Genetic Curse?

Genetic CurseIs the genetic curse real–are we destined to copy our parents?

In my quest to take a bit more vacation this summer, I’m rerunning some older columns. This one, which addresses this whole “genetic curse” issue, first appeared January 14, 2005.

When I was a kid my mother was always telling me to stand up straight. I really wish I had listened to her. A few weeks ago I threw my back out yet again, and the chiropractor and the massage therapist (no, that’s not as fun as it sounds) both came to the general conclusion—surprise, surprise—that I need to stand up straight.

My father and my grandfather were both very stooped. I get my body shape from them, and so I’m genetically predispositioned to slouch. Plus I’m at the computer way too much, which does very little for one’s posture.

I have two approaches to this problem. I could shrug, say, “what are you going to do?”, and go back to slouching, condemning myself to decades of intermittent pain. Or I can bite the bullet and cause pain now as I try to relearn how to stand up. I’ve chosen to go back to the toddler mode and boy, is it difficult. But at least I can walk again.

Our parents bequeath us many things, like hugs, smiles, love, and Christmas decorations we made when we were 7. But they also pass on a number of bad things.

Maybe it’s a tendency to gain weight just by looking at chocolate truffles. Maybe it’s a predisposition to alcoholism, health problems, or receding hairlines. Or perhaps it’s a personality issue: you’re too shy, too angry, too impulsive, too scared.

Unfortunately, at the same time as I have noticed the traits that my parents passed on to me, I have also noticed those that I have bequeathed to my own offspring. I am blessed with one daughter whom I love to pieces who is also the spitting image of me (minus the slouching), both physically and emotionally. All of the things that bug me about me I see in her, too. And I don’t want her plagued with my problems!

The funny thing about our personalities, though, is that our strengths are also often our greatest weaknesses.

For instance, my daughter Katie has a real ability to make people laugh. She’s a ham, and sometimes when you’re in the middle of disciplining her she comes out with something that is so funny you have to leave the room so she doesn’t see that she’s broken through your stern composure. At the same time, Katie is also the one who is hard to take anything seriously, or to work hard. While Rebecca is our little perfectionist, Katie would rather put on a ridiculous looking skirt, stand on a table, and twirl. I want Katie to learn how to be appropriate in different circumstances, but I don’t want her to lose her playfulness. In fact, I want to encourage her, because she has the gift of making those around her smile. But it needs to be steered in the right direction.

In the same way, my older daughter is a perfectionist, and takes life too seriously. Speaking as one who can identify, this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you tend to be a high achiever. It’s a curse because you make yourself miserable in the process. Learning to give yourself a break, to allow mistakes, to see areas where you’ve stumbled not as huge personal failures but as simply being human is vital to growing up without giving oneself an ulcer.

As parents, we’re the ones who can best see where our kids may be heading in the wrong direction, especially if those weaknesses are also in us.

But when we do see those weaknesses, we often over-reach in our criticism because we’re so sensitive about them. We don’t help our kids grow; we just make them feel ashamed. Let’s resist the temptation to lash out and criticize. Remember that every fault that we see probably has a flipside that’s positive. The best way to break this “genetic curse”, for lack of a better term, may not be to purge it altogether, but to steer your child see towards the positive aspect of this characteristic. Then you can help them minimize the negative. And now you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve been sitting at the computer too long and I have to do my stretching again.

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A Marriage Centered Family

Today guest author Amy Roberts of Raising Arrows shares great advice regarding prioritizing our marriage relationship, as the center of the home. Marriage before kids is the best way!

Marriage Before kids

As soon as I got married, I wanted kids. As soon as I had our first child, a year and a half later, I realized just how hard it was to be a parent. Then I started homeschooling. Then I had 7 more children! Next thing I knew I was neck-deep in obligations that were all 4½ feet and under!

It would have been easy…in fact, natural…to just disappear into motherhood.

Between morning sickness, diapers, schooling, and middle of the night feedings, my life seemed to revolve around these little people. Sure, my husband needed me, but he was an adult and not dependent on me the way they were. He could wait.

Or could he?

Let me ask you a question:

Do you have it in your head that once these intense mothering years are over, THEN you’ll have time for your spouse?

It’s not that you are speaking those word out loud, or even saying them in your head, but if you are always focused on the children and their needs, your actions are saying precisely that.

They are saying I’m too busy being a mom to be a wife. They are saying our marriage can wait. They are saying I don’t care about our relationship right now. They might even be saying, “You got me into this mess.”

We work hard at parenting. We agonize over decisions and behaviors. We research the “right way” to do everything from diapering to dating. But anytime there are issues in our marriage, we are quick to blame and slow to work at restoring our relationship. Our priorities are quite clear.

And quite off.

Our children need to see us working hard at being married.

