February 18, 2010



It's my favorite word. My favorite concept.
My daughter gave me this as part of my Christmas,
and I've put it in my office
because that is where I will see it the most
(unless I can figure out how to mount it on the dashboard)
Recently my mom passed along a box of stuff to me,
and in the bottom of the box was a little 1970's plaque
that hung in her kitchen as long as I can remember.
I guess I read it every single day of my life until I left home.
I always loved it.

"Yesterday is already a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of HOPE."

Hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what he already has?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it patiently.
(Romans 8:24-25)

February 17, 2010

parenting 104

Be creative. Be smart. Be consistent.

I heard a story one time about a single mom whose teenage son continually lied to her. She was at her wit's end with him when she decided to do something drastic: She would turn the tables on him, AND, she would do it for a full two weeks. She began at breakfast one morning as he was getting ready to catch the school bus. "Honey," she said, "How 'bout I pick you up today?" The kid was thrilled because that meant he didn't have to ride the bus, AND he would be home a half hour earlier. Then she didn't pick him up. Now because he had already missed his bus, he had to walk home. When he confronted his mom, she simply said, "Oh, I changed my mind." He ranted about how unfair that was and did she know he'd had to WALK home? She apologized flippantly. The next day she promised him pizza for dinner - his choice of toppings. Instead, she went out with friends and left him a note to fix himself a sandwich. She told him she was going to buy him new shoes . . . she bought herself some instead and said his would have to wait until next paycheck. She got creative. By the 5th or 6th day the kid had all he could take. "MOM! You are driving me crazy! You keep telling me all this stuff and then you don't do it! You are being so unfair! How am I ever supposed to know if you mean what you say?!" Mom looked him square in the eye and said, "It's really hard to trust someone who never tells the truth, huh?" The kid got the point. But mom continued HER bad behavior for the remainder of the 14 days. Her son, however, learned the consequences of lying and began to be a kid who could be trusted.

Then there was the 15-year-old girl who kept missing the school bus. (She was embarrassed about having to ride the bus.) Her family was a one-car family and dad had to be at work on the other side of town at the same time she had to be at school. So, when she missed the bus, dad had to take her, which meant he risked being late for work. This had to stop. Her parents told her she could not miss the bus again or she would be responsible for getting herself to school. A few days later she missed the bus. She asked dad for a ride. Dad reminded her of the rule. "WHAT? That's not fair! Just how am I supposed to get myself to school???" Dad pulled out the phonebook, flipped to the yellow pages and stately flatly, "Call a cab." Which she did. Expecting a yellow New York City-style taxi to pull up, she was mortified at the reality. This was not a large town, so the cabs were beat up old station wagons with less-than-reputable drivers. (An uneasy Dad followed the cab to school that morning without her knowing it.) The cab was not only more embarrassing than riding the bus, it also cost her $22 of her own money. She never again missed the bus.

My favorite story of consistency is actually about lab rats. The experiment was simple: Build a maze, put a lever at the back that distributes a food pellet. Two mazes were built. The rats entered, made their way to the lever, pulled it, got rewarded with food. They were allowed to do this on a regular basis. Then one day things changed. In maze one, food pellets were only distributed once every 100 pulls. In maze two, food pellets were stopped completely. Result? The rat in maze one continued to run the maze and pull the lever every single time. He never quit hoping for the reward. The rat in maze two tried for awhile and then quit trying. Completely. How does this relate to parenting? Consistency. If you give in, EVEN ONCE out of every 100 times, your kids will keep trying and keep trying because they know, eventually, you will give in, and they will get what they want.

I personally put this "rat maze concept" into practice with my two little darlings in the grocery store check-out aisle. Every time we would check out they would ask if they could "have something" - gum, candy, mini-flashlights, whatever. I ALMOST ALWAYS said "no". Remember: ALMOST always. And yet they ALWAYS asked. So I made a rule: IF YOU ASK FOR SOMETHING IN THE CHECK-OUT AISLE, THE ANSWER IS AUTOMATICALLY "NO". The next time we went to the store, they asked. I said "no", and reminded them of the rule. It didn't take long for them to catch on that mommy meant "no" when she said "no". This had a two-fold benefit: 1) I never, ever got nagged in the check-out aisle, and 2) occasionally, I would look at my kids and say, "Why don't you pick out something today?" This resulted in "yippee!" and "yeah!" and "You're the best mommy ever!"

