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Stop Labeling Our Kids

I don’t often write about what “other parents do” for many reasons…

  1. I know that no parent is perfect (including me).
  2. I know that we all have our moments and make mistakes (including me).
  3. I don’t want parents to be afraid to be around me thinking that they are being judged or that their parenting mishap will show up in my next email or blog. 🙂 (I promise I have learned that no one wants unsolicited parenting advice).

But I have to share this one…

One time I overheard a mom tell another group of parents that her 8-year-old daughter was in the “Awful 8” phase of life.

Awful 8?   What is that?  I had never heard of it! I had heard of the “Terrible Two’s” and “Threenager Three’s” and the “Fighting Fours” (which I’m never a fan of negative labels for our kids) but Awful 8?  What the heck?  I cringed…not just because this mom spoke these words about her own daughter, but because she spoke them in front of her daughter.  It was her “label.”  And let me tell you…this little girl was living up to it. 

Because as I observed their interactions with each other, her daughter’s behavior was whiny, disrespectful, ungrateful, “complainy”, negative, and well…pretty awful.  

But then I realized something, she wasn’t awful at all (because NO CHILD IS AWFUL…I repeat…NO CHILD IS AWFUL), she was just a product of her label.  She was living up to her mom’s expectations.  And she was desperately seeking her mom’s attention and only getting it in negative ways.  

At one point, I observed this little girl tell her mom:  “Hey, mom. I didn’t complain about what kind of drink I got.”  Her mom, without even looking up from her phone, says: “Uh huh.”  No acknowledgement that her daughter chose not to make a complaint…no smile to say thank you for choosing gratitude this time.  Nothing. This mom missed her chance for a positive interaction!! I saw the little girl deflate a little wanting some sort of positive exchange from her mom for her good (and from what I had witnessed, uncharacteristic-like) choice.  But nothing. So guess what happened?

Her daughter went right back to griping, moaning, complaining and rolling her eyes about everything again and guess who looked up from her phone to berate her.  “Quit your griping.”  “You’re such a diva.”  “Stop annoying me.”  It turned into quite a back-and-forth exchange with her mom’s full energy and attention on her daughter’s negative behavior. I was sick to my stomach. This girl has realized that she won’t get any attention for making a good choice, but she will get a TON of attention and interaction for her bad ones.

So what has this little girl learned about herself? 

  • I’m awful.
  • The only way to get my mom’s attention is if I act awful.

I wanted to look this mom in the eyes and say—“You’re missing it. You’re missing an amazing opportunity to connect with your daughter…to have a close, positive relationship with her…to teach her to be a respectful, grateful, optimistic and resilient woman and guide her to be all that God created her to be.”

But her label stuck and she was called awful again and again. I had to move away from them and pray for them (again because I knew my advice wouldn’t be very well received. In fact I may have just been punched in the face!!)

Listen—NO CHILD IS AWFUL!

They just haven’t been taught the right tools or responses.  

Or they aren’t getting the attention they desperately need and want when they do act appropriately.

So the lesson here is…how often do we label our children? How often do we take a label and use it to define them and their behavior?  How often do we miss out on seeing the good choices they ARE making? How often do we focus too much on the label we have given them and not enough time teaching and training them to have different, better, more respectful behaviors?

Because if we really think that our kids are “divas”, or whiny, or “complainy”, or bossy, or always have to have things their way, then we have a job to do.  And it’s not labeling…it’s not arguing…it’s not berating…it’s TEACHING!

Taking time each and every day to build a healthy relationship with them and teach them, train them, and model for them the positive skills and character traits we want them to learn and take with them into the world.

And this takes time. So let’s take the time.

Whatever we focus on, that’s the behavior we are going to see.

Whatever we label our kids, they will live up to it.  

Our words will become their inner voice and that voice will be in their heads for the rest of their lives.

So let’s see the good, speak the good, and if we ever do label our kids, let it be about their good character!

Lord, help us to see our kids the way You see them.  Open our eyes to their unique qualities and characteristics that You have given them.  And reveal to us any unhealthy labels we have put on our kids–whether we are aware of it or not–and give us a new focus for how to train them in Your goodness. 