They need to know what healthy adult relationships look like. They need a united authority and a stable homelife. The only way we can offer all of this is if we work to build a strong marriage where we remember what being a wife is like amongst the daily demands of being a mom.

Sometimes we need to put our husband’s needs above our children’s.

Sometimes we need to tell the children it is Mom and Dad time, and they need to wait.

Sometimes we need to implement schedules and routines that make the day less child-centered. (think bedtime routine here)

Sometimes we just need to take a moment to look into our husband’s eyes and remember how these children got here in the first place.

Don’t just let your marriage quietly crumble behind the scenes. You CAN be a good wife and a good mom. Working to build a strong marriage IS good parenting!

Amy RobertsAmy Roberts of RaisingArrows.net has been married 17 years to her high school sweetheart, Ty, and is blessed to be the homeschooling mother of 7 living children and one precious little girl named Emily being held in the Lord’s arms. As a conference speaker and author of several homeschooling and homemaking ebooks, including her newest release, Large Family Homeschooling, it is her deepest desire to encourage moms in the trenches to stay focused on what truly matters and live a life of abundant blessings in Christ. RaisingArrows.net A gentle voice. A firm resolve. An abundant homeschool life!

 

 

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 daynabickham.com. 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.

How God Used a Leaky Faucet to Fix My Attitude

how God used a leaky faucet to fix my attitudeToday’s guest post is from Shaylah Coogan from There Once Was This Girl, where she shares her life-changing story about her laundry room and choices that helped fix her attitude.

I am not particularly proud to admit this, but I had a bit of a breakdown this past weekend.

It was the last weekend of Spring Break, and I had the morning to the evening of every day planned out.   I was doing the breakfast dishes Friday morning, and as I opened the cabinet below the kitchen sink, I noticed water where it shouldn’t be.  I pulled out the dish-washing detergent and some other junk I had in there. Lo and behold everything was covered in water.  Not only that, but the wood cabinets and the back wall had really soaked in the water draining from the sink…or I should say not draining through the pipes as it should.

The sink, the pipes, the faucet…all old.  We had a small leak at the faucet for some time now that we became comfortable with–ignoring since it wasn’t really causing any damage.  And about a year ago we noticed a few drips from the pipes below, but it was nothing a bit of patch work couldn’t fix up.  We should have known better that small, simple signs of damage are actually signs of impending doom to your budget.

Oh the budget!  I can’t very well leave that part out.  My husband and I have been on a kick for a few years now of paying off our debt.  We are making much headway with the exception of the house, two credit cards and my glorious student loan (I used the word “glorious” in an extremely sarcastic tone in order to refrain from the other words I would like to use).  In order for us to reach our financial goals, we stay on a fairly tight budget and it works!  For a good portion of the year, we are a one-income household which is nothing new to me as a former single mom.  

So over the years, I have learned to stretch a dollar in many, many ways.

Like using coupons, menu planning, stockpiling, creative cooking and freezing and also finding ways to cut costs around our home and in everyday expenditures.  This gives us more money for the fun things to do as a family, vacations and saving money.  We pay cash for things and if we don’t have the cash then guess what?  We don’t buy it.  It’s a simple philosophy that really works but really took some getting used to on my part.

I was a financial mess (did you think I’d say guru?!) as a single mom.  I didn’t know how to budget or save and I seemed to make dumb mistake after dumb mistake with my hard-earned money.   My philosophy was if I don’t have the money to pay the bill AND I don’t see the bill then the bill doesn’t exist.  Don’t judge me….I never claimed to be the smartest mom in the world especially when full of stress and anxiety.  For me single motherhood created this massive and overwhelming amount of stress that many times I couldn’t see the forest for the trees…if you know what I mean.

So…God blessed me with a budgeting genius for a husband.  Funny how He knows just what I need.

Lets go back about two hours prior to the “kitchen catastrophe”.  We are halfway through the month, the budget was already set and we had a trip planned in there for the end of March.  As I was checking my emails, I had two emails reminding me of two different upcoming invoices due at the end of this month.  One was a complete surprise to me and the other I had forgotten about.  So needless to say, neither were budgeted for.  The stress, anxiety and past emotions from my years as a single mom were starting to fill up the machine that releases my tears.  I fought back telling myself that these are things to not worry about.  Rely on God and give Him my stress, anxiety and worry.  And I did…and it worked.  Thank you Jesus.

“Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7

The only way I can make sense of what happened next is that the enemy heard my voice give this worry to God.  The enemy felt my mind erase my past experiences and emotions and felt me relax in peace of His presence. An hour later and we have a kitchen disaster.

