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

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

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

Respecting the “No”

The Phrase Tool is an important tool in parenting. Using the same short phrases over and over to teach a character trait can help us be able to be more effective in our parenting. Instead of reaching for the right words to say or instead of using long lectures, we can just use the same words and phrases over and over and then take time to practice what they mean.

  • “Gentle hands, please.”
  • “Use kind words, please.”
  • “Work as a team, please.”

“Respect the ‘No'” is a phrase we have had to use a lot lately in our home.

Why is “No” such a tough word for our kids to hear? Sometimes when I say “No” to my kids, you would think that I told them that I was going to pluck every hair off of every square inch of their bodies with tweezers.

Why is “No” so difficult for kids and how can we help them respect it more without melting down and losing their minds…and making us lose ours?

Here are 5 ways to use the Teamwork Parenting Approach to teach our kids to “Respect the ‘No'”:

  1. Use “No’s” Sparingly:  I’m certainly not a “Yes” parent, but I do watch how often I say “No”, and I also make sure that I’m not just saying “No” because it’s an inconvenient or annoying request.  Sometimes I will go out of my way to say “Yes” more often even if it is just in saying:  “Yes, in a little while…” instead of “No, not right now.”  See what I did there?
  2. Respect their “No”:  When we respect our kids “No’s” and their own personal boundaries, they will be more likely to respect ours.  When they ask us kindly to stop doing something, we should stop.  In fact, we can also say:  “You’re right.  I’m going to Respect your ‘No’.” What a great example we can set!
  3. Help kids recognize the different kinds of “No’s”.  The two phrases we use to teach our kids the different kinds of “No’s”are: “Never No’s” and the “Not-Right-Now No’s”.  A “Never No” can be more difficult to overcome, because what they are asking for will most likely never happen and that can be devastating to a child…even when their request is to run out into the street naked.    A “Not-Right-Now No”, however, is a great “No” to get because our kids will be able to do what they’ve asked to do…eventually.  Learning the difference will help them discover that they actually receive more “Not-Right-Now No’s” than they do “Never No’s.”
  4. Teach coping strategies:  With a “Never No”, you can empathize with them and teach them strategies to cope:  taking deep breaths, asking for a hug, getting some space in their room, washing their face, getting a drink of water, etc.  With a “Not-Right-Now No”, focus on the wonderful opportunity they have to exercise the skill of patience.  We even keep a Patience List  with some ideas of constructive things they can do with their time while they’re waiting.  We even say: “Thank you for Choosing Patience (another phrase we use often).  What did you choose to do with your time while you waited?”
  5. Teach them what to say:  Time and time again, “Respecting the ‘No'” is on our weekly Family Meeting agenda because our kids need constant practice in what to say when they hear a “No”.  We will give them this example:  “You ask your brother to play and he says ‘No’.  How can you Respect his ‘No’?”  We listen to their ideas and lead them to say something like:  “Ok, I’m disappointed.  I’m going to play something else.  Let me know if you change your mind.”

No matter what kind of “No” our kids receive from us, from others, or from this world, let’s equip them with some powerful strategies to handle to be able to “Respect the No.”

Lord, you ask us to wait often.  We don’t always get what we want when we want it and neither should our children. Remind us that we are not only teaching our kids about living in this world when we teach them to Respect the “No’s”, but we are also teaching them about living a life of faith.  We are not just teaching them to live under our loving authority, but we are teaching them to live under Yours—respecting Your “Never No’s” and “Not-Right-Now No’s” too. 

Here’s to building better families together-

Christine

3 Ways to Help Our Kids Be Good Mistake-Makers

Spills, homework errors, unmade beds, forgotten backpacks, lost sweatshirts, classroom warnings, and sassy tones.  These are just a few ways my kids have messed up this week alone!

Kids make mistakes!  Heck, we make mistakes too.

It’s hard for this perfectionist to admit, but EVERYONE makes mistakes.  And it’s so important that we teach our kids how to deal with them because they have, do, and always will make them.

3 Ways to Help Our Kids Be Good Mistake-Makers…
1.  Keep a calm voice:  Don’t lose our cool.  As much as we want to yell (and I have made that mistake many times), let’s try to take a deep breath and stay calm.  Sometimes just our reaction alone can create fear and anxiety over mistakes.  They may even try to hide them from us if we go all crazy on them.  Mistakes help them learn.  Mistakes are simply teachable moments.  Let’s repeat that to ourselves over and over.  It certainly helps me!

2.  Use teamwork:  What if they forget their backpack?  Do we rush it to school for them? No. We let them forget it and ask:  “I noticed you forgot your backpack today.  How did you solve that problem?  And how can you solve that problem for tomorrow?  Can I be helpful in any way?”  This puts the problem-solving power on them but also lets them know that you are there to help if they need you!  Kids must learn to figure out how to fix their own mistakes.  Teach them.  Don’t punish them.  Empower them.  Don’t embarrass them.  Oh and my favorite checklists are perfect for helping with forgetfulness by the way.

3.  Admit your own mistakes:  One of the most beautiful things my kids have said to me when I’ve apologized for a mistake I made (which is often, I might add) is:  “It’s OK, Mommy.  Everyone makes mistakes.”  Adults are mistake-makers too and the more kids see how we tell the truth, apologize, and problem-solve to “fix” our mistakes with confidence and without panic, the more they will become great mistake-makers too.

Lord, you call us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us. (Ephesians 4:32)  As we guide our kids in making mistakes, give us grace to be kind, patience to be tenderhearted, and love to be forgiving.  And always give us the wisdom to teach.  Mistakes help us learn and grow to be more like You!

Here’s to building better families—

Christine