38 Ways to Connect with Our Kids

Kids don’t need one more toy…one more TV show…one more activity…nor one more minute on an electronic device.

They need more time with US!

They are craving it.  They will do anything to get it…including whining, fighting, bickering, moaning, groaning, complaining, fit-throwing, etc.  Even laziness, disrespectfulness, disobedience…you name it! In fact, most misbehavior can somehow be linked to the desire for our attention.

The truth is that if we give our kids more attention in positive ways, they won’t try to get our attention in negative ways.  Here are positive ways to intentionally connect and build a close, positive relationship with our kids (thank you for our board members for helping with this list)…

  • Each day (or as much as you can), ask them: “What do you want to do for our (Take-10 Time, Special Time, Our Time, etc.)?” Then do it for 10 minutes. For older kids, each time, take turns doing something they like and then having them do something that you like.
  • Leave a note that says “You’re awesome because…” on their pillow, on the bathroom mirror, at the breakfast or dinner table, etc.
  • Each month, do something special with them on the day of the month they were born.  (Do something special with your spouse on the day of your anniversary!) You could let them pick the dinner for that night, stay up later for one-on-one time like a movie or game night.
  • Find a book that has a movie to go with it. Read the book together. Then, watch the movie together. (Charlotte’s Web, Benji, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Wonder, A Dog’s Purpose, etc.)
  • Make a special meal together.
  • Learn something new—play the guitar, learn a new language, learn how to draw cartoon characters, etc.
  • Rub their back at night while you do the same 4 bedtime questions
    • I always ask:
        • 1. What was your favorite part of your day?
        • 2. What was your least favorite part of your day?
        • 3. How did you show kindness/love/teamwork/integrity (choose any character trait you are working on) today?
        • 4. Do you have any questions or anything else you would like to share about your day?
  • Give them a high five.
  • Tell them what makes them unique and why you love that about them.
  • Do a puzzle.
  • Memorize Bible verses.
  • Look through photo albums or make a new photo album.
  • Dig through the attic or basement relics.
  • Get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. (Vitamin D is so good for our mood!)
  • Try to recreate a science experiment you find/watch on YouTube or create one of your own.
  • Pop popcorn and watch a kids’ movie together.
  • Bake cookies.
  • Try a new fruit or vegetable. (Bonus–Eating healthy keeps our immune systems strong!)
  • Build or create something—sand castle, Legos, mud mountain, artwork, an invention, a rocket, a model airplane, a play-doh creation, etc.
  • Make a list of your top 10 things you love about them and share it with them at dinner time. (Have them do the same for you!)
  • Have a special notebook for writing back and forth with each child.
  • Go around the dinner table and share your high and low of the day.
  • Make a special breakfast on Saturday mornings.
  • Tell them a story about your favorite childhood memories at bedtime.
  • Read Bible stories together every night.
  • Snuggle and read a book side by side.
  • Do a house project–rearrange furniture, repaint a room, etc.
  • Color or paint a picture. You could even draw a silly picture of each other.
  • Learn how to sew on a button together.
  • Take turns telling jokes.
  • Play “Don’t laugh” where you tickle them and tell them not to laugh.
  • Tickle their “Grumpies” out.
  • Have an “I Love You the Most” Contest–where you take turns shouting “I love you the most.” “NO—I love YOU the most.”
  • Have a staring contest.
  • Play “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.
  • Leave little gifts at the breakfast table on Saturday mornings.
  • Make homemade slime.
  • Hug them every day and say “I love you” every day.

You can print this out as a checklist— 38 Ways to Connect with Our Kids

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

4 Tools to Help Keep Your Cool

I was yelling back and forth with my daughter last night.  In fact, we were screaming at each other.

“I love you!”

“No, I love you more!”

“No, I love you more than that!”

“No, I love you infinity!”

We were laughing, yelling, and yes, arguing at how much we loved each other and I thought…”This is the only reason parents should be arguing with or yelling at their kids.”

Now, let’s be real for a second.  Kids push our buttons.  Kids tick us off.  Kids frustrate the heck out of us.  Right?  And sometimes our “go-to” is to yell.

So don’t worry–I never want you to think that I’m this perfect parent who has never yelled or lost her cool.  Um, no.  There have been so many times I’ve beat myself up at the end of the day for losing my mind on my kids. We all have moments like that.

But hopefully, we can all learn from our mistakes and improve for next time, right? We don’t have to let these patterns continue over and over. And with the Teamwork Parenting Approach, I’ve learned to apply simple tools that help keep me more calm…
The Connection Tool

1.  Spend more time spending time with them.  This right here will make all the difference.  If you don’t do anything else I share, do this…spend time with your kids!  The Connection Tool reminds us that when we work on developing a close positive relationship with them and just delight in being with them, there isn’t as much time to argue. Our kids also feel less of a need to argue (especially if they are arguing just to get attention or get a rise out of us.  Remember, kids will seek our attention no matter how they can get it!)