I didn’t panic or stress out.  At least not right away.  At first it looked as though it was an easy fix then we discovered that the previous owners shoddy repairs and cheapness topped by our band-aids now meant a brand new sink, facet and plumbing.  I think many women might get excited about that prospect.  And I would have, IF the expense had been planned for, budgeted and saved for.  I began to think about the weekend plans wasted, the budget ruined, money gone and my mind quickly took a left turn and hurdled into my past struggles.  If only I could run that fast AWAY from those thoughts.  I lost my “Christ center” as I like to call it.  It’s my stillness where only He can calm the waves and helps me weather my storms.

With my “Christ center” far, far away, I became short-tempered with everyone.  Now I was the one ruining the weekend.  This was spiraling out of my control.

So I went to the one place where I was certain and with out a doubt, guaranteed to be alone with my tears, my anxious thoughts and worries.  A place where I could attempt to restore Christ at my center.

The laundry room.

No one touches that room.  I often wonder, do they even know how to find it?  Everyone goes out of their way to avoid the laundry room at all costs for fear of me popping my head out to say “hey come help me.”  So it’s become my sanctuary…all that’s missing is a comfy chair.  I don’t like to break down especially in front of others.  I refuse to be weak, is what I began to tell myself.  Once those thoughts passed and my toughness was breaking through my tears, I realized this was the enemy at work again and was pulling me into a prideful mindset that kept me in trouble so many years ago.

I remembered the Lord said “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing, now shall it spring forth; shall you not know it?” – Isaiah 43:18-19

The reminder of my past financial mistakes and the enormous consequences of those mistakes were creating roadblocks in my mind, once again adding distance from God.  He tells me in this verse that in order to look forward with joy in all things (even a small kitchen disaster), I must first let go and not dwell on my past.  Doing so will keep my focus on my past failures and the emotional turmoil of those failures and off of what God has in store for me now.

I felt as though God was telling me it is okay.  This is not a big deal.  You are stirring up old emotions and worries that have no place here.  My acceptance of this truth caused me to turn to leave my place of refuge and in walks my husband.  Straight into the dreaded laundry room to hug me and say this is not a big deal.  Don’t worry.

God is so awesome.

This “new thing” God suddenly sprang on us was lots of time together focused on solving a problem.  We messed up the plumbing and install a few times, learned from our mistakes (thank you YouTube!) and yes it messed up our budget a bit but that’s okay.  If there is one huge thing I have learned from my single motherhood days is that worry and peace cannot coexist and that every minute given to me each day is filled with choices.  Choices of peace, prayer, worship and thankfulness which bring me closer to Him.  Or choices of worry, stress, anger, resentment and anxiety to push me further away from Him.   It’s an easy choice.

shaylahShaylah Coogan is a Christ loving, 40 year old mom of two and a wife to a very patient and loving man.  As a former single mom, she has been following her purpose and calling by providing encouragement, support and guidance to other single moms in hopes that none of these amazing women have to live a life on the verge of breaking. Find her at her blog, There Once Was This Girl, or on Facebook.

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Stages of Parenting: Living with the Ebb and Flow of Relationships

Stages of Parenting: Going with the Natural Ebb and Flow of Relationships

The only constant in life is change. Have you heard that before? Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on life, and you’ve figured out a good routine, and your relationships are on an even keel, something happens to upset that balance. Marriage has different stages. Jobs had different stages. There are even different stages of parenting!

This week I wrote a hard series on my blog: dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage. So many women write to me torn up with the difficulties they have–difficulties they never thought they would experience. Things were going well, and then–BAM!
I’m glad that series is behind me, because it was hard to write. Yet that attitude–that life throws you a curve ball, and suddenly everything changes–is perhaps the root of the problem.

We expect things to stay the same. We think that SAME is the point of life.

What if it’s not? What if life is supposed to be about change, and adapting to new circumstances? After all, it’s only through change that we grow. And I don’t think God wants us to be all relaxed, with everything all figured out, with our perfect routines and schedules. He wants us to have to rely on Him, and that means that life will be in a constant state of flux. Perhaps if we expected that, and understood it, we wouldn’t interpret regular, everyday things as huge curve balls.

Let’s look at the different stages of parenting to show you what I mean.

Our relationships with our children change over time, and that is a natural thing.

When the kids were first born, they were definitely more mine than my husband’s, in many ways. I fed them. I was with them. He played with them, but not as much as I wanted him to, although he was a great dad.

My youngest even played strange with him (and he was around a lot). She just wanted me, pure and simple. It probably had something to do with that whole nursing thing. Daddy couldn’t do that!

Then they hit one, and could run and laugh and play, and they became Daddy’s Little Girls. They’d go to me if they had a boo boo, but they’d play with Daddy. He was the fun one.

When Katie hit two she decided she preferred me again, and wouldn’t let Daddy tuck her in. That was hard on all of us, but she grew out of that, too, and Daddy became the fun one again. She would wrestle with him, and sneak up on him to see if she could pinch him without him noticing, and things like that. I was still there for the daily things, like getting her dressed, and making her meals, and bathing her, and she always came to me with those types of concerns, but Daddy was her toy.

