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. 

Let Kids Grieve Their Losses over COVID-19

My oldest is a 5th grader and was looking forward to his last class trip…now he’s home tripping over his little brother’s Legos. He was excited about his end-of-the-year band concert…now he’s getting to the end of his rope dealing with his siblings purposely annoying him.  And he was ecstatic about his final season of Little League Baseball…now he keeps waiting for the final day of this quarantine…but who knows when that will even be!

My husband and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in July, and we were planning a trip to celebrate.  We haven’t gone on a trip together since our 10 year anniversary and we were really looking forward to a getaway together. But now…who knows?

I’m sure you’re seeing some loss in your own life too.  Last days of school, graduations, birthday parties, play dates, park time, going out to dinner, going anywhere as a family!  It’s crazy.

Here are three things we can all remember here…
1. There are so many other people dealing with deeper levels of loss especially those who have actually lost loved ones to COVID-19. (This sad reality always helps me to keep things in perspective.)
2.  Even so…It’s OK to be sad about the loss we are each experiencing. It’s OK to grieve the losses that none of us were prepared for.  It’s actually healthy to take time to grieve any loss.
3. And we have to help our kids grieve their losses too.

It’s truly hard to know at this point how all our kids are taking this. But be prepared. Just know that kids will have many emotions wrapped in one big complex emotional ball bouncing around your house.

One minute, they may be just fine, but then they think about missing their friends at school, and they will explode on you or their siblings for seemingly no apparent reason.

Here are few tools from the Teamwork Parenting Approach to help…

The Detective Tool in the Teamwork Parenting Approach reminds us that we can’t always take our kids’ emotions at face value. Remember that anger isn’t really anger. It’s often just fear and sadness disguising itself. Do our kids have a lot to be afraid of right now? Yep. A deadly virus, no doubt. Do our kids have a lot to be sad about? Yep. No school, no friends, no play dates, no outings. Everything is different for them. And it’s hard. They are experiencing a lot of loss too.

So remember to look more closely at their anger and ask them to talk out their fear or sadness or draw pictures of what they are going to miss. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about what they are sad or scared about. Talking it out helps get the fear or sadness out a little each time which will greatly help with their ability to control their emotions later on. They need to know we understand…we get it.  Be extra patient here.  We are here to help them through this tough time. That’s what families do!


The Emotional Coaching Tool reminds us that even though we can be detectives to help our kids uncover the fear and sadness fueling their anger, it’s also our job to not only help them identify their emotions (“I can tell you’re feeling very frustrated.”) but also coach them through their emotions (“When you feel so frustrated, what’s a healthy thing you can do?”)

A critical part of coaching our kids and teaching them how to handle their emotions is to give them alternatives…provide them with tools they can use instead of allowing their anger to come out in aggressive, inappropriate ways. One thing we’ve found helpful is to review our “Calm Strategies” at breakfast each morning.

Last night my kids had a sleepover together and stayed up and watched movies, so we knew they would be tired today (Note–tiredness…also something that fuels anger—have your kids been staying up way too late these days too, by the way?), so we gave them 5 things to do if they feel angry.  In fact, we wrote these down and taped them to the wall where it would be visible.

  1. Go to room and get some space.
  2. Wash face in the bathroom.
  3. Go punch on the punching bag.
  4. Go outside and shoot hoops.
  5. Find a way to be helpful around the house.

You can come up with your own list that meets your kids’ and family’s needs, but the point is to be proactive and give them tools and options so they know what TO DO instead of just being told what not to do.

We are all experiencing some sort of loss these days. Take time to mourn it and help your kids do the same.  But I also encourage you to take time this week to write down everything that you have gained too (besides the #quarantine15 lol).  Sit down with your kids and have them add to your list to help them focus on the good things about this time together too. And maybe with the positive things in mind, they won’t get quite as frustrated when they step on that Lego!

Lord, you bring healing to the brokenhearted. You lead us to peaceful waters. You restore our souls. You refresh our minds. In all circumstances, we can find joy. We ask for your joy today in our homes, in our hearts, and in our world.

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

27 Ways to Connect as a Family

The Connection Tool

Even though I don’t like the circumstances behind this social distancing, and I do not take how scary this virus is lightly, I do believe that God makes all things good. And the good I see already happening is that we are getting back to the basics…family time. Not always on the go, not frantically running around from activity to activity. Just taking time to breathe…to connect…and for some families…to reconnect.