And, isn't being the 'coolest mom ever' one of the best by-products parenting?

February 16, 2010

parenting 103

(This is the 3rd in a series on discipline and parenting.)

What kind of discipline works?

Any kind, really, so long as it speaks to your child. I spanked SOME, but only for defiance or for actions that could cause someone to be injured. If I was doing it again, I doubt I would choose to spank. But I don't think it matters the route you take, as long as you remember you are disciplining - not punishing, not harming, not humiliating. Be creative. What does your child value most? Cell phone minutes? Cookies? Staying up late? Hanging out with friends? A favorite toy? Facebook time? An upcoming event like homecoming? You know your kid better than anyone. Pull the plug on it. Proactive discipline works as well. What does your child hate? Cleaning the bathroom? Writing essays? Pulling weeds? Any of it will work, as long as your child dislikes the discipline more than they LIKE their bad behavior. And, no, your child is not allowed to scream and cry and throw a fit about their discipline. That just calls for further discipline (like doubling the punishment.) Eventually, and if you are consistent, it won't take long, your child will learn not to break the rules, and will also learn to accept discipline without whining or crying.

If being consistent means that you absolutely, positively, ALWAYS, 100% of them time MEAN WHAT YOU SAY, that means we as parents must THINK and LISTEN before we speak. One of the best books I read as a young parent was "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk". One of the lessons I gleaned from this book was how to give kids choices. Giving choices is is a healthy way to teach decision-making. But be sure when you offer choices, that you respect your child's decisions.

Example 1: If you don't care, REALLY don't care what your 5-year-old wears to Kindergarten, fine. Let her choose her own clothes and be prepared to let her wear mismatched socks with green shorts and a purple striped turtleneck. If, however, you do care, then pre-choose a few items and let her pick from within your limitations.

Example 2: Dad says, "Hey kiddos! We're going to Wal-Mart. Do you want to go?" The kids say "no", but Dad says, "Too bad, you're going anyway!" If what Dad REALLY meant was "We're ALL going to Wal-Mart and you have no choice but to go with us." then you are teaching your children that their opinions are not important and not valued. Always say what you mean. Then always mean what you say. Your integrity as a parent depends on it.

Granted, we aren't perfect. We say things we don't mean. We even give in and forget to be consistent. When we do, we need to be able to apologize to our children. "I know I just asked you if you wanted to go to Wal-Mart with me, but that was unfair, because I really need you to go with me. I'm sorry I gave you a choice when you don't really have one."

Part of fair discipline also means that you LISTEN to your children, and you can't listen if you don't let them talk, regardless of your child's age. Even more, listening sometimes means doing a little observing and even a little "remembering what it was like to be their age". When Kevin was about 4, he had a piece of chewing gum he wanted to spit out. We were in a small store, so when he told me, I pointed to the lady at the check-out and told him to go ask her if he could throw it away in the trash can behind her counter. He refused. I insisted. He refused. I got angry and informed him he would do it NOW or get a spanking. He still refused. We left the store calmly, went home, and I spanked him. Some time later we were in another store and he needed to go to the bathroom. I showed him the nearest employee and told him to go ask her where the bathroom was. He refused. I insisted. He refused. I informed him he would do it NOW or get a spanking. (Sound familiar?) He still refused, with the same resulting spanking as before. Only after this time I actually stopped to ask myself why he had done this. He was not generally defiant or strong-willed. Although when I asked him, all I got was, "I don't know." What was the deal? Finally it occurred to me: My son was MY son, and I was the shyest kid in class until the age of 16 or so. He was shy. He was so shy that for him, the spanking was preferable to talking to new people. So with a little reflection, I learned my kid wasn't being defiant, and I also learned another aspect of his personality that needed some guidance. If you know my son, you know shyness has not been an issue for him since we worked through it by the time he was 6.

There are two methods some consider "discipline" that almost never work: yelling and lecturing. Yelling communicates a lack of control on your part, it is unpleasant and embarrassing for everyone within earshot, and not least of all, it makes you look like a jerk. Lecturing is kind of like trying to water your garden for the entire summer all in one afternoon, it's overkill and kids just learn to tune you out.

