We want our children to develop their own happy voices in the world, to know that their thoughts and feelings matter, that they have ideas worth listening to, ideas to contribute. People confident in their own voice are people listened to and, assuming that quality information issues forth, are also ones that are looked up to and followed. As parents, we have a HUGE effect upon this voice in each of our children. Our influence begins the moment our babies enter this world, but as early as 4 months old, our actions need to be even more purposeful and consistent. As they actually start to verbalize their own gurgles, coos, and laughs and then onward to words, phrases and sentences, parents can give a wonderful gift to their children by maintaining eye contact, positive verbal and visual reinforcement and allowing them the opportunity to speak up in the appropriate situations (even when they do not want to!).
If a person is maintaining eye contact with me as I express my thoughts, numerous elements are reinforced. First, my speech must have some value because this person is paying attention! Second, I feel more amicable with this person, and a stronger rapport develops because he shows interest in me. Third, my confidence increases, giving me a bank of courage to draw from the next opportunity I have for conversation. This all makes sense, right?
So now, think about it! Our parents should be our BEST audience EVER. BUT if THEY are not making eye contact with me as I speak, what then? If these two people, of all the people in the whole wide world, don’t find me interesting enough to pay attention to, then who the heck would? To my way of thinking, NO ONE, so the conclusion could be to STOP talking or to KEEP talking and be obnoxious. This same train of thought can be seen if we ignore the last two elements (positive verbal and visual reinforcement) as well.
Nodding our heads in agreement, leaning forward, smiling, giving short utterances of interest or agreement, are some of the visual and verbal reinforcements we give to people when attending in conversation. Our children deserve the same encouragement as they strive to communicate with us. We must watch ourselves, shouldn’t we? Because we’re human, our impatience to get on with our to-do lists, to make it to the next appointment or to work, can really bog us down and so, without realizing it, we’re FROWNING at our children, as they try to speak with us about a topic of their concern and interest. Now, of course, we can’t constantly give devoted attention 24/7, but we CAN communicate that we ARE interested in what they have to say, but that it will have to happen at another specific time because NOW, “Mom has to get to work.” 😊 And this is another CRITICAL lesson, “The World Does NOT revolve around them ALL of the time.”
Parenting is a strategic endeavor, but believe me, it is WORTH the thought, trouble and effort all making for strong and confident future adults. Take on the challenge!!
The stress! Hit the junior year of high school and suddenly the tension builds! It is time to seriously think about college! Of course there are those irritating standardized tests to deal with but the task list goes beyond that. There are campus visits to attend, college applications to complete and scholarships to seek. There gets to be a lot looming over the heads of our youth (parents too) and many of them just want to bury their heads OR they want to apply to colleges too far, too close, or too expensive.
Particularly when our students aren’t moving fast enough, or we perceive them as too busy or occupied, we want to take the reins and make things happen. This can seem especially doable when letters of recommendation are required. We see this as an area that WE, the good parent, can and should take control over. My thoughts? Bad idea!
Let’s not rob our children of this opportunity to learn, practice and acquire some self-advocacy skills, skills which will prove VITAL for their collegiate success and survival. Now is the time, with Mom and Dad close at hand for ADVICE, to grow in this ability.
Even though it is the student's job to request and collect recommendations, Moms and Dads are EXTREMELY important in the process! Our children need help and advice, whether they know it or not, on a multitude of levels. Parents are needed:
* In brainstorming the different possible sources for such recommendations. Also, being sure they are legitimate.
*In creating an outline of the different points their child would appreciate stressed within the letters. This could be different for each person asked. Also, though you do not want to push your agenda on the person who has agreed to write the letter, many people appreciate some direction because they want to give you the best letter possible. Just have it on hand, letting them know it is available if needed.
*In gathering the necessary contact information. Phone #s and emails.
* In encouraging and advising on the appropriate approach to the source and the professional follow-up.
* In helping to set up a time table for when they will contact their sources.
* In following up with your child to keep them accountable and on target.
Parents are extremely important in the task of acquiring Letters of Recommendation, of course, the child has never had to think about such a task before. However, our work is in the background, gently pushing our children to the foreground so that this can be a mystery no longer, their confidence and self-esteem build, and they gain more of that crucial skill for adult living……..Self-Advocacy!
For our children, our marriages serve as endless lessons on how human relationships (especially marriage) are to be handled. When we focus on being examples of the 'shoulds' in our marriages instead of giving overwhelming examples of the 'should NOTS' we're a lot more likely to raise positive and hopeful adults. Instead of our marriages being all about US, they are definitely about our children, as well. Our marriages shape their world view of marriage itself and their overall sense of security throughout their growing years. So, it is more important than you ever thought, this marriage of yours, these marriages of ours!
Being a positive witness of marriage is not about always getting along. My husband and I would have FAILED long ago if that was the criterion. No! It is not about being perfectly content, or never having disagreements or arguments. It's about NAVIGATING through those difficult times and ending up on safe and forgiving land. Married partners working well through struggles give great encouragement and teach significant lessons. Here are a few:
As couples committed to our marriages, there are toxic behaviors that need to be avoided on a regular basis but, for sure, to be avoided in front our children. We should NOT...
Instead let's have an overwhelming focus on the positive interaction in front of our children as often as we possibly can! We SHOULD...
At our weddings there are guests, witnesses to our newly taken vows of life long marriage. These dear people are to have joy in our union and to support us throughout our married life. We are led to believe that this marriage is all about us and only us, and that its success affects only US. Well, think again.
For good or for bad, our marriages witness to those who live with us, and around us. Our marriages either fill people with the light of hope and anticipation for their own futures, or they bring shadows which others will try to avoid for dear life. My marriage and your marriage witness to how we should disagree (or not) with one another, how we forgive (or not), and encourage and value one another as gifts of God (or not).
