When Our Kids Complain

My oldest complains about everything.  Seriously, we could tell him that we’re going to a park or going out for ice cream and he would find something to complain about.  It’s really frustrating.

Of course, I want my son to be able to express his opinions about how he feels.  Of course, I want him to know that it’s OK to have thoughts and feelings that are different than everyone else.  Of course, I want him to know that it’s OK to not want to do something or go somewhere.

But complaining about everything was getting exhausting.

When kids are babies, they “complain” by crying or throwing a fit when they have a need or don’t get their way, and it’s our job to teach them to use their words instead of melting down.

We guide them by giving them their “lines.”

“Mommy, could I please have more juice?” 

Not that they will get more juice, but we are at least giving them the right words to say to be kind and respectful when they make their request.

When kids can use their words as they get older, then what?  Do we still give them their lines?

Absolutely, we do!  Not only do we give them the words, we give the tone at which to say those words too, right?

The tone we use means just as much, if not more, than the words we say.  

So when my son does complain about going to get ice cream (as crazy as it is), instead of getting angry and frustrated at him like I used to, I calmly and respectfully say:

  • “Can you try to say it again in a respectful way?”  This gives him an opportunity to think about how he is sharing his opinion if he didn’t share it respectfully with his words and tone the first time.   I will happily give him his lines if he can’t think of what to say or how to say it.
  • “I understand that getting ice cream may not be your favorite thing to do right now.”  This validates his feelings.
  • “And you don’t have to want to come.”  This respects his opinion and lets him know that I’m not out to change it.
  • “But you are a member of our family and we love you, so you will be joining us but you don’t have to eat ice cream or have fun if you don’t want to.”  (Can you believe that I actually have said these words???)  This again respects his opinion not to eat ice cream.  This also reinforces our unconditional love for him and our desire to spend time with him no matter what!

We may not always understand why our kids complain about things that don’t need to complain about or why they have the opinions that they have.  And we sure can’t make our kids want to do something.

In fact, it’s not our job to change our kids’ opinions at all. It’s our job to respect their opinions and to teach them how to share their opinions in a way that respects us.

And more importantly, it’s our job to show them that we love them unconditionally and want to be with them…even if they complain and don’t want to eat ice cream with us.

Lord, thank you for the gift of our words and our ability to express them in a way that honors You.  May we always model gracious words to our children.  May they be like a honeycomb–sweet to their souls.  May they bring health to their bodies (Proverbs 16:24).  Remind us that we say matters.  Guide us in teaching our kids about the power of their own words and expressing their own opinions without complaining but with respect and with love.  

**And by the way, when I’ve learned to respect my son’s opinion and not try to change it, my son has eaten ice cream with us every single time.  🙂

Here’s to building better families–
Christine

The Giving Box

Several years ago in our family, we started The Giving Box. What is The Giving Box, you ask?  I’m so glad you asked!

Raise your hand if you have too much stuff.  Me, me, me!  It seems that no matter what I do, I just can’t keep up with all the stuff in our house. Every gift-giving holiday brings a little anxiety as we don’t have room for the stuff we already have…especially toys.  We are so blessed but too many things can feel burdensome–especially when I think about those who have nothing or very little.

I want our kids to understand how blessed they are. I want them also to understand that having more and more things is not what this life is about.  If we have abundance or too much of something, we should give it to those who could use it or appreciate it more than we do…enter The Giving Box.

Every December, we put out a Giving Box (plastic tub or laundry basket) and see how many times we can fill it with things we can donate.  Last year, we filled it four times!  I’m challenging my kids to fill it more times this year.

Teaching our kids to have a heart to give doesn’t take much…

  • always having $1 handy for the Salvation Army bell ringer.
  • bringing a homeless man a meal.
  • participating in toy drives, book drives, or canned food drives.
  • bringing chicken soup to a sick friend.
  • putting $1 in the offering plate at church.
  • volunteering at a soup kitchen.

But teaching our kids to have a heart to give does take us.  We have to be the ones to set the example.  We have to be the ones to place an importance on giving.  We have to give first and then they will follow our lead.

You can work as a team with your family to teach the beauty of giving to others too.  Giving is about love, thoughtfulness, and compassion.  Giving is about understanding that there is a world outside of ourselves that our kids can be a part of helping.  Giving is about God in motion.  We are His hands and feet and so when we teach our kids to give, not only are we modeling teamwork, but we are modeling a calling to give as we are able.