That isn’t to say he didn’t discipline the girls; just that when they were little, let’s say up to about 10, they preferred him to me when it came to having fun. They preferred me to him when it came to talking things over, but in general they liked him.

When they hit puberty, everything changed. So much of what Keith had done with them was physical: wrestling, hugging, tickling. All of a sudden he had a weird time tickling Becca, and he stopped. It took a few years to renegotiate the “new normal”. And now, as our oldest has a relationship of her own with a guy, Keith has had to learn to deal with someone else holding her hand. It’s quite the adjustment! I’m having a much easier time with it than he is.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I expect him to parent like I do, but I have to remember that first year of their lives, when he didn’t play with them quite as much. He was still trying to figure out where they fit in, and they needed me. I think we’re going through that again. He feels like he’s on the sidelines, because they have all these “girl issues”, and their relationship needs a kickstart. But it will get one; I just have to be patient with all of them.

If you’re wondering why you’re husband doesn’t play with the kids more, ask yourself: could it just be a stage?

Or what if one of your children is preferring you to him right now, and it’s really wearing on you? Again, it could be just a fleeting stage. Katie only played strange for a few weeks. She only made me put her to bed for a little while. And it usually coincided with something big in her life, like she was learning to walk or learning to use the potty. Once these stresses were over she was okay again.

It’s not just men who have ebbs and flows, too.

I have had periods in my parenting when I felt as if I preferred one girl over the other, and it always sent me through heaps of guilt.

But when I look back, I can see that one was going through a difficult transition time, and was naturally more difficult, or moody, or stubborn. And it’s not as if it’s always the same girl, either. Quite often I’ll feel naturally close to one of them for a year or so, and then it will flip. I try not to show favouritism, and it’s not as if I love one more, it’s just that there may be one that I find it easier to be with. As time has gone on, though, I find that it’s more because of developmental stages than it is with them as people. I really do enjoy who they’re becoming.

Looking back on my life I can see years when I’ve had more energy as a parent, and years when I haven’t. I can see years when I’ve been closer to God, and years when I’ve been farther. I think this is natural. Perhaps if we kept that view of life in mind–that it’s rarely a straight line, but more of a series of hills–we’d be easier on ourselves, on our kids, and on our mates. Let’s keep the long term in mind. In the long term, if we’re consistent parents, if we love our kids, and if we nurture them, they’re going to turn out well, most likely. They will be our friends when they are older. They will follow God. But in the short term we may feel like failures with one particular child, or we may resent our spouse because he’s not as involved anymore, or we may feel as if we are doing a bad job.

I think families are more flexible and forgiving than we give them credit for. When your children look back, sure they may remember that one time you totally lost your temper and said something mean. But they’ll also remember all the great times you had, and that will be their primary memory. In the long run, two years that Keith spends renegotiating his relationship with them in these tumultuous years, or several years that I spend trying to get out of a self-imposed wilderness, won’t matter so much. It’s the collection of memories that are important, not each individual one.

So remember those hills and valleys. It’s okay if you’re in a valley; a hill is up ahead. And it will get better. The only constant in life is change, and change is a good thing. So weather those valleys, and keep praying. Another change is up ahead!

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!

Why It’s Okay to Think About Sex

Thinking about Sex: Hey, married women, maybe we should do this more!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And today best-selling author Shannon Ethridge is joining us with an excerpt from her new book, The Passion Principles, where she shares about how thinking about sex is perfectly okay:

In the summer of 1999 we took our young children for an afternoon outing to the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. As we entered an area called the “Texas Petting Zoo,” Erin and Matthew were thrilled over the thought that they’d actually be getting hands-on experience with the animals. Our first stop was the Longhorn cattle pen, where several dozen parents and children waited their turn to pet the new baby calf, which just happened to be tucked up underneath his mama’s udders for an afternoon snack.

My three-year old son watched this scene in amazement, then boldly inquired of me in his loudest outdoor voice, “Mama, did you do that to me when you was a cow?”

Every adult within earshot giggled, and I had to join them. It was an honest question, so I gave an honest answer and replied, “Matthew, I actually did feel like a cow when I was doing that to you!” The giggling turned to guffaws of laughter, and thus a precious memory was made that afternoon.

Not only did Matthew learn how baby calves and baby boys were fed by their mothers, he also learned how many baby animals are made. It seemed like every cage we encountered was filled with animals in heat. The giraffes were necking, the gazelles were horny, the camels were humping. It was like someone spiked the hay with some powerful aphrodisiac. And of course, there was always an inquiring child in the crowd wanting to know, “What are those two animals doing?”