Here’s to building better families–

Christine

5 Ways To Avoid Adult “Fits”

Have you ever just lost your ever-lovin’ mind on your kids? I have. It’s actually quite embarrassing if you think about it—these little kids, these tiny human beings, these people that are decades younger than we are know exactly how to push our buttons so well that can push us over the edge. 

We are adults for cryin’ out loud! But yet, I find myself acting like a child sometimes…yelling, crying, pouting, dirty looks, eye rolls, sighs, slamming doors, being annoyed, wanting them to just leave me alone and get the heck away from me IMMEDIATELY!!  I don’t know how they do it, but those little button-pushers know how to push so hard that they release anger I never even knew I had! 

I’m not excusing these behaviors in our parenting, because I know there are better ways…more loving ways…more Godly ways for us to handle ourselves, but I am giving us the grace we need to accept that we are human. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes.  And so will our kids!  And the sooner we realize that, the better we will be able to not only bounce back from our adult fits but hopefully be able to avoid them altogether.

Here are 5 strategies I’ve tried that have helped me…I hope they help you too:

1. Take-10 STAT:  When kids are in the button-pushing mode, there’s always a reason. And did you know that the reason is almost ALWAYS to get our attention? So instead of losing our cool or allowing them to push anymore of our buttons, look at their nasty attitude as a ATTENTION EMERGENCY!  “I’m noticing some grumpies are coming out in your attitude right now, let’s just stop what we’re both doing and do something fun together for 10 minutes. What would you like to do?” Even if the least of your desires is to spend time with them or even be near them, taking 10 minutes of your time can revive your relationship!

2. Positive Self-Talk: If buttons have already been pushed and your mood moves too quickly to anger, try taking a deep breath and say this over and over: “I am calm and confident.” Positive self-talk will help YOU remember with confidence that you are in loving authority over your child. Your reaction does not have to mirror their reaction. They can be as upset as they want for as long as they want. You made the right choice and you can remain calm about it.

3. Get space:  Remember do not engage. If they are strong-willed, they will want to try to pick a fight with you (sometimes just for fun), but you can remain calm and confident. If you do feel anger rising, simply excuse yourself and say: “I need a little space to calm down. Please respect my space. We can talk when we are both ready to be respectful.” And when it’s not a yelling and slamming door moment, it’s OK to go to your room or a bathroom and lock the door to get away for a moment.

4. Pray: If they continue to engage…even if they are banging on your door…just say a prayer. Pray for YOUR peace but also pray for THEIRS. It’s OK to let them be upset until you are both calm. And don’t forget the powerful When/Then Tool. “When you’re done being upset, then we can____________(play a game, read a book, go to the park, etc.)  Then on your way to the park, you can calmly talk to them about the situation, share ideas about what you both can do differently next time, and hug.

5. Encourage: “We’ll both get better about talking instead of yelling. I just know it! Let’s keep encouraging each other and practicing how to have a respectful conversation, OK? I love you and when two people love each other and are on the same team like we are, it’s important that we learn how to speak respectfully to each other…even when we’re angry.” 

One final thought—through that kid who is driving us crazy…God is doing something in us…to shape us and change us to be more like Him.  Parenting is a process of growth. Let’s ask ourselves: “Lord, how are you trying to grow me through this child?”

Lord, remind us that we are not children anymore. Yes, we are Your Children and we belong to You. Yes, we can have a childlike faith believing so whole-heartedly in You and Your goodness. But we do not have to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child (or throw fits like a child). We can choose to do away with these childish things. (from 1 Corinthians 13:11)  Through You, we can disarm those buttons our kids push so that they will no longer have any power over us! And instead of being buttons that trigger anger and yelling, they will simply release confidence, a calm spirit, and a kind heart.


Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

The Helpful Experiment

Whatever behavior we expect out of our children, we should expect that same behavior from ourselves. As parents, we have a wonderful privilege of being our child’s first and most important teacher, and no matter how old they are, they are learning from us every day. 

THE MODELING TOOL reminds us we always have little eyes, little ears, and little brains watching, listening, and learning from our every move…every day.  Even as our kids grow and their eyes, ears, and brains aren’t so little anymore, they are still learning from us.  They see how we treat our spouses.  They listen to how we talk to the dog.  They are learning how to resolve conflict, handle disappointments, solve problems, overcome adversity, speak respectfully, and love and serve others.  