One greatly untapped avenue of discipline is community. Once I heard a mom tell her son as he was leaving for camp, "have a good time, behave yourself, and remember: if you do something wrong, I am praying that you will get caught." WHAT? Yes, and she meant it. Give the people who are most involved in your child's life (teachers, friends' parents, friends, youth ministers, etc.) your permission to set your child straight when he/she gets out of line. Also, as a parent, be willing to listen. Don't ever assume "NOT MY CHILD", and conversely, don't ever just assume your child is guilty either. Listen, be smart. Sometimes mercy is way more important than discipline.

Be creative. Be smart. Be consistent.

February 15, 2010

parenting 102

(This is the 2nd in a series on discipline.)


That's it. Sounds easy, but it's not. The earlier in life your children learn that you absolutely, positively, ALWAYS, 100% of them time MEAN WHAT YOU SAY, the earlier they learn to discipline themselves. WHY? Because you have taught them that the consequences to breaking rules are ALWAYS THE WORSE CHOICE.

Scenario 1: Toddler cries in church. Parent gets up and takes said toddler to nursery. Toddler is now happy. Parent attempts to return with said toddler, toddler resumes crying. This happens week after week until after a few weeks the toddler stops crying as soon as the parent stands up. Eventually the child is just taken straight to the nursery at the beginning and left for the duration. Why? Because who in their right mind WANTS to do something NOT FUN when there is the option of doing something FUN? Really? Wouldn't you, responsible adult that you are, rather sleep in, call in sick to work, and spend the day goofing off? But you don't. WHY? Because losing your job, your house, your car, and possibly your relationships are NOT WORTH the trade off. Hence, you act responsibly.

The core problem is parents think they are being cruel if they don't do what it takes to make their child happy. But by giving in to the instant gratification, by making them happy in the moment instead of teaching them to discipline themselves, you are setting them up for a lifetime of expecting society to cater to their every whim.

Solution. Toddler cries. Parent checks all responsible reasons why child could be crying. Once determined that the child is just "unhappy", parent takes child out to the hallway and makes being in the hallway more unpleasant than sitting still. (It truly does not matter HOW you accomplish this task, so long as you accomplish it EACH and EVERY time the child cries until the crying stops.) Child learns that sitting still and being quiet are preferable to what is going on in the hallway. By the way, you are NOT being cruel to your children by expecting them to learn how to be still and be quiet.

Scenario 2: Pre-teen smarts off when told to do something. Parent responds with
1)"Don't make me come over there and whop you!",
2) "Your father is going to hear about this!",
3) "Did you HEAR me? Don't make, me say it again!",
4) "One, Two, Two-and-a-half, . . . , or
5) "I've already told you three times, now MIND ME!"
Believe it or not, if you are experiencing this one from a child of ANY age, your child is SCREAMING for boundaries. BEGGING you in his or her own way to MAKE THEM MIND YOU. They WANT you to be the parent. They NEED you to be the adult. They need limitations for their own sense of security.

Solution: The very second your child shows disrespect to you, deal with it. NOT publicly. I am completely against humiliating kids, regardless of their age. Embarrassing your children will only cause resentment. Get somewhere private, even if it means you simply whisper in their ear, and you give them whatever is appropriate. And it needs to be big. AGAIN, YOU HAVE TO MAKE BEING DISRESPECTFUL MUCH MORE COSTLY THAN BEING RESPECTFUL. I'm a big fan of long-time groundings from their favorite toys and activities. (But again, you have to be consistent. If you say "NO iPod", that means "NO iPod". None. At all. Don't make an exception for ONE SINGLE MINUTE.) Oh, and NEVER, EVER repeat yourself if you were heard the first time. If you have to call a child, or warn a child more than once, you are not being consistent. In fact, if a child is breaking a rule he/she already knows, don't even give a warning, just go straight to the discipline.

When my oldest was 12 or so, I grounded her on several occasions from watching tv. But after a day or two I would give in because: her dad worked nights, her brother was little, and I hated to watch movies by myself. After a couple of times giving in and "lifting the tv ban", she started to work the system. I realized I was either going to have to BE CONSISTENT or find a different disciplinary route. (In this case, I chose the latter because I didn't trust myself to be consistent on this one.)