I believe that we’ve all been sucked into this “rat race” of busyness and have been made to feel that this is how our lives should be. In a sense, over the years, our society has gotten into the habit of family-distancing. We’ve been running around pouring our energy into our work, into kids’ activities, and even into volunteer activities instead of pouring our energy into our families and into building close relationships with our spouse and with our kids.

So again, even though I do not like that something like this virus is the reason behind families being forced to spend time together, I do believe that God is going to bless this time for all of us…if we make the most of out it. I’m seeing families out on bike rides…I see families walking around our neighborhood together. And I think–“Yes, this is how things should be more often.”  Maybe this time can be spent not only reconnecting but also reprioritizing our time and learning to put more time into our families.

Together, let’s turn this social-distancing into family-connecting!

Here are a few ways (thank you to our board members who helped with this list) to put The Connection Tool to good use and connect as a family—

  • Have a family movie night and pizza night.
  • Create a new family recipe.
  • Design a Family Flag.
  • Come up with a new family motto.
  • Start a new tradition—the crazier, the better!
  • Play Board Games.
  • Build a fort and watch home videos.
  • Make a family photo album or scrapbook or picture video.
  • Make up a family rap, poem, song, or rhyme. Bonus points for coming up with hand gestures. Extra bonus points for performing it! Extra extra bonus points for posting it on Social Media!
  • Have a “Taste the Rainbow Night”—where you buy fruits and vegetables of every different color of the rainbow and try them together (healthy food = healthy bodies)
  • Pretend to travel to another country—make food, listen to music, learn some new words, and imagine you are there! (We recently went to “Jamaica” as a family)
  • Have a dance party and each make requests of your favorite dance songs.
  • Put on a family concert (with actual instruments or with pots and pans and other household items).
  • Make up a skit and perform it.
  • Take donations to your local food pantry.
  • Have a Nerf Gun fight (Please wear your safety goggles)
  • Go on a Weird Nature Walk where you try to find weird things.
  • Have a family devotional time.
  • Design a family t-shirt. Come up with a team name, logo, and motto. Bonus points–order shirts for the whole family!
  • Get a head start on yard work or plant a garden – start with seeds in a cup.
  • Take turns letting each family member be the “teacher” where everyone gets to teach something they enjoy doing.
  • Do a “Show and Tell” time where everyone gets a few minutes to share their favorite item in the house.
  • Make a list of how your family can make the world a better place.
  • Start a “Wall of Gratitude” where you write down everything that you are grateful for.
  • Have a pillow fight. (Have safety rules in place—no heads or necks).
  • Come up with a secret family handshake.
  • Do a big “I love you” family hug every day.

Here’s a print-out 27 WAYS TO CONNECT AS A FAMILY in case you want to use this as a checklist. 🙂

Put on love which binds them together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

We Use Teamwork Words

Our words matter.  Whether we want to admit it or not, the power of our own words matters in our homes.  Our kids are listening.  The scary part is just how closely that they are listening.

Just to give you an idea…the other day, my oldest son was working on his Math Stars homework.  I heard him say to my husband:  “Daddy, I don’t like to do this work.  It’s like: ‘Great! You’re smart in math…let me give you more work to do!” 

I just chuckled in the other room because I had said that exact thing…word for word…about his Math Stars homework the other day.  And my son was listening.  I only said it once and yet he could quote me WORD FOR WORD!  And he said these words as if they were his own.  I could share more stories like this…could you?

That’s exactly what happens.  Our words become their words. 

The Modeling Tool is so important in our parenting. We must model the kind and respectful words we want our kids to use. When we talk to our spouse…when we talk to our friends…when we interact with strangers…when we make comments, observations, and pretty much say anything about anything, they are listening…and learning!

In our home, we focus a lot on being a team.  That’s why we created the Teamwork Parenting Approach. We want our kids (and every kid) to have a sense of belonging in family.  We want them to value unity and togetherness.  And we are well aware that this starts with our words!

Any change in our homes that we desire to make must start with our words.  First and foremost, words of prayer.  That’s how true change will happen.  Then, we must be mindful of the words we speak on a daily basis.  If we want our kids to speak life, our words need to speak life.  If we want our kids to speak kindness, love, respect, compassion, joy, and peace, our words need to do the same.

We want more teamwork in our home, so we model Teamwork Words.    Teamwork words are always welcome in the Leeb home.  And through the Modeling Tool, we intentionally use them.  And our kids are learning to use them too.  That’s just how it works.