No matter what we do, what we say, how we react, they are learning from us.  And they will take these behaviors out into the world—in their classrooms, in their friendships, to work, to their marriages, and ultimately to their own children.  

What we model matters. 

I remember years ago, I was having trouble with my kids doing things to be helpful.  They would do things if we made them or if there was a consequence to go with our request, but doing things just to be helpful wasn’t happening.  It made me very frustrated!

But I knew that to teach my kids to be more helpful, the answer wasn’t harsher consequences or raising my voice a little louder when I asked them to do something.  The answer was to model helpfulness. Helpfulness had to start with me.  So I did a little Helpful Experiment for a week…

  • I started being more helpful. “Hey, I noticed your laundry basket was full, so I threw in a load for you…just to be helpful.”
  • I started asking how I could be more helpful.  “How can I be helpful with your chores today?”
  • I started thanking them for being helpful.  “I noticed you took your plate to the sink–thank you for being so helpful.”
  • I started pointing out others who were being helpful.  “Did you see that man open the door for that lady?  That was really helpful.”

I started saturating our conversations with the word “helpful” and I made sure to do things to be more helpful to them. 

And it worked!!!

In just one week, my kids started being more helpful—to me, to each other.  Hmmmmm….very interesting!

Observational learning isn’t a new concept, but it is a powerful one.  If you want your child to be more helpful, you have to be more helpful.  If you want your child to be more respectful, you have to be more respectful.  If you want your child to stop yelling, you have to stop yelling.  

No matter what changes you hope to see in your child, start with you first.  Do your own experiment and see what positive changes YOU can make in your family. 

Lord, remind us how much our children are looking up to us, learning from us, and modeling whatever they see.  Help us to be a reflection of Your love and light into their lives!

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Fall Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

One of the greatest ways you can provide a child with a sense of belonging and establish a team environment in your home is to do fun things together.  Whether it’s establishing a new tradition or trying something new together that you may never want to do again, it’s always a good idea to connect as a family. Family connection time allows you to not only be together, but create fun memories together.  Talking, laughing, exploring, teamworking (yes, I just made that up), fighting (wait, what? Let’s just be real here–anytime you get family together, there is going to be some of that). But even the fighting within our families provides an opportunity for us to grow as a family and learn how to handle conflict and differences in opinions in respectful ways.  

Because family connection is so important, over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a fun fall outing or activity for you and your family to do together.  This weekend, how about a Neighborhood Fall Scavenger Hunt. We have done these in our own neighborhood, but we may shake things up tonight and go to another neighborhood to try this one out.  

PRINT YOUR COPY HERE

This fall, take time to connect as a family as least once a week!  Your relationships will grow; your laughter will increase and maybe…just maybe, the fighting will be minimized. 🙂

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Back to School (and Remote Learning) Tips

Back to school time is hard every year…any year…but especially THIS YEAR!

These past 5 months have been hard—haven’t they?  We have all been facing unprecedented circumstances for our generation.  And our children are certainly a part of a life-changing pandemic that we have no idea about the true ramifications on their lives.

To make things even more difficult for our family…over the past 5 months, my mother-in-law’s physical and mental health quickly declined and just last week, she passed away.  My husband is a teacher and because of the coronavirus and the schools being closed since March, he was able to go up and take care of her and honor her during her last days on earth.  He had been gone so much over the past 24 weeks that I had a whole new appreciation for the single parent!  Wow–it was exhausting for all of us.

And starting next week, I will be facilitating remote learning for all three of my children even though I was counting on having the time to dedicate to serving, teaching, and coaching families through Real Life Families and taking classes for grad school to get my master’s in Psychology–Child and Adolescent Development.

But I may not have time to do those things.  My own family comes first.  My job as a parent comes first.  I may have to pause grad school.  I may have to do less for Real Life Families.  I just don’t know what I will be able to do this fall.

I know you’re probably facing some of the same dilemmas and fearing some of the same challenges too.

I have no idea what to expect from this whole remote learning thing nor do I know how long it’s going to last nor do I know if I’m going to have the patience to handle it all.  But I do know that as a family, when we face potential problems, crazy challenges, or unknown circumstances, it is critical that we remember that we are a team and we can solve any problem together.

