do you get kids to identify with the family? You have fun. You hang out. You spend time together. You make the default in their lives “being with the family”. So many times kids are in so many activities that their primary relationships aren’t even with siblings anymore. And if you stop identifying with your siblings or your parents to such a great extent, it’s unlikely that “family” will be considered your first priority. Besides, most sports now require practices or games or tournaments on Sunday mornings, and so many of the Christian parents I know are missing more church than they’re actually attending. Fill up your kids’ schedule with sports rather than church, and what message is that giving kids? It’s saying, “your primary identity is in sports, and Christianity is something extra,” not the other way around. I think that’s dangerous.

Kids need to put first things first in their schedules. Besides, you can’t just have fun on a schedule. You need downtime for that. You need time for people to laugh. You need time for siblings to decide that spending time together is actually worth it. Often kids need to get bored before they will do something together, but if everything is hyper scheduled, they’re never bored, and they don’t turn to each other.

There’s nothing wrong with boredom. It’s the birthplace of many a great idea or great game. Kids get bored, so they need to find something to do. That’s when they reach out to little, bratty brothers or sisters. That’s when they make up games. That’s when they use their imagination.

Let’s stop making our kids live a hectic schedule that denies all of us family time. They may enjoy it at the time, but in the long run, what is the most important goal for your family?

Some families may be able to squeeze everything in, and more power to you! But I have seen families who have thought they were doing it well, only to find fifteen years later that their kids weren’t following God and weren’t overly involved with their families. It’s a big risk. It may be one you want to take, because your child is gifted or really wants to do something. Just realize it’s a risk. Count the cost first, so that you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to preserve your family life in the time you have left. But I hope most of you may choose just to hang out at home and maybe, occasionally, throw a football around together. I think, in the long run, that may be more valuable.

Other Posts in this Decluttering Series:
Declutter Now
Family Time, Opportunity Cost, and Kids

PSSSTTTT….Did you hear?

My book 31 Days to Great Sex is available as part of the Christian Marriage Ebook Bundle of the Week! 5 awesome marriage books for just $7.40! They can be yours in under a minute. Check it out… (but only available until next Monday morning!)

Reader Question of the Week: Healthy Tug-O-War

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: weekend I like to throw up a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week a reader asks about conflict in marriage and cooking healthy meals.

My hubby and I are on totally different sides right now when it comes to food- I’m trying to change our diets to be healthier, but he just isn’t having any of it. He wants to keep eating junk, so I cook healthier versions for me and the kids and make him the junk, or I make the healthier stuff and listen to him complain. The tension between us is palpable, and it’s been like this for several weeks. I *know* I should submit, but I feel like I’m serving a death sentence with every bowl of pasta (he’s diabetic, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.). I’ve made some concessions (more gradual changes, “cheat” meals), but with all the hurt between is, they don’t seem to be helping. I’m struggling right now, our marriage is struggling on every level, and I’m just lost.

What advice would you give?

Don’t forget: The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex makes a great gift for any woman!