And that’s just the power of our words.  Our words matter!

Lord, death and life are in the power of our tongues. (Proverbs 18:21)  Let us speak words of life.  Set a guard over our mouths, Lord; keep watch over the door of our lips. (Psalm 141:3)  Give us wisdom to use words that reflect You to our children. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

The 5 P’s for Family Meetings

“That’s it!  Family Meeting RIGHT NOW!”  This is how our Family Meetings used to come about.  They were mainly a we-can’t-take-this-anymore type of meeting where we basically ripped them a new one.  Our Family Meetings used to be more out of desperation for control in the chaos than anything else.  Now they are more intentional.

Over the past few years, as we have developed the Teamwork Parenting Approach, we have been implementing The Family Meeting Tool by having regularly scheduled Family Meetings.  Every Monday night after dinner, bath, and pajamas, we gather around the kitchen table for a little snack and our weekly team meeting.

They have been so helpful and powerful–especially with the 4 P’s we focus on each time to help our team…our family…be stronger…

  1. PRAISE:  It’s so important for any strong team to focus on what they’re doing well.  This is simply a time to focus on the positive things about our family.  We all take turns sharing what we’ve enjoyed doing together, what we feel has been going smoothly, or any ways we have improved as a family over the past week.
  2. PLAN:  Strong teams take time to plan ahead.  Families who know what’s coming up in their week can work better to get the things done that need to get done.  We share any events, birthdays, special occasions, school outings, or activities. We also make a point to have one special family time on the calendar. I truly believe that the key to a strong family is spending time together.  Oh and we also share with our kids when we have a date night coming up too.  It’s so important for our kids to know that we invest in our marriage and make it a priority.
  3. PRACTICE:  All great teams need practice.  Our families need practice too. I keep a Family Meeting Agenda sheet on our refrigerator so that any family member can jot things down that our family needs to practice.  Some recent items on our agenda? Respecting the “No”, Things I Can and Can’t Control, Listening and Obeying, What To Do and NOT Do While We Are on the Phone, What To Do Instead of Losing Your Cool, etc.  It’s been incredibly helpful to give our kids these tools in advance during calm times instead of feeling out of control and resorting to anger and yelling during the crazy times.  It’s really about being more proactive instead of reactive.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been able to keep my cool and say: “Remember what we practiced at our Family Meeting. How can you Respect her ‘No’?”  And then they remember that they have the tools to Respect her ‘No’ by saying “Ok, I’m disappointed you’re not going to play.  If you change your mind, I will be in the basement playing something else” because we’ve practiced it together in advance!  How awesome is that?  Giving kids the tools they will need to resolve conflict, stand up for themselves, solve problems, and respect others will help them in our family teams, but will also help them in life!
  4. PRAY:  A family who prays together…stays together. I love it when my team…my family…holds hands around the table and prays over our week.  We take time to pray over the skills we practiced, over any requests the kids have, and we always pray that the Leeb family would be God’s love and light in this world.
  5. PLAY: I also believe strongly that a family who PLAYS together…stays together. After each family meeting, we play a game together. It’s a great way to end our meeting–laughing and having fun together.

After our meeting is over, we always huddle together, put our hands in the middle and say: “Go Leebs!”  Then we do a big team hug.

Our meetings aren’t perfect.  Sometimes we’ve had to end them early and send the kids to bed and try again the next night, but we keep going.  We keep meeting.  We keep gathering together as a team each and every week.

If you’d like to get started on your own Family Meetings, here are a few quick tips:

  • Let your kids know that these meetings are a chance to make your family a better and stronger team.
  • Start small–especially while your kids are small. You can start with just 3 P’s–Praise, Pray, and Play and build from there.
  • Assure your older kids that they will have a chance to share what concerns they have too.
  • Set up clear and firm expectations and consequences for behavior at the meetings in advance.
  • Keep the meeting on the same day and time each week if possible.
  • Keep it short, light-hearted, and as encouraging as possible.
  • Always have a snack.  LOL!

Lord, Your word reminds us that where two or more are gathered together in Your name, You are with them. (Matthew 18:20) Provide the opportunity for our families to gather in Your name and unite, talk, share, laugh, learn, and grow to be all that You created them to be.

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

5 Ways to Help Our Kids Feel Important

Besides “I love you”, our kids need to hear two more things from us…

“You belong.”  
and
“You are significant.”  