So whether your kids are doing remote learning or actually going to school this year, here are some great tools to help you and your family…


1.  THE PROACTIVE TOOL:  Let’s think ahead.  Identify potential problems or sources of conflict IN ADVANCE.  Set up expectations and consequences IN ADVANCE.  If your kids are older, get them involved in setting up their own expectations and consequences about their school work.  Work as a team to set healthy boundaries and find a system that will set your kids up for success.  Don’t wait for problems to fester or continue to break your relationship.  Solve the problem as quickly as possible and get ahead of the problems as much as possible.


2. THE ROUTINE TOOL helps you take your expectations about school work and put them into a checklist helping your kids create a routine.  Kids thrive on routines.  Routines help kids’ bodies and minds get into a rhythm.  Routines help their day feel more predictable and provide a sense of safety and security.  Plus, putting their expectations into a routine helps kids grow in responsibility and hard work.  Checklists can be a great visual reminder of your expectations too.

Here are a few checklists we have used to help establish a strong routine. Feel free to print them off and use them or use them as a springboard to create your own checklist specifically for your kids. You can even get them involved in writing them or drawing or cutting out pictures for them too.


3. THE PRACTICE TOOL helps you focus on your job as a parent–teaching and training your kids…preparing them for life…to be responsible, respectful, capable human beings. If your kids aren’t meeting the expectations that you’ve set up as a team, then that simply means they need more practice.  Little kids especially need practice in getting used to their new routines.  Practice their routines together as a team until they feel confident to do them on their own. (This may take a while depending on your child’s personality and temperament. Be patient with them as they learn.).

But with older kids, a conversation could go like this:  “Hey, I’ve noticed you haven’t been showing responsibility in getting your daily checklist done.  Because your’e older and we are a team, is there anything that we need to discuss or change or that I can help you with so that you show responsibility and get your stuff done?  Do we need to practice your checklist Saturday morning before you go play with your friends?  Or do we need to add additional consequences? Or do you feel you’ve got this and just needed a little reminder about the importance of following through with your responsibilities?”  This usually does it.  If not, then practice time it is!  The Practice Tool reminds us that our kids are learning and need more practice…not more punishments.  Just follow through with any consequences that have been set up in advance but focus on helping them practice and improve every day.


4.  THE CONNECTION TOOL is your greatest parenting tool no matter how your kids are getting their schooling done this year.  Remote learning or in-person learning doesn’t change the fact that your kids will always need time with YOU!  The Parent Child Connectedness (PCC) model supports The Connection Tool and is defined as the “quality of the emotional bond between parent and child and by the degree to which this bond is both mutual and sustained over time.” No matter how old our kids are, they value time with you.

Being proactive, developing a strong routine, and allowing your kids to practice that routine will definitely help make this very strange 2020 back-to-school time better.  But making sure to be intentional about spending time together, building that strong relationship with your kids, and solving any problem as a team will help anything…including school work…be even better.  And these tools may just be able to help you be a little bit more patient too!

And if you need help in establishing routines or handling some of this back-to-school stuff, please don’t hesitate to email me or set up a coaching session or two with me.  I’m here to help!

Lord, be near us all as we transition to this back-to-school season.  Guide us in finding a routine that works for our individual family.  Give us patience to be the teacher to our kids that You are calling us to be—not just in school work, but in life work. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

CHRISTINE LEEB
Executive Director and Founder of Real Life Families

Marriage and Parenting Coach–Helping Families Build Better Relationships

Save Your Sanity during Quarantine

Don’t get me wrong…I’m ALL about family time and as a parenting coach and educator, I always stress to every parent I meet the importance of spending more time with their kids and as a family. Now is a critical time to build those strong relationships with our kids and create memories as a family, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. And being together all day every day under the circumstances we’ve all been through makes it even harder.  But we do the important things even when they are hard, right?

During these close-quarter times, let me share a tool that has saved my family and my sanity…The Rewind Tool.

Because our kids mess up a lot, I mess up a lot, and my husband messes up A LOT (just kidding, honey). In all seriousness, we all mess up a lot. Let’s just be real about that.  And when are all together so much…so, so much…the frequency of the mess ups seem to be much, much for frequent.  Whether it’s a snotty attitude or spilled milk or saying the word “butt crack” one more time even when they’ve been asked repeatedly not to say it, the mistakes are endless and boundless.

