Posted in Parenting

Finding Balance: It’s Ok To Do Some Things For Your Child, But Maybe Don’t Do Everything For Them

An article came out a while back (I don’t remember specifically who wrote it or how/where it was published) suggesting that parents not do things for their children once their children are old enough to do it themselves. When I read the article, I took it as meaning that children should be able to complete some daily tasks themselves. Being responsible for chores and tasks can promote independence and teach valuable life skills. It can also reduce parental stress by putting some small responsibilities (e.g. making lunch, folding laundry, picking out clothes) on your kiddo.

I didn’t think much more about it until I saw a response article… basically, the author who responded felt “called out” because she still brushed her daughter’s hair, even though the daughter was old enough to do it herself. This article suggested that parents continue doing things for the child, even when they’re capable of doing it.

So who is right and who is wrong?! Neither?  Both?  I think both.  I think it’s all about finding a balance that works for you and your family.  The rough thing about parenting advice is that what works for one child/family may not work for another.  When my husband and I were preparing for the arrival of our daughter, everyone we talked to said babies love to be swaddled.  So we bought a ton of swaddle sleep sacks.  Guess what?  Our little girl HATED them.  She was so angry, from day 1, if her arms weren’t free!

What I got from these articles is that you want to teach your child new skills and give them some responsibility by having them complete some tasks, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do ANYTHING for them.  Acts of Services is one of The Five Love Languages.  My husband and I do things for each other all the time as an act of love.  I’m a grown woman and my mother still does nice things for me sometimes, even though I’m capable of doing them.  It’s absolutely Ok to do some things for your child as an act of love!  Again, it’s about finding balance.

The mom who wrote the response article gave me the impression that brushing her daughter’s hair is a bonding moment for the two of them.  I wouldn’t want to let that go either!  If I were that mama, I’d probably want to continue that tradition for as long as my kiddo would let me.  But on the other hand, parents who do every. single. thing. for their children might regret it later when their child grows up and cannot do anything for themselves (think college student who can only cook Easy Mac…).

As my daughter grows older, I want to teach her how to do things around the house and I want to teach her to bake and cook.  I want her to be able to bathe herself and paint her own nails and brush her hair and maybe even braid her hair.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to expect her to always do everything for herself once she knows how.  I want her to be able to and I want her to have some responsibilities, but I’m her mom and I also will want to do nice things for her.


Posted in Parenting

Days Like This (and Three Positive Things About Them)

Today has been one of those days. Standing over my daughter’s crib, close to tears, trying to use my nonexistent superpowers to get her to sleep. Twenty-five minutes later she was finally napping… although that had more to do with persistence and some good old-fashioned soothing than superpowers.

It was past noon and I hadn’t had any coffee (the horror!) and had hardly eaten. I was hangry and emotionally exhausted. We’d already been to the grocery store and as soon as we got back and walked in the door she wanted a bottle. Then she finally fell asleep and I finally got to drink my coffee and eat something… while I also put groceries away and clean dishes and let the dog outside and back inside 5 times in 8 minutes.

Just one of those days… I texted my husband and told him I didn’t feel like a great mommy today, and not because I’d done anything wrong or bad, but because it seemed like nothing had gone smoothly. Then I started singing that song in my head… “mama said there’ll be days like this.” Yes, days like this are tough. Days like this have me checking the clock every 10 minutes to see if it’s time for my husband to come home. Days like this leave my feeling drained and sometimes incapable. But…

  • Days like this remind me that 95% of my days as a mommy are wonderful and relatively easy… sometimes I take those days for granted.
  • Days like this challenge me and build confidence.
  • Days like this remind me that I’m not superwoman (and that’s ok).

On days like this, it helps to remind myself that my little girl is a miracle that some pray for and may never have the pleasure of knowing. So I will try my best not to take her or motherhood for granted, even on days like this.

Posted in accepting decisions, Parenting

What to do When Your (Sassy-Pants) Child Talks Back 

Of all the negative behaviors I’ve dealt with (trust me, I’ve seen some really bad ones), talking back is one of those that really irritates me.  For some reason, it really gets under my skin.  I’ve worked with plenty of preteens/teens who want to argue with EVERY SINGLE thing (then sometimes giggle because they’re so funny…). The thing about arguing and talking back is that a response in any way reinforces it… because it’s giving the kiddo attention.  And also because sometimes kids are slightly evil and get enjoyment out of seeing their parents (or therapist) get worked up about it. When I did some training a few years ago, we had a speaker share this pearl of wisdom: Any time you start arguing with a preteen and/or teen, you’ve lost. 