For some kids saying “I love you” isn’t enough.  And you guessed it, for some kids saying “You belong” and “You are significant” just isn’t enough either.

In these cases, actions truly do speak louder than words.  As parents, how can we show our kids that we love them, that they belong, and that they are significant?

Well, I wish I could say I could give you the exact formula that every child needs, but I can’t.  What I can do is offer you just a few simple actions to get you started…

1.  Pray for them:  First and foremost, they need to know that they are children of God.  Ask Him to open their eyes to see how they are loved by Him, how they belong to Him, and how significant they are to Him–that they have a special purpose that only they can fulfill!  Ask God for wisdom for each child.  He loves them (even more than we do).  He created them and knows exactly how they are wired.  Pray for Him to guide your words and actions for what each child needs.

2.  Have Special Time:  To kids, our time means significance.  Our time means they belong…they matter…they are important.  Our time means love.  Make it a goal to not let one day go by without connecting with your child in some way. Whether it’s reading a book, asking them bedtime questions, rubbing their back, throwing a ball, etc.  Find something that works for each child and your schedule.  (And if your schedule is too busy to connect, ask yourself what you can cross off your to-do list so that you have more time to connect.)

3.  Have Monthly Dates:  One idea a mom shared with me is for the day of the month that each child was born, do a special date night with that child.  Oh my goodness do my kids LOVE this and look forward to it each month!!!

4.  Put Them Above Things:  Your kids need to know that they are more important than a broken glass, a broken toy, a stained shirt or even our phones!!  You can always replace those things but your kids are irreplaceable.  Help them clean up the mess, fix the toy, or put stainstick on their shirt.  No big deal.  And when they talk to you, put your phone down and give them the eye contact and respect they deserve (I’m preaching to myself here too!)

5.  Work as a Team:  Ask for their opinions when appropriate—meals, restaurants, vacations, movie for family movie night, etc.  Do things as a family—clean up the house together, serve the community, pray, eat meals, etc.  Work together to figure out how to solve problems in your family–too much fighting, back talk, disrespect, yelling, etc.  “Kids-this isn’t working for our family.  I would love to hear your ideas of how we can do ______________better.  Then, we will come up with a plan and work together!”

Lord, give us moments to show our kids we love them.  Give us opportunities to teach them that they belong to You and to our family.  And challenge us to put our kids above the things of this world.  Help us plant seeds that grow significance in their hearts.  

Here’s to building better families—

Christine

When Your Child Asks: “What’s My Purpose in Life?”

Every day, I walk my son to the corner for school.  We chat about the weather and make observations about nature around us.  And I always tell him how much I love him and pray for him.  It’s the same prayer I pray every day and it’s the same prayer I pray for him at bedtime:

“May God bless you and keep you safe and healthy.  May He watch over you and guide you and help you to make kind and loving choices for yourself and for others.  And may you always know that you have a very special purpose in life and so does everyone else.”

Today, as I put my arm around him and prayed as we walked, he asked me a question…

“Mommy, what is my purpose in life?”

I’ve prayed that prayer for him every single day this school year and this is the first time he has asked me that question.  And it’s a good one…one for all of us to ask ourselves.

I said, “Well, God will reveal specifically how He wants to use you with the gifts He has purposely given you as you grow older, but while you’re waiting, you are called to love God, love yourself, and love others.  And in fact, that calling on your life will never change.  No matter how old you are or what you do with your life or what your circumstances are, you can always love God, love yourself, and love others.  Isn’t that awesome?”

I’m not sure if he truly understood how awesome that is, but his “Ok” told me that he at least understood a little bit.  After all, he’s only almost 9 and it took me almost 40 years of my life to truly understand that.

But today, at least a seed was planted.  And I just pray it grows as he grows.  And as life gets messy and confusing and uncertain at times, I pray that he will always know with certainty his very special purpose in this world…loving God, loving himself, and loving others…no matter what!  And that will bring him contentment and even joy in all things.

What a great lesson for all of us.

Lord, Your greatest commandment to us is to love You with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (from Matthew 22:37-39) That is our greatest purpose in life.  We can all do this no matter how old we are, what life stage we are in, or what our crazy circumstances bring.  Help us to love You, love the person we see in the mirror, and love the people you have placed right in front of us.  And give us wisdom to teach our kids to do the same.  

Here’s to building better families together!
Christine