But it’s how we handle ourselves in those moments that matters.  In some cases, like the spilled milk, it’s just a simple: “No big deal. Grab a rag and some vinegar spray and clean it up please.”  (little kids might need some teamwork here, but it’s never too early to teach them the responsibility of cleaning up a mess they made).  But with the snotty attitude or the disobedient “butt crack” remark, you have some choices to make.  You can either let them turn it into a big power struggle followed by issuing consequences with fighting and yelling…or you can simply do The Rewind Tool.

Rewind Tool

The Rewind Tool is POWERFUL.  It’s simple.  It’s on-the-spot training which gives me, my kids, and my husband a chance to try again…to practice getting something right without making it a huge issue.

For the snotty attitude, it’s just a simple:  “Can you please rewind and try that again with respect?” Sometimes it takes more than one rewind, but I don’t give up because it’s the character trait of respect at stake. So I stay calm and keep saying: “Try that again with respect, please.”

When they get it right, I can say: “Thank you for speaking to me respectfully. Remember, we are the Leebs and that’s how we treat each other.”

But kids aren’t the only ones who need The Rewind Tool to get things right.  Parents do too.  One time, my oldest and I let our discussion raise to a level of argument.  We both said some disrespectful and uncalled-for things.  We were both at fault.  He stormed upstairs and slammed his door.  Immediately, I knew that I shouldn’t have escalated like I did.

I gave us both some space and time to cool off and then I went upstairs and said:  “You know what? Neither one of us handled ourselves in a respectful way. Leebs treat others with respect and we didn’t do that, and I’m very sorry for my part.  We let an argument happen instead of our normal discussion. How about we both rewind and try again so we both can get it right…so we both can listen better…so we both can respect what the other person is saying. Sound good?”

One of the best rewind moments in our family to date.

My authority wasn’t lost and our relationship was restored.

During this time of quarantine, The Rewind Tool continues to show its strength and effectiveness…saving our sanity and more importantly, preserving our relationship with our kids.

The Rewind Tool allows our kids to get things right. It allows them the grace to have a do-over. It gives them the opportunity to practice the life skills and character traits that we want them to learn. It frees us from constant punishments or arguments and allows us to be the teacher that our kids need us to be. Because they can try again and again and sometimes again and again to get it right…and so can we!

Lord, thank you that in parenting, there is grace. Thank you that this Rewind Tool reminds us that Your mercies are new for us every day and we can do the same for our kids every day and even every moment. Bring us peace in our parenting as we give our kids the opportunity to be more like You even in times when they mess up. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Seeking Racial Unity As a Family


From COVID-19 to racial division and upset, 2020 has brought a whole new meaning to real-life moments!  Our world is really struggling, and Real Life Families wants to be a beacon of hope and encouragement as well as continue to provide you with tools to build a strong family and close positive relationships within your family.

But we also want to equip you and your family with tools to help bring unity to our world and do it in a way that strengthens your family too.


THE FAMILY MEETING TOOL–A family meeting is a very intentional and proactive way of coming together as a family each week.  We used to have family meetings that went like this:  “That’s it…family meeting RIGHT NOW!!!!”  And we would just let the kids have it.  It was a very reactive parenting approach and not very effective.  But since developing the Teamwork Parenting Approach which helps parents (including my husband and myself) be more proactive, we’ve seen the value in having family meetings on a regular basis (not just when we are ticked off).

And we can use our family meetings to teach—to teach about character, communication, and even current events and community concerns like racism.

In fact, we had an open and honest conversation around the dinner table the other night about racism.  It was sweet to see their puzzled expressions when we talked about the fact that some people treat people differently because of the color of their skin.  My 6-year-old couldn’t believe it.  That’s a good thing because that means we have done our job so far to teach him that as a Leeb, we are to treat everyone with kindness and respect.  But it also made me aware that we need to do a better job teaching him about the realities of racism in our world so he can be better equipped to handle situations as they arise when he gets older. This is another reason to have intentional family meetings.

Have a family meeting about racism and talk about what your kids know and don’t know (of course in age-appropriate ways).  You may just have some great opportunities for some insightful discussions like we did.