So what do you do? Ignoring is an option, (but may not always be the best option). If your kiddo is only talking back occasionally, ignoring might be your best bet. It’s hard (trust me, I know it’s hard), but ignoring can work because it gets rid of that attention your child is getting for their negative behavior – just make sure you’re giving attention for the good things they do!

One reason ignoring may not always be a great option is that even if the parent(s) ignores, sometimes the arguer gets attention from siblings, which also reinforces the arguing (ugh). Another example of this is when I’ve done group therapy… if one child talks back, my ignoring doesn’t do a whole lot of good if the child’s peers are snickering.

If you’ve got a kiddo who is going through one of those really fun phases where they want to argue with everything, then you might consider a small consequence.  Emphasis on small because if your kiddo is talking back a lot, you’re going to be handing out that consequence a lot… you don’t want to run out of things/privileges to take away!

Some examples of small consequences:

  • Go to bed 1-2 minutes early every time they talk back (so a 9:30pm bedtime can become 9:15 or 9:00 if your child talks back 15 times that day).
  • Extra homework or reading time (decide a certain number of minutes) for every time they talk back/argue.
  • Losing 1-2 (or more) minutes of tv/video game/tablet/phone time for every instance of arguing.

The most important thing is finding something that motivates your child.  I’ve worked with some kiddos who don’t care for electronic time – so taking away electronic time won’t motivate them at all.

I’ve used small consequences like this in the past and found them to be very effective.  When I’ve done this, it only takes a few times of telling a child they’ve lost electronic time before they are suddenly (miraculously) able to control that urge to respond with their sassy comments.

In my opinion, it’s a good idea to let your kiddo know what’s up before you just start handing out the consequences. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out conversation. Maybe something like this:

“Starting now, every time you choose to argue or talk back instead of saying “Ok,” you will lose one minute of electronic time.”

Obviously the way you phrase it might be completely different. I love throwing in “choice” or “choose” somewhere because it reminds them that it’s their decision to make and, thus, their “fault” if given a consequence.

Also, if you’re anything like me, remember to use any strategies you have to stay calm. A frustrated sigh has given me away a few times… kids can pick up on those cues pretty easily and it only fuels the fire. As with everything else, just do your best and cut yourself some slack… it might take a lot of practice.

Posted in Parenting

Dinner Discussions with Your Kids: How to Get Started

I have a confession to make… before we had a child, my husband and I were TERRIBLE at eating dinner at the table.  We were perfectly content with eating on the couch with the television on in the background.  I’m not going to judge people who do that (just as I don’t want others judging me for doing it!), but in my opinion, we were probably missing out on a great opportunity to connect with each other and have meaningful conversations.

Our kiddo can’t talk to us yet, but we want to get in the habit of eating at the table and spending quality time together, so… slowly, but surely, we are trying to be better at it.  It’s not always possible… I’m at the office two nights a week.  I know a lot of families who have all kinds of extracurricular activities that prevent them from eating dinner as a family.  Life can sometimes get in the way, but I am a fan of eating dinner at the table, without electronics, when we can.  So the first step is to get all your family members to the dinner table (without phones or background tv/radio).

The second step is to talk.  I think every caregiver has, at one time or another, asked “did you have a good day?” and gotten a one-word reply.  Or “how was your day?” and gotten the one-word answer, “good.”  If you want more elaborative answers, you might have to get creative with your questions.  Instead of “how was your day,” try “what was the best part about your day?”  Or “what happened today that made you feel happy?”

*I like the Two Positives and a Negative discussion.  Every family member gets to talk about two positive things from their day and one negative thing from their day.  Sometimes talking about the negative thing can be difficult, but it’s important for kiddos to be able to talk about things they didn’t like about their day and get some empathy or insight from their parents about it.*

For some other ideas on questions to ask, Families Alive has a wonderful list of 101 open-ended questions to get you started!  Some of them are going to be really difficult for smaller children to answer, but you can use these to think of your own (age-appropriate) questions.

“1)      If you could be famous for one thing, what would it be and why?

2)      If you could meet any US president, which one would you choose and why?

3)      Name one time when someone has shown you a lot of love.

4)      If you could choose one award to win (real or made-up), what would you pick and why?

5)      If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

6)      What does your dream home look like?

7)      Tell me about a time when you had to be really brave.

8)      If you could only do one thing for a whole day, what would you pick?

9)      Where is the most beautiful place you have ever been?

10)   What is your favorite thing to do when you’re by yourself?

11)   When you are a parent, what traditions from our family would you like to carry on? What things would you change?

12)   If you had to go out and get a job today, where would you want to work and why?

13)   What is one of your earliest memories?

14)   If you could fix just one problem in the world, what would you pick?

15)   What is your favorite worship song? Why is it important to you?