How to use The Giving Box with your family:

  1. Get a box, laundry basket, or large tub or storage bin. Attach a sign that says “The Giving Box.”
  2. Bring your family together and share how blessed that you are as a family to have each other and that people are more important than things.
  3. Let them know that together, as a team/family, you are going to see how many times you can fill The Giving Box with things from around the house.
  4. Choose a local charity where you will be donating your items. Research the charity together so you know how your things are going for the greater good.
  5. Work as a team to go through every closet, every cabinet. Clean out toys, books, clothes, shoes, hats, gloves, coats, pots, pans…everything you own should be gone through!
  6. Keep track of how many times the box is filled and do a family hug each time you’ve filled it.

The Giving Box–what a great way to get rid of things in your home, bless others, and be blessed as you work as a team to give!

THE GIVING BOX SIGN AND DIRECTIONS
Lord, you say to give as we are able.  You say to give generously.  Open our hearts to the ways you want us to give generously using the gifts you have given us.  Show us ways we can use our time, our resources, and even our prayers to help others.  And may our acts of giving reflect your light and love onto our children so that their hearts would beam with the desire to give.

Here’s to building better families–

Christine

 

 

 

Here’s to building better families-

Christine

3 Reasons Our Kids Need Routine

Kids need routine.  I’m not talking about planning out every single minute of their day to the point where you rob your kids of all creativity, freedom, or spontaneity.  I’m talking about having a plan that kids can follow during certain times of the day in order to help them be more productive and help your life be less crazy.

During the school year, it is especially important for kids to have routines.  In our home, we have a morning routine, an after-school routine, and a bedtime routine.  We have checklists everywhere to make sure that they know exactly what to do.

Here’s why routine is so important…

  1. Routine creates security:  When we do the same things over and over in the same way, kids feel more secure.  That’s why little ones ask us to read the same books over and over and over and over and over.  I had Brown Bear, Brown Bear memorized because no matter how many times I read it, my kids wanted me to read it again and again.  There is security in familiarity.  Routines help the day become familiar.  And kids become more confident when they know what to expect and when they can predict what comes next.
  2. Routine encourages responsibility:  It is important for kids to know what is expected of them.  Whether it’s chores or homework or what they need to do at bedtime, establishing a routine allows them to take the responsibility for getting the job done.
  3. Routine fosters independence:  It is not our job to do everything for our kids–after all, we do want them to grow up to be self-sufficient, responsible adults.  But it is our job to teach them what to do, how to do it, and then let them go from there.  We want them to eventually be able to do everything without our guidance.  And routine helps.  With a solid routine in place, kids feel more empowered to manage their own time and their own responsibilities.

So, how do you create strong routines in your home?

  • First of all, identify “problem” areas or times of day where your family would benefit from a routine.
  • Write down everything that you would like for your kids to do.
  • Create a short, simple checklist (use pictures for younger kids) to help get their routine in order.
  • Read through the checklist with your kids to check for understanding.  You can also ask them if they have anything to add (this makes them feel important getting to share their thoughts and opinions).
  • In the beginning, have them practice going through the checklist with your guidance.  Remind them to look at their checklist.  “Have you done everything on your after-school checklist?”  Check their “work”.
  • Once they have learned the routine, you can give them some space.  You may need to remind or encourage them every once in a while.  And by the way, it’s OK to let your kids forget things from time to time–there will be natural consequences–especially when it comes to school work.  Or for frequent forgetfulness, you may need to introduce a small, fair consequence to boost that responsibility factor.

Hopefully, with practice, you will be able to watch your secure, responsible, independent children flowing through their routines and checking things off their checklists.  And eventually, you will find that your kids will know their routine so well, they won’t even need the checklists anymore.

And then, maybe…just maybe, you will have more time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy a brownie!  🙂 Ha.

Here’s to building better families-

Christine

Family Fun Summer Challenge

Truly, they may drive you crazy–as my kids already are and summer break has only just begun—but taking time to connect with your family and have fun together can make a big difference.  My kids love our “Family Fun Summer Surprises” as we call them.  We write them on our calendar once a week and don’t even tell them anything about them.  We make them wonder what we are going to do and where we are going to go.

Building memories together and taking time to be together is what makes our families stronger and better and Real Life Families wants to help your family do the same.

