Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A New Way of Parenting... and Being

Are you frustrated that your disciplining is not working?  Are you so overwhelmed with the stresses in your marriage and family?  The most influential course I ever attended during my college days was "Moral Foundations of Family Life."  Through reading many articles and the book "Leadership and Self-Deception," our professor took us on a journey to discover a better way of parenting... and living.  He introduced us to the Arbinger Institute - a scholarly research and consulting group who trains "organizations and individuals to solve their deepest and most difficult people problems - problems that have persisted despite all efforts to solve them."  Arbinger wrote this amazing article explaining "The Parenting Pyramid" which diagrams how to be more successful in our marriages and families.  I highly recommend reading the article and here's the main message:

We tend to focus most of our time and energy on what to do when things go wrong - reacting to and correcting our children once they misbehave.  Parents and parenting books tend to focus on what to do once they hit, scream, throw food, won't share, talk back, ...

     But the Arbinger Institute explains that "the key to effective parenting is to... begin focusing [more of our time and] energy on helping things go right rather than on handling them once they have gone wrong."  In the article, they have you ask four basic questions in order to understand how to be more effective.  
     These little people that come into our families have SO MUCH to learn... and so do we as their parents.  We take on the responsibility to correct and discipline them - but this is only a fraction of the whole picture.  As you travel down the pyramid, each underlying level is more fundamental and dramatically impacts the success or failure in correcting children.  "The solution to a problem in one part of the pyramid lies below that part of the pyramid."

  • Am I correcting my children without TEACHING them?

"The more effective we are at TEACHING our children, the easier it is to CORRECT them when we have to."  "Far from seeing our children as irritations, or as disloyal and ungrateful burdens who require correction, we will be seeing them instead as children who have not yet learned.  The emotional character of our correction will be loving and helpful rather than impatient and angry."

Here's Brayden learning to practice sharing with Mommy!  Sorry I haven't captured the many moments of him chucking food across the room or grabbing toys from baby sister :)  Oh this principle of prepping our children before they enter situations and instilling in them our values is such a great reminder for me!  So, it would probably be helpful if I explain what is expected right before we play with other kids on the playground or go into the grocery store...

  • What is the quality of my RELATIONSHIP with my CHILDREN?  

"No matter how much time we spend teaching our children, however, they are unlikely to learn much from us if they don't like us." If your corrections and teachings are still not working, take some time to focus on improving your relationship with your children.  Laugh more, play more, listen more!  I totally believe that the relationship we build with our little ones now can have an important impact in the values and decisions they choose as teenagers.  Relationship is KEY now and in the future.   

  • What is the quality of my RELATIONSHIP with my SPOUSE?

"The marital relationship is the central relationship in the family; in significant ways it colors all the others.  This is why someone once said that 'a woman happy with her husband is better for her children than a hundred books on child welfare.' And it is why another was able to tell fathers: ' The most important thing you will ever do for your children is to love their mother.'"  In a period of marital tension and frustration, your ability to be loving and attentive with your children is greatly affected.  So, here's 50 ways to show your husband you love him and also date night ideas.  

  • How pure is my WAY OF BEING?
     "At the bottom of it all is our fundamental way of being - who we are as people. Who we are is a function of our deepest attitudes and sensibilities towards others.  It is the very way we see and experience the people in our world.  It is our way of being in the world with them.  This means that they key to my relationship with my [spouse] is my personal "way of being" - my fundamental way of regarding [him/her].... Do I appreciate and honor [him/her] as a person - with hopes, dreams, fears, and wants?  Am I selfless in our relationship... or selfish?  Am I self-forgetfull... or self-preoccupied?  No questions are more important for marriage, for what [you and your spouse] enjoy in [your] relationship depends directly on the way of being each of [you] brings to [your] relationship."  
     So, our personal way of being is the current quality of our heart and mind...  Are you inwardly blaming your spouse, thinking only of yourself, seeing your children as irritants, feeling hoping mad and impatient...?!  Or, are you choosing in that moment to put aside your own needs and desire to be understood and instead seeing your spouses needs?  Or in a moment when your child is misbehaving or choosing the wrong, are you seeing that child as someone who needs to be loved and taught?  For me, my way of being depends on the light of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit within me.... love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness... which is NOT always easy to have!  We desperately need forgiveness and grace continually from our Savior and our spouses.  And I believe that through turning to the word of God and prayer, that our omnipotent and omniscient Creator can begin to TEACH and CHANGE US little by little just as we are in the midst of trying to teach our children :)

So "whenever drastic correction is called for with a child we should begin working on the three deepest levels of the pyramid immediately and simultaneously."  And in whatever marital struggles you are currently facing, remember that your own personal way of being is the first thing you should address.  Really, it is the only thing you have complete control over and is a fundamental factor in your effectiveness and happiness in your relationships.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

House Projects!