However, when my younger one broke a certain rule, he was grounded from Facebook for 2 weeks. He was warned that if he broke this particular rule again, he would lose Facebook for a year. After 5 months passed, he broke the rule again. He lost Facebook privileges for 12 full months. That was 3 years ago. He has, at least to my knowledge, never broken that rule again.


The principle is the same, regardless of your child's age. Make the negative action more costly than the positive one, and don't waver. Ever.

February 14, 2010

parenting 101

(The following blog is the first of several on the theme of discipline. Please understand I am no expert. Please understand this blog is not intended to be judgmental. Please understand that I know God has GREATLY BLESSED me with two amazing kids.)

Now, please excuse me while I rant.

I am scared to death for an entire generation of kids who will generally fail in life because their parents either:

1) don't love them enough to discipline them, or
2) are afraid of the concept of "tough love".

Let me qualify this before I begin said rant: My parents were not perfect parents. I was not a perfect child. I am NOT a perfect parent. My children are NOT perfect children. Also, children are not supposed to be perfect. It is OUR JOB as parents to teach them, train them, love them, discipline them, so they learn how to be teachable, respectable, loving, self-disciplined adults. I have an AMAZING relationship with both my children (now ages 23 and 17) either despite their discipline, or more likely, because of it. Don't be afraid of your children. Don't be afraid that they will hate you or turn against you. (They will almost certainly hate you many times, but . . . ) They are wired to need and want your love, respect and acceptance. That being said . . .

It seems that almost daily now I hear parents complain about their kids. They complain about picky eaters and temper tantrums and disobedience. They complain about dirty rooms and smart mouths and breaking rules. They complain about grades and irresponsibility and lying.

Not only do parents complain, but for the most part, they seem to have this "throw their arms up in the air, shrug their shoulders, there's not much I can do about it" resignation to this being acceptable, something to just grit their teeth and trudge through until the child leaves home at 18. (FYI, if your kid is undisciplined, he/she may LEAVE at 18, but it's almost guaranteed he/she will return home to you as permissive parents once he/she: flunks out of school, gets fired, gets out of jail, etc.)

There IS a solution for this. I promise. It's not even complicated. (Mind you, I did not say it was easy.) The solution works for 2 year olds just like it works for 16 year olds. Ready?


That's it. Sounds easy, but it's not. But the earlier in life your children learn that you absolutely, positively, ALWAYS, 100% of them time MEAN WHAT YOU SAY, the earlier they learn to discipline themselves not to break the rules. WHY? Because you, as their parents, have taught them the consequences to breaking rules are ALWAYS THE WORSE CHOICE.

Next: How to make the right choice easier than the wrong choice.

February 09, 2010

could be worse . . . could be david lee roth

The kids tend to name our vehicles. Don't guess that's too weird. Kacey's very cool Buick sedan she inherited from my Granny is called "Stella!"(which must be said with the Marlon Brando inflection from A Streetcar Named Desire). The white 1992 Sable that still graces our driveway even though it hasn't run for months and whose mere existence there now qualifies us for white trash status is affectionately called "Tank: the Sabletooth".

Pretty sure my next vehicle is going to be a van. I know, I know. I made it through the entire childrearing years without one and NOW? But yeah. I'm always needing space to haul stuff and groups of people (mostly teens). I've toyed with the SUV route, but the green in me CANNOT justify a gas-guzzler. And, of course, there's the whole "G" status, so with the G-baby on the way, a van makes even more sense.

Kevin has decided the new vehicle will be named "Eddie".
"Eddie?" I queried.
"Yes, mom. Think about it. It's a VAN."
"Ohhhhhh. Then we should call it 'Halen', don't you think?"
"No, mom, when people ask you what your van's name is (which, you know, happens a LOT), if you say 'Halen' no one will laugh. If you say 'Eddie', people will laugh. Eddie is funnier."

So, though I didn't want to know the sex of my children before they were born, I guess we've already taken all the mystery out of automotive acquiring. I willl have a van. He will be a boy. His name shall be Eddie. Eddie the miniVAN Halen.

I hope your family is a bit more normal than mine.