Starting June 17th, we will send you a short and sweet email once a week for 10 weeks throughout the summer with a super simple family fun idea to do each week.  That’s it.

Are you ready to connect with your family this summer? Let the fun begin!

Sign up for our Summer Date Night Challenge too!

Summer Date Night Challenge

Making time to date your spouse will only make your family stronger.  Why?  Because your kids need to see you and your spouse having fun…connecting…being silly…making each other laugh…and more importantly, making each other a priority.  That means: “We love you, kids, but you’re going to bed early so mommy and daddy can spend some time together WITHOUT YOU!”

Oh I know how hard it is.  Raising kids can suck every ounce of energy and motivation you may have and just simply getting through the day can be something to celebrate.  I get it.  I really do.  But, this summer, Real Life Families would like to invite you to get a little boost of energy and a teeny tiny bit of motivation to date your spouse, and we will make it easy for you.  For the next 10 weeks, we will give you 10 simple date night ideas for you to try and we challenge you to do one idea just once a week.  We know that your marriage will be totally blessed by it!

Join in the date night fun!  It starts June 17th.

Sign up for our Family Fun Summer Challenge too–with ideas of how to connect with your whole family!

Bedtime Sticker Chart–Plus, 4 Tips to Make Bedtime Easier

Sometimes I love bedtimes with my kids–books, snuggles, songs, prayers, hugs, kisses and lights out.  And sometimes I hate bedtimes with my kids.  Why is it that everything seems to hurt…at bedtime?  Why is it that suddenly everyone is dying of thirst…at bedtime?  And why is it that bowels seem to need to move…at bedtime?  AAAAAAHHHHH!  It’s enough to make you scream…JUST GO TO BED ALREADY!!!

I have three children and all three of them have had very different bedtime needs.  My husband and I have had to crack the secret code with each kid to figure out what would be the right combination to not only get each child to bed, but keep in child in bed!

Along with prayer, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help bedtimes be less crazy.  I hope these help you too…

  1.  Have a routine:  This helped each of our children get into a bedtime rhythm.  We try to keep bedtime close to the same time every night too and as early as possible–around 7:00pm or 7:30pm for little ones.  It always helped our kids to know what to expect which brought them security and a flow at bedtime.  After dinner, we clean up the house together, do baths, do some family special time like a quick game or a pillow fight or read a book while we have a little snack.  Then it’s go to the bathroom, brush teeth, and get tucked in bed.  In bed, we do the 4-Bedtime Questions–(if we don’t just do these quickly in the car or while they brush their teeth) which gives our kids a chance to talk about their day.  We rub their backs, sometimes sing a quick song or lullaby, say prayers and light out.  Do we do all of this every night? No.  Do we try? Yes.  And that’s all you can do too.  Try to keep bedtime as consistent as possible.
  2. Slow Down:  I’m right there with you.  At bedtime, you just want your kids to freaking go to bed, but I’ve also learned that they sense that which somehow triggers them to recharge and run around the house like goblins.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had somewhere to go after bedtime and those were always the nights where my kids get bit by the Extra Bug–can I have an extra song? an extra hug? an extra drink of water? an extra blanket? an extra stuffed animal? an extra backrub? When I rush, bedtimes don’t go as well.  Slowing down and connecting has really made a positive difference.  
  3. Find what works:  My oldest needed a sticker chart (download below) to help him learn to go to bed when it was time to go to bed.  He would fight bedtime with all his might until we got him a sticker chart.  Every night that bedtime went well, he got a sticker on his chart and got a special tickle time with daddy.  My daughter had trouble staying in bed all night long.  Sticker charts didn’t interest her, but she loved to be tickled.  So every night that she stayed in her bed all night, she got 200 tickles the next day.  Every child is different.  Find what will work for yours.
  4. Build a positive relationship even before bedtime begins:  Prayer, routine, bedtime questions, sticker charts and even 200 tickles can help with bedtime, but making sure that our kids have our time and love throughout the day can be helpful at bedtime too.  Whether you see it as a time bank or a love tank, kids need to feel full with our love and affection.  If they feel empty at bedtime and we’re trying to rush them through the process, they may act out simply to get our attention–even if it’s negative.  However, if we are intentional about filling our kids up throughout the day with giving hugs or encouraging notes or playing catch or helping them with homework or playing a game or reading a book, they will not feel so depleted when it’s time to close their eyes at night.  In fact, we want them to feel as full of our love as possible at the end of each day.  Investing time into our children will always be worth it!