Need help getting a family meeting started?  We use the 5 P’s—

1. P—Praise—Start with positives—take turns sharing one good thing that happened in your day or week.  I think we could all use to hear some positive things.
2. P—Plans—Share any plans for the week (we’ve been skipping this one lately because we have nothing going on because of COVID-19), but you can use this time to share any family special time or individual kid time stuff you have planned.
3. P—Practice—Use anything you saw your kids struggle with that week and practice it.  For example–

  • if there was a lot of sibling rivalry over sharing, have them role-play sharing a toy.
  • if there were a lot of issues about listening and obeying, put some silly requests (like run around the table barking like a dog) and/or serious requests (like go upstairs and put your pajamas on) in a cup and have them take turns picking something out that they have to do.  Practicing listening and obeying can be fun!
  • if there were a lot of struggles turning off electronics, have them practice turning an electronic off the first time you ask them.
  • here is where you can add any other teaching moments pertinent to what’s going on the world like with racism–at our family meeting this week, we had our kids practice standing up to a bully who was picking on someone because of their skin color.  They used one of our family phrases:  “Hey, leave him alone. Everyone deserves respect.”

4. P—Pray—Sit or stand in a circle and hold hands and pray together.  Pray over your family issues and even our community or world issues.  Here’s another way we can all help end racism. Imagine every week if every family from every race prayed for racial unity and for wisdom to make that happen!  Wow! What a difference that could make.

At the end of our prayer time, we do a big family hug.  Then, before we move on to the last P, we all stack our hands in the middle of our circle and do a quick…”Gooooooooooo, Leebs!”  (Because remember that your family is your team, let’s build that idea with some fun.)

5. P—Play—This is such a great one.  Taking time to play as a family together is so powerful.  SO POWERFUL! Not only is play powerful for relationship-building in your family, it’s good for your kids and for YOU!  Play helps our brains, our bodies, and our emotions.  In fact, in my research for my master’s in Psychology, Stuart Brown, The Founder of the National Institute for Play, shared something profound: “Work isn’t the opposite of play.  Depression is the opposite of play.”  He goes on to say: “Nothing lights up the brain more than play.”

Play together—play board games, play freeze tag, play kick ball, play cards, play hide and seek.  End each family meeting doing something fun together.  One of my favorite things to do is have a big family tickle fight. Or better yet…a big family pillow fight (I know I’ve shared this before, but it still feels good to hit my husband with a pillow. And any child who has irritated me that week–and they just laugh and laugh. LOL!)

Use play as a way to connect your family and bring some joy to your life.

And use The Family Meeting Tool to unite, to educate, and to have fun with your family…and that just might be a big step to bringing unity to the world.

Here is a PDF of the 5 P’s of a Family Meeting.

Lord, it is good and pleasing to you when Your people live in unity. Show us what we can do in our families and in our communities to make that happen.  

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

Ending Racism Starts at Home

I think we all want to do something here.  Something to help.  Something to make a difference.  Something to bring unity to our divided world.  But it’s hard to know what to do…what to tell our kids…what to say…where to start.

I say, we have to start somewhere.  Because sometimes when our world feels so divided…so full of hate…so overwhelmingly out of our control, we just don’t know what to do and sometimes, sadly, we end up doing nothing.

But we can do something.  We can absolutely be a part of bringing positive change to our world.  Because I truly believe that what we do in our homes can make a difference!


THE MODELING TOOL--I just shared this tool with you yesterday about how bad habits can be formed simply by what we say in front of our kids. What are we saying about people that are different than we are?  Are we instilling a hatred, a fear, a prejudice, a judgement without even realizing it?  Think about the words you speak about others.  Your kids are listening and learning and will follow your lead.

How can your words increase an awareness and appreciation for diversity?


THE 24/7 TOOL–When modeling unconditional love and kindness, we have opportunities every single day all throughout the day to instill a love and appreciation for others–no matter what their skin color.  One thing I’ve always done is point out all the different colors, shapes, sizes, and uniqueness in nature and say: “God loves variety and that’s why He made us all look so different. That’s why He made us all different colors.  That’s why He created such a beautiful, wonderful diverse palate in our world. And when you see anyone, no matter what color their skin is…no matter what shape or size they are…no matter what they look like…just remember this: God made them just the way He wanted them to be. And they are perfect in His eyes just the way they are.”

How can you use every minute as well as the world around you to inspire inclusion and a love for every race and color?