Although humans are certainly on a much higher intellectual and spiritual plane than animals, our basic physical instincts are really not very different. We have four main activities that we naturally gravitate toward over and over—eating, drinking, sleeping, and sexually connecting with our mates. It’s simply how God wired us, and it’s a beautiful thing if you consider the big-picture purposes He had in mind.

Why did God wire us for hunger and thirst? So we wouldn’t starve to death or get dehydrated and make ourselves sick. So our bodies could thrive and manufacture the energy we need to function when we respond to these natural instincts with healthy food and water.

Why did God wire us for sleep? So our bodies and brains could rest and get reenergized for another day of living for His glory. So we could go about our days feeling refreshed, at least until our batteries needed to be recharged once again.

Why did God wire us for sex? Just to name a few reasons:

• to bring beautiful babies into the world,
• so our bodies and brains could experience intense physical pleasure,
• to release stress and tension,
• to medicate emotional pain,
• so our hearts and spirits would feel intimately connected and passionately bonded to another human being,
• so we would feel passionately loved, and have a powerful way of communicating to another that he or she is deeply loved as well.

Most of us can accept our hunger, our thirst, and our need for sleep as perfectly natural, but the fact that we’re sexual creatures can be hard to accept, at least not without a certain degree of guilt. But do we ever feel guilty for experiencing true hunger several times a day? Or genuine thirst? Do we ever feel sinful for growing sleepy every eighteen hours or so? Of course not. It’s how our bodies function, and, like those zoo animals, we don’t waste much time analyzing it at all. We just feed those needs in order to satisfy ourselves.

So why do we waste time and energy analyzing, justifying, fretting, or feeling guilty over our sexual needs and desires? Seems silly, doesn’t it?

I believe the reason we worry about our sexuality is because we have somehow bought the lie that sex is dirty, shameful, base, animalistic, and hedonistic rather than natural, instinctual, spiritual, sublime, and holy. As a result, some of us have lost our ability to accept, embrace, or celebrate that facet of our humanity. Instead, we may shudder with shock and embarrassment to seriously consider how often our brains entertain sexual thoughts. In fact, many of us wish we could just flip a switch and never think of sex at all. Some have actually mastered a variety of techniques that allow them to do just that—to ignore and neglect their natural, God-given sexuality altogether. While I’m certainly not trying to shame anyone, I think the fact that we’ve grown so adept at absolutely starving our natural sexual desires is, indeed, a crying shame.

But what if we learned to accept the fact that God has created us as sexual human beings, and a natural, healthy sex drive comes part and parcel with that blueprint? That sexual thoughts are as natural as a hunger pain? Or a dry mouth? Or sleepy eyes? What if we could grow as comfortable with and ecstatic over a delightful afternoon tryst in our marriage bed as we are with, say, a plate full of our favorite holiday foods, a cup hot cocoa or apple cider, and an afternoon nap to ease the calorie-induced coma? Yes, it is possible to enjoy sex as freely as we indulge in satisfying these other natural cravings!

We must grasp the fact that God placed these human desires in us for a reason—for many divine reasons, actually. If we had no internal compass pointing us toward food, couldn’t we starve to death? If we had no recurring thoughts of drinking liquids, we’d dehydrate within forty-eight hours! No natural gravitational pull toward a pillow means we’d become physically exhausted to the point of delirium within a few short days. Although individuals can live without sex for long periods of time, or even a lifetime if they so choose, let’s think in terms of the bigger picture.

What if humans in general didn’t have any sort of sexual appetite at all? What would happen? Not only would we become painfully disconnected and isolated from one another, but the human race would eventually die off within a century or so! Heaven forbid!

God gave us natural, healthy appetites for everything that our minds, bodies, and souls need. These appetites guarantee our optimum survival. As such, these appetites are certainly a blessing, not a burden. So let’s embrace, cherish, and celebrate them fully!

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for healthy sexual appetites, and for godly ways to satisfy them! May husbands and wives both find great pleasure in one another, and may our marriage relationships bring you great glory as we learn to love each other fully and unreservedly!


Shannon EthridgeShannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to college students and adults since 1989 and is the author of 21 books, including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman’s Battle series. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs and mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers). Her most recent book is The Passion Principles. Find more information on Shannon here.

Christian Marriage Advice
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How Married Couples Can Help Single Moms

Today Latoya Edwards, homeschooling single mom and blogger, guest posts about how married couples can be a blessing to the single moms in their midst.

 

how married couples can help single momsI learned a lot about marriage when mine started to fall apart.

It’s strange how that happens sometimes. God uses our difficult situations to teach us important lessons.  I was blessed to have some very loving and supportive friends in my life during that hard time. I know that not everyone has that when going through a divorce.  People often ask me how they can best help/support single moms like me. Today I want to share four ways that married couples can be a blessing to single parents and those whose marriage may be in crisis.