Even though there may still be many “Whack-a-Mole” nights,  it is my prayer that you will be able to work as a team with your child to crack the bedtime code and discover the right combination for unlocking a beautiful, peaceful, and memorable bedtime for your family!

DOWNLOAD A STICKER CHART BELOW

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Boy

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Boy

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Girl

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Girl

 

 

The Get-Along Jar: An Idea to Stop Sibling Rivalry

The yelling…the screaming…the fighting…OH SO ANNOYING!  Sibling rivalry drives me crazy sometimes.  I’ll be honest…sometimes, I just let them argue it out. I just simply don’t have the time, energy, or the patience to step in every time and in fact, I’ve learned that it’s healthy to let my kids work it out on their own–unless it gets too out of hand, of course.

I’ve learned that it’s not always necessary for me to step in.  Taking time to teach my kids that they have a voice and they can stand up for themselves is an important skill for life.  Learning to handle an argument will certainly come in handy for their future.  I have given them three simple steps in a little rhyme to help them remember what to do…

  • Say it kindly.
  • Walk away.
  • Go get help. (Clap, clap, clap)

I want to empower my kids to try to solve their own problems with their siblings with kind and respectful words first.  “Please don’t hit me.  I don’t deserve it.”

Then, they walk away and get some space.

Then, if the offender keeps offending, they come get me for help.

Sometimes it works beautifully. Sometimes it doesn’t.  They are still learning and I just keep on teaching because I know they will benefit in the long run.

Recently, I found a new idea from www.kidsspot.com.au in an article called Put a Stop to Sibling Bickering: Make a Get-Along Jar.  It was my hope that I could use The Get-Along Jar in my own home as well as help another mom with some sibling rivalry going on in her home too.

I tried it.  And?

It was awful.  Ultimate fail!!  It only created more arguing.  So what started as an argument between siblings ended up being an argument between me and my oldest.  Not the point at all, but only he could turn an idea about getting along into an argument.  Oh the irony!

So why am I sharing this idea with you?  I’m sure you’re thinking…”Why do you want me to try it then?”

Because it just might work for you.  All kids are different.  And my oldest just so happens to thrive off of conflict so The Get-Along Jar gave him yet another opportunity to argue, but with my youngest kids, they actually did enjoy it.  They did choose to change their focus to try to work as a team instead of arguing which is the whole point of The Get-Along Jar to begin with.  Every child is different. Every family is different.  Your kids just might get it and if it can help you have less sibling rivalry going on in your home then my failed experiment will be all worth it.  🙂

Purpose

  • To distract kids in the middle of an argument or silly bickering.
  • To provide an opportunity to do something together that requires teamwork.
  • To remind each other that they love each other and that life is too short to spend time arguing when they can spend more time having fun and doing kind things together.

Materials

  • Jar or cup
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Strips of paper with get-along ideas (printable below)
  • Scissors
  • Markers to decorate
  • Glue

Get-Along Ideas (Download below)

  • Say three nice things about the other person.
  • Turn on some music and dance together.
  • Read a storybook together–taking turns reading a page.
  • Set the table together.
  • Make up a ‘getting along song’ and perform it for the family.
  • Make the other person’s bed.
  • Write a poem for the other person.
  • Clean the other person’s room.
  • Get each other a glass of water and sit outside to drink it.
  • Draw something positive about your sibling.
  • Sweep the floor together.
  • Make each other a ‘sorry’ card.
  • Play Simon Says for six minutes.
  • Draw a picture of each other.
  • Give each other a big hug.
  • Clean the bathroom sinks together.
  • Pick up the other person’s toys.
  • Do 10 sit ups, 10 jumping and five push-ups.
  • Tell each other a story.
  • Draw a picture together.
  • Tickle each other.
  • Do a kind deed together for someone else.
  • Ask your sibling 3 questions about themselves.
  • Make each other laugh with silly faces.
  • Play The Quiet Game.