THE FAMILY IDENTITY TOOL--identify your family as people who love everyone—–who respects everyone, who values everyone, who sees everyone and who is no better than anyone.

  • We are the Leebs and we are kind to everyone no matter what their skin color is.
  • We are the Sanchez family and we believe that God calls us to treat everyone with respect…EVERYONE.
  • We are the Zang family and we see everyone as beautiful and deserving of our kindness.
  • We are the James family and we understand that this world may be divided, but we choose to seek peace and unity!

How can you use your family name to encourage a sense of belonging in what you believe promoting the just, fair, respectful treatment of others?


THE SERVICE TOOL--Modeling with our words is powerful, but modeling a love for EVERYONE in action is more powerful.  One thing I recommend with your kids is finding ways to serve in your community.  For years my oldest son and I have served the homeless population in our community together. Serving side by side with diverse people to help diverse people models the responsibility we all have to help ALL PEOPLE!

How can you include your kids in opportunities to share love to everyone in need in tangible ways?


THE TEACHING TOOL—As parents, our job is to teach our kids. Yes, we are already teaching them by what they hear us say and what they see us do, but we can also be very intentional about teaching them about the beauty of diversity as well as about what’s going on in this world in age-appropriate ways.

For younger kids—

For older kids, we do things with them that provide great talking points—

  • we can read books like A Kids Book About Racism, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, The Hate U Give (please check ages and appropriateness for your own kids)
  • we can watch movies like The Perfect Game, And The Children Shall Lead, and Hidden Figures
  • we can talk to them…have a deep heart-to-heart discussion about what’s going on and ask them to share their thoughts and feelings about it.
  • we show them short video clips or news footage of what’s going on in our world right now and ask what they think we can do to make this world a better place and end racism–love all people, treat everyone with respect, and give everyone equal opportunities.  I’ll bet your kids will surprise you with their answers.

How can you intentionally and proactively teach your kids in visual and hands-on ways connecting with their hearts in order to guide their hearts?

THE PRAYER TOOL—Every day, pray with your kids.  Pray for God to bring His peace, His unity, and His love into all of our hearts. Ask God to shine His light on our racially divided world and ask for His wisdom for how each of us can make changes…what little things we can do to make a difference. Pray for God to increase our understanding and empathy of what others are going through and how we can help.  And pray for Him to give us the courage to do it.  What if every day, we all prayed together for unity?

How can you use the power of prayer to show your kids to rely on our true Source for change?

Sometimes it feels in tough situations like these, we can’t do anything to make a difference. But I hope you can make little choices applying these practical tools every day in your homes and…

  • model kindness to EVERYONE
  • use the world around you to share the beauty of God’s plan for diversity
  • establish your family as a family who cares about and loves ALL PEOPLE
  • serve others and giving to your community
  • intentionally teach about the beauty of diversity and the sad reality of racism
  • pray for His wisdom on how to work towards unity in our world.

I’m going to choose to be the change in my family and I hope you will too.  I know some of these tools may fall short of uncovering the true brokenness behind the racial division in our country, but we have to try.  We have to start somewhere!

Please share any other ideas or tools you have used or are using. We’re all in this together!

Lord, Your light shines more brilliantly in dark times. We are asking you to shine brightly and show us how you are working now and how we can work now in our homes…with our kids…to bring Your call to unity to life. 

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

What Our Anxious Kids Need During COVID-19

It is certainly frightening times…things are so uncertain…there are so many unknowns.

All the mask-wearing, school and event-cancelling, and deadly virus-talking is enough to make anyone anxious.

It’s no surprise that my daughter has started pulling out her eyelashes again.  She struggles with an obsessive compulsive anxiety condition called Trichotillomania.  We had started to make so much progress through counseling and even tools I’ve developed, and for months, she had completely stopped hair-pulling.  And now this…

Sometimes there is no tool and not enough counseling to completely halt anxious feelings or the actions that go along with it.  That’s the life of an anxious child. But really, that’s just life.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s imperfect. And it can be very frustrating.

If you or your kids are struggling during this time, first of all, you are not alone. I’m right there with you!

But there are some tools we can use to make things a little better and ease some of our child’s anxiety (and even our own):

1. The Prayer Tool

God reminds us in Philippians 4:6-7 not to worry about anything, but instead pray about everything. We can come alongside our kids who tend to worry and remind them about the power of prayer.  Pray with them. Ask God to protect your family and your loved ones and watch over our whole community and world. What a great example of putting our worry energy into prayer energy.