Couples committed to their marriage can provide more good than ever imagined. They witness to the credibility of that elusive term “unconditional love” and the hope for attaining such a gift from a potential spouse in their future. They speak to acquaintances, friends and family, and as such can be a light of hope to our children, those struggling in their relationships, and to singles who are wondering if there's anyone out there who really understands what commitment actually means.
Loving marriages take work that you can never afford time off from, but it is so worth it! It proves a treasure for you, the couple, and for those around you. Believe it or not, your committed marriage can be a beacon of light!! So shine on!
The wild black raspberry season has passed at my homestead and this signals the next round of activities. This is the time for re-evaluating and revamping my personal schedule for the coming fall.
Some people get so discouraged because they have to come up with a new plan or schedule for their life. But I see two strange assumptions being made here. First, perfection! It's only the perfect plan that would NEVERr have to be altered and second, that perfect plan would have to be for a "perfect" life that NEVER changes, because if it changes, then guess what, you need another perfect plan. YIKES!! And really! A life that never changes, is THAT perfection? Sounds like death to me and at the very least, extremely boring.
I say, let's be real! Our life strategies and plans naturally have to change, flex and adapt because our lives and those we care about change. So it's time to start drafting some plans. You'll notice I said PLANS and not plan. Don't think that the first concept will be the THE concept. Like writing and other creative projects (and this IS creative), a few drafts are necessary to get NEAR perfection for the coming 6 or 12 months, if I'm lucky. Because life happens!
What's the process?
1. I Brainstorm and write down all the categories of my life.
2. I keep in mind that not every category has to be attended to every day, for example Financial Maintenance, or my Personal Projects.
3. With a weekly planning sheet, I plug in my scheduled responsibilities and events (those I can not alter) under the appropriate days.
4. In that same weekly planning sheet, I plug in my life categories under the appropriate days.
5. I make 3 different sheets with different set ups.
6. I decide to share with a buddy who also takes her life plan as serious as me, and I share all three of my plans and thoughts over lunch or coffee.
Whatever I do, I try to insert some fun into it, and in this case, coffee or lunch with my friend fits the bill.
it's really helpful to not isolate yourself in this or any other process if you don't have the best perspective on it going in. Don't isolate! Others will be inspired and you will be empowered!
Keep it fun!!
Phew! This past week I just got through a very stressful and challenging event with my young adult daughter. She got into an accident (not too bad) with our van on I94 expressway just
leaving Ann Arbor at rush hour. Thank goodness she and the other person were not injured, but my heart went out to her. Of course she was quite shaken up, and frightened. When you are in that state, it’s hard to gather your wits to first, find the immediate things needed (registration, insurance) second, to just keep it together to figure out what other tasks need to be done and
then, to DO them!
Despite the initial tears and confusion, she did GREAT, and I do believe this turned out to be a valuable learning experience on a variety of levels. One was the opportunity to see that she could handle this. My initial reaction was, “I’ll be right there!” but good for her, she declined that type of support. Instead, we stayed in close contact via phone and text, just making sure she took care of all necessary steps. Second, I know this impressed upon her even more that bad things can happen so stay EXTRA alert and EXTRA cautious when possible. Third, she could still drive! She forced herself right back into the “saddle” and drove the van further into Ann Arbor to the body shop. There were no cries for rescue. I met her there, we took care of the business and then I drove us home.
My baby girl looked like a wreck, but she kept going!! She knew that she had to follow up with the insurance and she did!! She knew she had to follow up with her dad, and she did!! That might have been the hardest part of the entire situation for her, but she did it and because SHE owned up to it instead of having Mama come in as referee, it all turned out MUCH more pleasant for everyone.
A big lesson learned on my end was this: Taking care of your young adult child, while it always means that we encourage and give advice, it does NOT mean that we should run to their side and take over the hard part of dealing with the difficult situations that they find themselves in. Allowing them, even insisting on them to deal with the uncomfortable, the scary and the unknown affords them more dignity and confidence in the end.
It is a Decision
So many of us wait, thinking that when all the pieces of our life fit together just right, THEN we’ll be joyful. Won’t happen. When our relationships are warm and fuzzy again, or the kids start doing better in school, THEN we’ll be joyful. I doubt it. And on and on go our excuses to not have joy. Joy has to come in the midst of our disappointments, challenges, and deficiencies or it won’t come at all! Noooooo! You cry! But YESssssssss, it’s true! True because we’re talking about REAL life here, and
real life is never wrinkle free!! It’s just like those lies they tell on the labels of dress shirts, “Wrinkle FREE!” Ha!! Not true in my house, but crisp or slightly not, we still manage to get ourselves together and take on each day. So whether we’re conscious of it or not, sometimes we make the decision to NOT be joyful because things just aren’t right yet, or we’re not right yet, or the world situation certainly isn’t right yet, so joy does not deserve to exist yet. I recommend forgetting the ‘YETs’, and start dwelling on the ‘NOWs”, the present moments. The NOW is our real life, the only life that counts, it’s the GIFT, and joy is inside.
SILENCE! This is strongly recommended. Why? It is a purposeful state of being! I mean no music, no TV in the foreground or background, no earbuds , and no, not even that audio tape talking you through states of blissful bliss - just silence (at least from all those factors you have control over). It allows your thinking to happen, creativity to drip, flow and then eventually burst through with a calmness that settles deep within. You take the opportunity to be with only yourself. Silence is a key element in all of my Morning Beginnings. Honestly, I don't even turn the music on in my car until after my meditation/prayer and exercise has been done for the day. And although it didn't feel so "right" at the beginning, it certainly does now. Be at peace with yourself!