1. Prayer

Prayer is one thing that you can never have too much of. There were many people praying for me as I walked the difficult path of divorce for 3.5 years. And there have been even more praying for me since.  If you know of a family that is in crisis or a single mom or dad pray for them. Pray for healing and restoration for all involved. Pray for peace in the home and comfort for the children.  If you have the chance to ask the family for specific prayer needs great! And don’t forget to pray about other ways to be a blessing.

2. Be a Mentor

One of the things that was sorely lacking in my marriage was a godly example of what a husband and wife were called to do. No one sat us down to walk us through the God required of each of us in our marriage. And no one was there to show us the godly way to resolve our issues.  If you know a newly married couple or a couple that is having some trouble consider mentoring them. Walk with them on the journey of marriage.

3. Continue to be a Source of Support

I can’t speak for single dads but as a single mom I need lots of help and support. There’s no man in my home or someone that is around on a consistent basis to be a role model for my boys.  There are things that I struggle with because I’m a woman and don’t truly understand all the inner workings of boyhood.  I have a friend that has adopted my little family. She and her husband pray for us regularly. They have us over for dinner and her husbands takes some time to pour into my boys spiritually.  There are no words that can express how much that blesses me.  Divorce is hard and the hard part isn’t over when the judge signs off on the final judgment.  Single parents need all the support we can get.

4. Be an Example

Invite a single mom and her children over for dinner. There are many reasons for this. You give her a night off of kitchen duty. You also have a chance to see if there are any needs that you can minister to. But another thing that is really important (and often overlooked) is that you have the opportunity to show the children in that family what  God intended a family to look like.

There are all those scary statistics about children (especially boys) raised by single moms.

Want to help with those numbers?

  • Be an example.
  • Give those children a chance to see a husband loving and supporting his wife and children.
  • Show them a wife serving her family joyfully.
  • Let them see children, who respect and obey their parents.

It makes a difference!

When my boys started asking me what a man was supposed to do, it was hard for me to answer. I couldn’t point them to their father at the time because he was not walking with God. But I was able to point to my friend’s husband and say, “You see how hard Mr. X works? He is providing for his family and he always makes sure to do fun stuff with his children even when he is tired.”

There are many other ways to for married couples to be a blessing to single parents. What would you add to the list?

Latoya EdwardsLaToya Edwards is a single, homeschooling mama of two boys. She writes about her journey as a single parent, homeschooler, special needs parent and more at  www.LaToyaEdwards.net.

Reader Question: How Do I Stop Yelling at My Kids?

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today’s question is a common one: “how do I stop yelling at my kids?”

A reader writes:

I yell at my kids too much. I’m just really busy and I don’t want to be this kind of mom but I find myself often yelling at them when they don’t listen to me. I don’t want to be like that, but how do I stop yelling at my kids? What should I do to calm down?

That’s such a common problem, and I hope I can offer some helpful thoughts!

How do I stop yelling at my kids? Thoughts on strategies to keep calm--that actually work!Are you Yelling at Your Kids Because You’re Too Busy?

Most of the time I yell it’s because I’m aggravated. And the reason I’m aggravated is because I have plans, and things need to get done, and other people aren’t getting with the program. So there are two elements to this problem:

1. I have plans that aren’t getting met

2. Other people aren’t getting with the program

We yell because we think the real issue is #2. But what if it’s actually #1?

Let’s take two scenarios and see how this could play out:

You need to leave to pick up the older kids from school at 3:45. Once you get them you’ll be going directly to karate lessons, so you need all their gear. Because you’ll be at karate so long, you really need to have dinner ready to go when you get home, so you have to have something ready to go. Before you go to school, then, you plan to cut up all the veggies for the stir fry you want to make, marinate the meat, and get the rice cooker on. That way dinner will only take 15 minutes once you get home.

Your younger two go down for a nap at 1. Instead of getting dinner ready, you decide to check Facebook. They wake up at 2:30, but they’re playing relatively well, and so you start browsing the news about the Olympics and other things. At 3:10 you realize you really need to get going. You jump up from your computer and start cutting vegetables. At that moment the kids, who had been playing well for forty minutes, start whining about wanting a snack. You’re annoyed. Then you realize that you never switched the wash into the dryer. You spend the next twenty minutes yelling at everybody as you run around like a chicken with her head cut off.

Here’s another scenario:

10-year-old Ben has basketball practice tonight and 12-year-old Jessica has hockey practice. You have to be at one rink for practice at 6:15 and the other one at 6:35. You won’t be home from everything until 8:30. You need to have homework done and dinner made and consumed before you leave the house at 6:05. But your husband doesn’t get home to help until 5:45, and you don’t get home until 5. While you’re making dinner you’re trying to get the kids to do their homework, but they’re being really slow. They’re whining. They’re waiting for you to fill in the answers, and you can’t do that and brown ground beef at the same time. You’re really aggravated because you’re only taking them to sports to be nice to them, but they won’t cooperate. You lose it.