For Mother's Day, I got my very first power drill and measuring tape!  Oh the possibilities - I am one excited girl.  Since laundry is the bane of my life, I decided to make these laundry basket dressers my first project...
 I made two and each basket has a different tag - whites, colors, kids, linens, towels, etc.  Now the dirty laundry is sorted and then the clean-hopefully-folded-load will go right back in that same basket and hopefully be easily put away :).  This system has already helped us have some more sanity!  I used wooden 2 x 2s instead of the expensive metal angles.  HERE are the instructions to build.  If you want to get into building your own furniture, ana-white.com is your new best friend.

My "before" did not look that neat, so I took some fabric I already had and just bought the cheap elastic and ribbon to make a hanging grocery bag holder.  Isn't this brilliant and easy?!  You stuff bags in the top and pull out the bottom.  HERE are the instructions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More of Mommy

I've had a lot going on trying to get ready for our next move... we're only moving like 20 yards away, but still :).  Since my kids had a really hard day yesterday, I felt they needed some more of Mommy.  The greatest thing I can give my children is myself - my full love and attention.  So, I brainstormed ideas and wanted to share this list with you.... maybe your week has been crazy and your kids need more of you too.  

  • I let Brayden paint my nails, which means my fingers too :)  Then I wrote letters on the tips of his fingers representing different things he's really good at... so I wrote "P" for puzzles, "K" for being kind, "H" for being my helpful...
  • The kids had a bubble bath and then full body lotion rubs

  • We played outside... sandbox, bikes, chalk, slides - all that good stuff kids crave
  • A couple times I would get down on Brayden's level, look him straight in the eyes, and whisper a secret like "you are my fav" "you are my best friend" and he would just light up!
  • I just tried to remember to take time and LAUGH and giggle a lot.
  • We looked through old pictures.
  • We took a trip to the local library and also sat and watched a construction site - free entertainment!

Some other ideas we didn't quite get to:

  • Make homemade finger paint and put different colors in a muffin tin.  Here's a recipe.
  • Make a cereal necklace.
  • Take goofy pictures of you together.
  • Make something yummy and give to a friend/neighbor.
  • Try to include them in "helping" you with some of your chores.
  • At bedtime, tell your child some things you noticed that day... ways they were kind and helpful, qualities you see in them, etc

At the end of the day, I still have a big pile of dirty dishes and we had leftovers for dinner... BUT, I hope that my kids know how much I love them and that I'm here for them!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Perfect Mother

On this wonderful Mother's Day, I'm going to be honest :).  I thought I was a pretty patient person... and then I became a mother of toddlers. I thought I was a pretty cheerful, easy-to-live-with, really nice person... and then I became a wife who had toddlers (and I have one amazing hubby and two completely cute kids too!).  I know I'm doing some good things in my family - we all are!  But I think it's normal to be overwhelmed at times... of seeing the huge gap between who we are now and who we want to be.  Of feeling like we are just a mess who can never keep up. Of not having anywhere near the organized or clean homes we see on Pinterest :).  Of having a hard time snapping out of a bad case of grumpiness or loosing patience while we are ironically trying to teach our beautiful children to have patience!   

But, I am not done learning and growing!  There is hope!!  One morning this week I woke up to cries at 7am, plugged that precious binky back in, and to my surprise... the kids both went back to sleep.  I had some options... one of which included falling on the pillow again and going right back to sleep (which is the typical choice).  But this morning was different.  With a prayer, I picked up my scriptures and began reading in 2 Peter chapter 1.  I knew that if I didn't do it now, it wasn't going to happen later as I'm falling asleep putting my kids down at bedtime.  These verses leaped from their pages and renewed me with hope and a vision.  For my coming day, I had a vision to seek more grace, patience, and charity that comes only from Christ!

And you know... I only got frustrated or overwhelmed like eight times that day:)  And... I had some cherished moments that morning with my two favorite little people in the whole world.  I so WANT MORE and MORE of these MOMENTS:

But I can so relate to Linda Eyre's words in her book "I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch"!  In the beginning, she tells of her high and beautiful visions of the kind of mother she wanted to be.  She then admits, "Years went by, and I actually got used to the surprise that I was not the perfect mother I had envisioned.  In fact, there were lots of moments when I resembled the Wicked Witch who dropped in and crashed the party at Sleeping Beauty's house.  I'm not talking about the abuse kind of witchhood, but the kind of witchhood that arrives after a hard day full of pressures and worries and frustrations when some child or husband says something that is the one 'last straw' that drives you over the edge.  I keep thinking that I will get over these witch attacks, but even though I must admit that they are happening less often, I'm still susceptible."  She goes on to say, "We start our mothering careers as rather ordinary-looking clay pots with varied shapes and curves - and march directly into the refiner's fire.  The fire, however, is not a onetime process but an ongoing one.  Every experience that helps us to be a little more compassionate, a little more patient, a little more understanding, is a burst of fire that refines us and leaves us a little more purified.... After years of refining, I've learned to handle a ton of interruptions, disappointments, and frustration before I fall apart. Yet crumble I still do.  But through the fire of experience, I also have learned to forgive myself and say I'm sorry, and actually to be glad for the added wisdom and insight into the next witch attack.... My children make me be a better person - sometimes against my will.  And the struggle with witchhood is part of the deal.  I can't say that I rejoice in my afflictions, but I would not give them back for all the witch's brew in the world.  Motherhood is the greatest joy of my life!"