  • A simple prayer for worry to teach kids:
    • God, please take my worries away
    • and watch over me and my family every day. 

You can pray with your child. You can also remind them to pray on their own. You can even give them a journal/diary where they can write or draw out their worries or prayers. Set up a little time every day to pray and talk about their anxious feelings together.

Anxious kids need to get their anxious thoughts and feelings out (otherwise that anxiousness will turn to anger.) Yikes!

2. The Routine Tool

Most kids thrive on routine, but anxious kids especially need routine. Routines are predictable and make kids feel secure.  And in such an unpredictable time, why not give them something they can count on.  Now that we are all home together all day every day, take time to create a routine in your day together. For our family, our routine basically revolves around regularly scheduled meals. On most days, everything in between is just play time. But when we need more structure in our day, I give them a sticky note of chores.  Then they need to complete their checklist before they have any TV or electronic time. And of course, any chore completion is always better with teamwork, so it’s OK to work with your kids to Team Clean their rooms with them or turn on some fun, dance music and do the house-cleaning together.

Your anxious child may complain about the chores (which is normal), but will definitely thrive on having the routine—even if it is a relatively loose one like ours.

3. The Connection Tool

Routine is definitely helpful for chores and schoolwork, but so is intentionally planning on some one-on-one time with our kids as well as time together as a whole family! The best thing we can do with our anxious children is to reassure them of our love and attention.  That is certainly one way that God is making all things good in this situation. For more ideas of ways to connect as a family or with your kids individually, you can print out these 2 resources and use them as a checklist:

The more we point our kids to the Source of our peace through prayer, the more we can create some routine and normalcy in their days, and the more fun and light-hearted moments we can provide will not only build our relationship with our anxious child stronger, but will also ease their anxiety longer.

Lord, you are the Source of our Peace…even during times of fear and uncertainty. Remind us that our anxious kids feed off our own anxious thoughts and words. Be our Source of Peace. Remind us to pray about everything and be grateful for what You are doing in our families during this time.

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Children’s Quarantine Anger

I want to make this short and sweet because if you’re like me, you feel very bombarded with information, and “things you must do”, and “things you must NOT do”, and finishing up schoolwork, and work. Oh and also parenting kids who have been cooped up and wonder why they can’t go to the playground or over to a friend’s house.

Life just feels weird right now. All of our emotions are high…and kids are going to share their emotions in quite a variety of ways…some sweet, some annoying…some whining…some raging. And sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get!

It’s hard. This is hard on all of us. And sometimes it’s easy to get angry or yell.  But there are better strategies…better tools we can use.

1. THE REWIND TOOL

If kids don’t do the right thing the first time, just simply ask them to rewind and try it again. We do not have to allow disrespect or disobedience in our home, but we also don’t have to issue consequences every time they do anything “wrong”. Our kids are learning, so why not give them “on the spot” training and have them do it again. This way they can experience success right away while also knowing that you are not going to allow their inappropriate behavior. By the way, with strong-willed kids, you may have to rewind many, many times. “Nothing else will happen in your day until you choose to try this again respectfully. Thank you.”

2. THE PRACTICE TOOL

The Rewind Tool is great if our kids say something or do something that needs to be done again to get it right. But The Practice Tool is very intentional time you set aside to practice the skills and character traits you want to instill in your kids. You can do this at a Family Meeting each week where you play a Listening and Obeying game. Or before they get on an electronic device, you have them quickly practice what they will say when you say it’s time to turn it off. For kids to get better at things, they need to practice them. Why not have them practice getting better at being obedient or respectful or helpful or kind?

Now is the time to practice better tools and better reactions. The longer we are all cooped up together, the more time we have to teach them better responses and build better relationships with them.  Let’s use this time to our full advantage.

It is my prayer that The Rewind Tool and The Practice Tool brings less anger as well as shorter fits and sweeter moments to your parenting interactions this week! We’re all in this together, parents.

Lord, You know what we each need to be the calm parent You are calling us to be. Bring Your patience and kindness into our homes and Your peace into our hearts. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

For more tools in the Teamwork Parenting Approach, click here.