Do you see what’s happening in both of those scenarios? The children are behaving perfectly normally. The problem is not that the children won’t get with the program; it’s that you have made decisions which makes it virtually impossible for the children to cooperate.

In the first instance, you chose to use time when you could have been getting things done to browse the computer; in the second, you’ve overscheduled the kids’ lives, and after a long day kids don’t always want to do homework right away.

The problem, then, isn’t that the kids aren’t being good. It’s that what you’re asking them (and what you’re asking of yourself) may very well be unreasonable.

Suggestion: Take a look at the last 3 times you really yelled at your kids. Analyze the situation. What was going on? Were you in a hurry? What was your schedule like? Can you trace it back? Is there something that YOU can do differently to prevent getting annoyed with everyone and everything?

Are you Yelling at Your Kids Because You’re Afraid of Something?

Anger is often a secondary emotion. We often feel anger because it’s “safer” to feel than some of the other emotions–insecurity, fear, guilt. So when someone pushes a button that triggers a “scary” emotion, we often react in anger, sometimes without realizing what the real trigger is.

Look at this scenario:

You’ve been teaching your 7-year-old letters and phonics for several years now, and he’s not getting it. He has a little book from school that he’s supposed to read to you at bedtime, but he couldn’t care less. He won’t even try. You’re frustrated and scared that he’ll never read, and you blow up at him when he won’t put in the effort. You want him to grow up to get a good job, not be stuck in some go-nowhere job.

In the meantime, you and your husband are having money issues. Your husband never finished his education, though you do have some college. And you’re scared your son will repeat the pattern. You’re scared, and you yell.

Or perhaps the house is always a mess and the kids seem to squabble a lot, and you find yourself yelling constantly. But if you analyze your feelings, it’s really that you’re scared you’re a failure. All you ever wanted was to be a wife and mom, and now you can’t even keep a house under control. What kind of mother are you?

Suggestion: Next time you find yourself yelling at your children, ask yourself: what am I really feeling here? Am I scared of something? Am I feeling guilty about something? Pray about that feeling instead.

Dayspring Peace Mug

Run “Yelling Interception” by Taking Time to Talk to Your Kids

You’re trying to feed the baby and your toddler is trying to crawl up in your lap and is making the baby cry. Or maybe you’re trying to talk on the phone and your 4-year-old is constantly pulling at your leg and asking for something. It seems as if you can never get any time alone, away from constant demands!

Here’s the truth: kids like to “check in” and know that they’re secure and safe. They know that when they have your undivided attention. If you can give your child some undivided attention throughout the day, even if it’s just in short spurts, they’re far more likely to let you have some of your own alone time later, as I wrote in this post on how to prevent temper tantrums.

Suggestion: Before you start something where you need the kids to leave you alone, take some 1-on-1 (or 1-on-2) time with them. Need to nurse the baby in an hour? Pull the toddler up on your lap now and read a story. Need to clean the house today? Before you start, get on the floor and play a few games with the kids. Make it a habit of giving your kids some attention before you need them to leave you in peace.

Set Consequences for Bad Behavior, and Let the Consequences Do the Work–Not the Yelling

Yelling is not a punishment, yet when we’re mad at our kids, often the first thing we do is yell at them. If that’s all we ever do, though, kids often learn to drown it out. It doesn’t phase them. You yell; you vent some steam; but nothing really changes.

How do I stop yelling at my kids? Try doing something way more effective! It’s better to have consequences for bad behaviour that are immediate, that are known, and that are obvious. So, for instance, if you tell kids to clean up, and then you give another warning, and they don’t, they lose their iPod for a week. You don’t have to yell; you just take the iPod away. (Here’s a bunch of effective discipline techniques for children that won’t induce yelling).

I’d suggest having three simple levels of punishments that will work for a variety of things. You could take away iPods or other electronics; you could take away video games and TV; or you could take away outings or fun things. If they’re younger, they could lose a toy. But just have three consequences for each child that work, and put them on the fridge. You can decide then if it’s a Defcon 1 situation or a Defcon 3.

When you start following through with consequences, kids usually start listening to you, and listening to the warning, better.

Practice A Serious Voice–not a Yelling Voice

Have you ever noticed how little kids especially are more inclined to listen when dad says something? My husband, a pediatrician, says it’s because dads have deeper, and thus scarier, voices.

We moms often have this sing-song voice. And we spend our lives saying things like this:

Okay, guys, we’re going to have to go in twenty minutes! So you’re going to have to start cleaning up your stuff, okay?

5 minutes later:

Guys, it’s really time to start putting things away and getting going.

5 minutes later:

I don’t see anyone cleaning up their stuff! Come on, we’ve got to get going!

5 minutes later:

(Yelling) I said to clean up!!!!! Why do you never listen to me!!!!????