Linda Eyre ends her book with these words of wisdom: 
"There are days full of frustration and disappointment and times when we feel that every muscle aches and our emotion is stretched to capacity"[and yet at the same time]..."There is no greater joy in life than that of being a mother.  Along with the job description comes not only chauffeur, cook, maid, and drill sergeant, but most importantly, gardener of souls - fertilizer, weeder, waterer, exposer to the light, and then watcher as each seedling grows and becomes its own beautiful self."... 

"No, nothing, not even the Olympics, can touch the trials or the rewards of being a mother, where the bottom line is not winning the game or having huge financial success, but giving unconditional love and making a success of human lives.  Truly, motherhood, complete with its valley depths and mountain peaks, is life's most astounding experience!"   

So on this MOTHER'S DAY, if you are ever secretly FEELING DOWN about the current state you are in as a wife and mother, here are some BITS OF HOPE:

  •  Rejoice in the moments when you actually DO get it right! Those times when you remain calm and in control during a tantrum, when you are the eye in the storm, when you are able to be both firm and kind at the same time, when you choose to be more understanding and loving to your husband, when you remember to laugh and love a little more.... It's inevitable to face challenging moments each day, times when you are not at your best. But, smile all the times when you do get it right!!

  • Each day is a FRESH START.  Try something NEW.  I'm so grateful that the sun goes down and comes back up each day.  Being able to go sleep after a hard day and to wake up that next morning and try again!  Maybe you'll want to dedicate your day to laughing more with your children or to showing more love to your hubby.  CLICK HERE for a list of 50 Ways to Show Your Husband You Love Him and pick one!  

To me, my own kind of "perfect" mom is not someone who is never impatient  or who always has a clean home.  But instead, a mother who re-vows each day to try again, to focus on making those she loves most know they are loved.  Oh how I LOVE these little dears and their smiling faces...  

How grateful I am to have had a dear mother who read to me, who played with me, who believed in me, and who also intently listened and showered unconditional love!  I wish you and all you wonderful mothers a very Happy Mother's Day!!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Happy Couple's Secret Weapon...

We're back from our vacation to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah and are so missing it!... all of it except for the driving-little-children-straped-in-car-seats-for-way-too-long part!  Man, it was rejuvenating to get away - just our own little family - and play together.  Having a fresh re-charge is so healthy and absolutely necessary.  We even got to camp along a sandy beach surrounded by gorgeous red rock.  Camping with two littles also equated to our kids being perfectly toasty warm and us parents uncomfortably freezing all night :).  And lack of good sleep typically equates grouchiness.. and on rare occasions a case of giggles.   Luckily, I was in a continual giggly stage and everything Steve did or said was absolutely hilarious to me.  We had SO MUCH FUN laughing together that next day.  I re-discovered my love for the outdoors, AND I also re-discovered the POWER of FRIENDSHIP in marriage.  Husbands and Wives NEED to LAUGH more and to enjoy more shared experiences.  

John Gottman, well-renowned marriage therapist and researcher, wrote a great book entitled "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work."  Gottman knows marriage like I know the joy of Oreos.  This man not only knows his stuff academically and professionally, but he also has witnessed what works and doesn't work in marriage from his prolific research in observing couples.  In his introductory chapter he explains that a "happy couple's secret weapon" is "rediscovering or reinvigorating friendship."

So, to us all... I'd say:  THINK about WHAT HELPS CULTIVATE YOUR FRIENDSHIP?  Is it laughing together? thinking how your spouse sees love and then acting on that?  feeling attractive for your hubby?  serving others together?  thinking what he needs and trying to help meet that need?  going on a date just the two of you? both of you feeling understood and validated? doing something fun together? ...

Whatever it is for you, I encourage you to rediscover the friendship you once had with your spouse... for it is a happy couple's secret weapon.

My 3 favorite people in the whole world!

And ps... if any of you happen to like visiting Arches National Park in Utah... we discovered Swasey Beach 9 miles from the Green River exit!  You get to camp along ideal sand for free!  THIS website has info and directions.  Let me know if you have any questions.  It was pretty dreamy and we ended up spending one whole day just hanging out here.