16)   What is one goal you have for this year? What’s a step you can take today to help you reach that goal?

17)   What is one way you saw God working today?

18)   What country would you love to visit? Why?

19)   What’s the best surprise you ever received?

20)   If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

21)   What’s something you would love to do on a rainy afternoon?

22)   If we could do one thing as a family on Thanksgiving that we’ve never done, what would it be?

23)   How can we pray for you today?

24)   If you could only keep 3 items from your room, which ones would you pick?

25)   If you could time travel, where and when would you go first? Why?

26)   What is your favorite board game and why?

27)   Is there someone in your life who you are struggling with? How can you show them the love of Jesus?

28)   What was the best part of your day? How about the worst?

29)   If you could invent any holiday, what would you call it and how would it be celebrated?

30)   Who is one person you would love to get to know better?

31)   If you had endless money and supplies, what invention would you make and why?

32)   What is something you feel like you are talented at? How can you use that for God’s glory?

33)   What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in school this year?

34)   What one thing would you really like to do as a family?

35)   If you could go on a road trip to anywhere, where would you go?

36)   If you could eat dinner with 3 people, living or dead, who would you pick?

37)   Who makes you laugh more than anyone else?

38)   What is your favorite thing to do with your friends?

39)   If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you pick?

40)   Which person would you most like to visit right now? Why?

41)   Where do you see yourself in 5 years? How about 10? 50?

42)   What is your favorite family tradition? How can we make it even better/more meaningful?

43)   Which of the fruits of the Spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23) do you need to work on? How can you do that today?

44)   What do you feel like children understand better than adults?

45)   What is your favorite movie or TV show and why?

46)   How many children would you like to have? Why?

47)   What is a characteristic you really admire about someone in this family? (Make sure everyone gets praised!)

48)   If you could create any ice cream flavor, what would it be?

49)   What is your favorite Bible story and why?

50)   What is your most vivid childhood memory? Why do you think you remember it so well?

51)   What is your favorite season and why?

52)   If you could decorate your room any way you want, how would you do it?

53)   What is the biggest struggle in your life right now? How can we be praying for you?

54)   What is your idea of the perfect day?

55)   If you could go back in time and spend a day with any Bible character, who would you pick and why?

56)   If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

57)   What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

58)   If you could have a weird, unusual pet, what would you choose?

59)   What are the qualities that make a good friend?

60)   What is your favorite chore? What is your least favorite chore?

61)   Tell us something that you’re really good at.

62)   Tell us something that you wish you were really good at.

63)   When you grow up, where would you like to live?

64)   What would you do if you won the lottery?

65)   Who is your favorite adult (teacher, coach,  babysitter)?

66)   What would you do if you found a big bag of cash at the park?

67)   Which distant family member do you wish could come visit us today?

68)   What is your biggest fear?

69)   If I gave you $10 to spend on yourself, what would you buy?

70)   Share your favorite joke with us.

71)   What is your favorite holiday and why?

72)   Which Bible character would you like to meet?

73)   What’s one decision you’ve made that you wish you could change?

74)   What do you think heaven is like?

75)   Are you more of a leader or a follower?

76)   If you could talk to everyone in the entire world for 5 minutes, what would you want to say?

77)   What are some things you would like to accomplish before you die?

78)   What is something that annoys you or makes you angry?

79)   What do you think is your best quality? What about biggest weakness?

80)   If you had to write a book about anything, what would you pick?

81)   If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would you choose and why?

82)   If you could design a theme park, what would it be like?

83)   Would you rather be a movie star, a pro athlete, or the leader of a country?

84)   What do you think has been the best day of your life so far?

85)   If you could be a character from any book, movie, or TV show, who would you choose and why?

86)   What would you do if you knew your best friend or sibling was stealing?

87)   Have you ever stuck up for someone who was getting picked on? If not, what will you do next time it happens?

88)   What is one meal you hope we don’t serve again? What food do you wish we ate more often?

89)   When you are sad or angry, what do you do to deal with that? How can we help?

90)   Which of our family rules do you agree with? Are there any that you think are unfair?

91)   Can you think of good ways to tell your friends about Jesus?

92)   Is it ever ok to tell a lie? Can you think of an example?

93)   Who is your best friend? What do you like about them? Is there anything you don’t?

94)   What is one thing you have a strong commitment to never do?

95)   If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future first?

96)   Tell me about your most embarrassing moment.

97)   If you were in a band or managed a sports team, what would you call it?

98)   Tell me about a time when you did the right thing and it was hard.

99)   What is one of your bad habits?

100) What are some important qualities your future spouse needs to have?

101) When do you feel loved the most?”



Endnote: some of these are great to ask your spouse, even if the children aren’t around.