But what did that sound like to a child? You’re likely using the same voice that you use for everyday conversation. Most women don’t vary our voice tones very much.

Suggestion: If you have something you really want your children to do, use a lower voice and fewer words. Instead of saying, “Okay, guys, we’re going to have to go in twenty minutes! So you’re going to have to start cleaning up your stuff, okay?”, try “Children, Please start cleaning up now.” In a deep voice. Change your tone, and issue a command, don’t make a statement. Let kids know you mean business, and it may not escalate like that. It will feel unnatural, like you’re being mean, but try it! Kids need to know the difference between you talking to them and you asking them to do something.

God Wants to Help You Stop Yelling at Your Kids

I hope some of those suggestions resonate with you! We all yell for different reasons, and often different triggers set us off. Recognizing those triggers, and seeing the cause, can help us substantially.

But I also want to reassure you that God wants to help you with this. He doesn’t want you yelling at your precious children, since they are also His precious children. He says in Ephesians 4:29,

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

But He also says that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. You can do this because God can strengthen you and help you! So when you feel weak, ask Him to help you be a great mother to these kids. Ask Him to give you patience. Seek after patience in other areas of your life, too. Seek after peace and affirmation from God, so you don’t need it from your kids. And know that even this struggle can help bring you closer to God, and through that He can open the window onto some things in your heart, and can help healing you and your whole family.

Dayspring I Can Do All Things Plaque

Now let me know: If you’re trying to stop yelling at your kids, which scenario do you most identify with? Feeling busy? Feeling fear? Finding that kids just don’t listen to you? Which suggestion spoke to you? Or do you have other ones for us? Let me know in the comments!

Why Do We Have Middle School Dances Again?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I tackle the ridiculousness of middle school dances.
Middle School Dances are Ridiculous on so many levels. Read on...

Love is the Air.

Drug stores are selling boxloads of cards so that 8-year-olds can tell all 23 kids in their class, “You’re special!” Flyers are reminding men that they had better show up with a gift. Engagement rings are selling like hotcakes.

Yet perhaps love shouldn’t be in the air for everyone.

When it comes to middle schoolers, for instance, love is definitely better off waiting.

In fact, a study reported in USA Today found that the age that kids start dating is highly correlated to the age at which they first have intercourse. Ninety-one percent of kids who started dating at 12 had had sex by high school graduation, compared with just 20% of kids who started dating at age 16. Delaying pairing off pays off. And a huge 2012 University of Texas study found that delaying sex until your twenties meant better romantic relationships later. People who wait for both dating and sex tend to end up happier.

It’s not just happiness, though, that improves if you wait. It’s also academic achievement. Kids who remain virgins throughout high school are one third as likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to graduate college. Other important findings: kids who remain virgins in high school are less than half as likely to suffer from depression and less than half as likely to go on welfare as adults.

If you want a society with predominantly productive citizens in stable relationships, then, we’ll want to encourage kids to wait to have sex, which includes encouraging them to wait to date. Whether you’re looking at it from an economic standpoint, a moral standpoint, or a public health standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense to encourage kids to date at early ages.

All of this leads me to ask: why on earth, then, do we have middle school dances, all put on by our Boards of Education?

Are we out of our collective minds? We’re taking kids as young as grade 6 and holding dances during school hours. Why encourage kids that young to pair off?

I got my first “boyfriend” because of a middle school dance in grade 7. I’d never even thought of dating him before, but he asked me to dance, and all of a sudden we were “going out”. Looking back it was embarrassing, but then all I felt was pressure. All the girls were wondering, “is anyone going to dance with me?” And all the boys were wondering what the girls would wear. Kids who had never thought of “asking someone out” suddenly got fixated on it.

Ask a school principal and they’ll likely say they only hold these middle school dances because parents insist on it, and that’s probably true.

Too many parents think “it’s so cute” when little Jenny has a boyfriend at ten.

But even if this starts out as clean fun, the younger kids start to date, the more they’ll experiment as they age. Do you really want your child going down that road?

Maybe some parents want middle school dances, and likely a lot of the kids do, too. But that doesn’t mean other parents have to stand for it. You could suggest a square dance caller instead. You could offer to host a party with hula hoop contests and limbo contests instead of a traditional dance. You could pick up your kids early and take them home that day. Or better still, you could ask at the next PTA meeting “what advantage are we getting from asking 12 and 13-year-olds to pair up?” Because unless you can tell me the benefit, I’ll never believe that it will outweigh the potential harm.

The Talk(s)Do you want to open up conversation with your child about dating? I’ve got a great resource–Barrett Johnson’s book “The Talk(s)”, about how to keep those conversations regular and natural. Get the ebook or get it in paperback. It’s the best book of its kind that I’ve seen!

Have your kids attended middle school dances? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!