How to use

  • Introduce your kids to The Get-Along Jar. Let them know that they are family and that they are called to love each other and work as a team and The Get-Along Jar is going to help remind them of that. Ask them to brainstorm ideas of some things they can do together to have fun instead of fighting or you can just use the ideas below.
  • Have them help decorate the sticks as well as label and decorate the jar.
  • When fighting or arguing begins, walk over to the kids with The Get-Along Jar and assign one child to pick out a stick. If you know your kids will argue over this, you pick out the stick for them.
  • Have the child read or you read what is on the stick and they must do that instead.
  • Encourage your kids to do things in The Get-Along Jar anytime they want too. They can use The Get-Along Jar for ideas of things they can do show their family teamwork or to just have some fun together. They don’t have to be in an argument to use The Get-Along Jar. It’s for “all things teamwork.”
  • What a great way to refocus the kids on what is important—being kind and loving and working as a team!

Good luck.  I hope The Get-Along Jar works for you.

Here’s to building better families together!

DOWNLOAD THE GET-ALONG JAR DIRECTIONS

DOWNLOAD THE GET-ALONG JAR IDEAS

The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions to Ask Your Kids Every Night

This post first appeared on  Her View From Home

I love my kids, but by bedtime, I’m just exhausted.  At 8pm, my patience shuts off.  It’s like I have some sort of glitch in my parenting code, or maybe I just missed the patience upgrade with each kid or something?

So when I have to jump through so many drinks-of-water hoops, tickle hoops, tuck-in hoops, bedtime-song hoops, pee-pee hoops, and brush-your-freaking-teeth-already hoops, I feel that if they don’t get away from me as soon as possible, I’m going to jump through the I’ve-lost-my-mind hoop and escape into a dimension where only brownies, beaches, and books exist.

But that’s not reality! (Oh how I wish it was sometimes though—minus the losing my mind hoop).    The reality is that parenting doesn’t stop at 8pm.  And even though some of the hoops I jump through annoy me, there are four hoops that I would never miss jumping through no matter how tired or impatient I feel…The 4-Questions Hoops.

I started asking my kids these four questions every night and it has changed our relationship.  It has brought us closer.  It has created a more positive shift in their focus throughout their day and in mine.

  1. What was your favorite part about your day? This question allows us to jump through the hoop of positivity together.  It helps my children focus on the best parts of their day, and gives us another opportunity to reflect on them, laugh even more about them, and find joy in those special moments one more time before they close their eyes.
  2. What was your least favorite part about your day? This question allows us to jump through the hoop of reality together.  No one is perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s great to have the opportunity to be real and talk about those things in their day that didn’t go well—bad choices, disrespect, being irresponsible.  This question has allowed for me to model unconditional love and has given me many second-chance teachable moments.  Even if I lost my temper the first time around, I have one more chance to walk them through what they should have done differently.  It’s great for kids to be reminded that tomorrow is a new day to try again.
  3. Do you have any questions about your day? This question allows us to jump through the honesty hoop together.  It establishes a habit of always letting them know that they can ask me anything and can trust me to listen and love.  It shows them that I’m a “safe” person who isn’t going to judge or get angry or be upset if they want to talk about the tough stuff.
  4. How did you show kindness or love today? This question allows us to jump through the integrity hoop together.  It encourages them to be kind and loving to others even when no one is watching.  It is the most powerful, life-changing question I have asked!  My kids have learned just how simple it is and how capable they are of showing kindness or love every single day.  When I first started asking this question, my eight year old had trouble coming up with an answer, so I would step in to tell what I saw him do–he was thoughtful to take his plate to the sink, he played with his sister nicely, he gave his little brother a turn with his squirt gun, he washed his hands the first time I asked him to.  Creating an awareness of the little ways that he can show kindness and love has empowered him to do even more.  Plus, I find myself looking for those positive things that each child does throughout the day so I can share it with them that night.  They love hearing all the great things they’ve done.  Kindness and love…this is the focus I want my kids to have throughout their day!

The 4-Questions hoops have helped me learn more about my kids: baseball game play-by-plays, storm fears, favorite colors and movies. But I have also taught more to my kids:  answering questions about abortion, smoking, appreciating the differences in others and I’ll never forget the night we cried together about a little boy in a wheel chair.

Because of jumping through the 4-Questions hoops of positivity, reality, honesty, and integrity every night, I have laughed louder, cried more, snuggled closer, and taught lessons about life that I would not have had the opportunity to do in the busyness of the day.  Dear parents, at bedtime, won’t you join me in fixing that glitch in your parenting code, upgrading your patience level, bending your knees, and jumping through these four extra hoops with me every night too?  I promise that these are the hoops you will never regret jumping through for your kids.