Proactive Tool (1)

2.  Set expectations and consequences up in advance.  The Proactive Tool reminds us that often kids misbehave and arguments ensue when expectations and consequences aren’t clear and fair and agreed upon in advance.  Together, you can come up with a list of expectations and consequences BEFORE they go to the store or restaurant or to a friend’s house or get a phone.

Practice Tool (1)

3.  Take time to practice the expectations you’ve set.  The Practice Tool reminds us that kids need practice!  Whatever the “hot buttons” are in your home…whatever causes the most amounts of arguments…you don’t have to take it.   Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of an argument. Do it during a peaceful time of day.  Practice kind words. Practice respecting the “no”. Practice sharing.  Practice getting out of the house on time or a new bedtime routine. Over and over and over.  Practice how to do things right—even if they don’t have time to play on any electronics or watch TV.  “Kids your age should be able to ____________________________, so we will keep practicing it until you get it.  I know you’ll get this. We are a team and I’m here to encourage you.”
Character Tool (1)

4.  Point out the good.  The Character Tool teaches us that during a quiet, non-angry time–point out the good character traits they are demonstrating. Our entire parenting focus should be on teaching character. How about let’s take time to thank our kids when they choose not to argue.  Thank them when they choose to be respectful of your “No”, when they choose to listen and obey, when they choose kind words.  If they are having a bad day, give them space and grace.  Encourage them by saying:  “Tomorrow is a new day. And I know you’ll improve.  I’m always here to help. We are a team and we love each other!”  And then pray together for more team unity in your home!

Remember that we are on the same team as our kids.  We are in loving authority over them, and God is trusting us to teach them well.  It is my prayer that when you apply these teamwork tools, you will find more positive interactions in your home and maybe someday you will soon find that the only time you and your kids argue is about how much you love each other too!

Lord–remind us every day that as parents and God’s servants, we must not be argumentative, but gentle listeners and teachers who keep our cool, work firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. 2 Timothy 2:24 The Message

Here’s to building better families–

Christine

What Kind of Parent Are You?

Take a minute to think of one of your favorite teachers from school…
What were his/her qualities?  What did you like about him/her?

Make a list.

  • Made learning fun
  • Had high but well-communicated expectations with room to grow
  • Always encouraged us to do our best
  • Saw the good in us
  • Created an atmosphere of teamwork and respect
  • Silly and downright goofy sometimes
  • Truly loved their job
  • Truly cared about us

How did students react to or treat this teacher?

  • With respect
  • With love
  • They wanted to please him/her

Now think of the worst teacher you had in school…
What were his/her qualities?  What didn’t you like about him/her?

Make a list.

  • Made learning a chore
  • had ridiculous unattainable expectations with no room for error
  • always had a discouraging word to say
  • saw the worst in all of us
  • created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty
  • grumpy and yelled a lot
  • hated his/her job
  • didn’t seem to care about me at all

How did students react to or treat this teacher?

  • with fear
  • with lying and disrespect
  • They wanted to either get revenge or just stay as far away from him/her as possible

Or what about this teacher?

  • didn’t have many rules
  • chaotic classroom environment
  • was really “nice” but not very effective
  • not much learning got done
  • seemed frazzled at times but never did anything to solve problems

How did students react to or treat this teacher?

  • with disrespect and manipulation
  • Kids felt insecure
  • They didn’t listen and obey

The teacher can make all the difference.  

A friend of mine shared with me that last year, her daughter did awesome in Spanish class because she had an awesome teacher.  This year, however, she isn’t doing well in Spanish.  Why?  She has a different teacher who makes learning impossible and is “hard to be around.” Last year…As and Bs…this year…not so much.

The teacher can make all the difference.

So my question to you is:  What kind of teacher are you?

Yes, I know our kids push our buttons, roll their eyes, talk back, throw fits, scream, yell, and sometimes appear to TRY to drive us crazy, but we have a choice in how we react.

In our homes, we are a team. We can choose to have high expectations with love and grace. We can choose to be learning-focused with a balance of rules and respect. We can choose to invite our kids in to solve problems with the idea of teamwork and having fun.

“How can we stop throwing toys so you and I can have more time to play with them together?”

We have the choice to view our role as parent as that of a teacher…a “good” teacher–creating an atmosphere where kids learn, laugh, and love.

And that’s what the Teamwork Parenting Approach is all about!

I truly believe that the style of teacher that we choose to be can make a difference in an “A student” or an “F student”.

And I’m not talking about grades.

Lord, open our eyes to the ways You want us to grow and change as a parent. Give us wisdom to parent our kids like the Teacher that You are to us–with high expectations but full of patience, grace, and abounding love and joy.  

Here’s to building better families–

Christine

The 4 A’s of Making Mistakes

It’s so important to make our home into an environment where kids feel comfortable making mistakes.

Because our kids will ALWAYS make mistakes!  We still do, right?

Why not teach them strategies on what to do after a mistake is made?  Teaching them these steps will not only show them that it’s OK to make mistakes but it also equips them and empowers them on what to do when they know they’ve blown it…when they’ve really messed up…or even when they have a small “Oops”.

Here are the 4 A’s of Making Mistakes we can teach our kids:

  1. Admit Your Mistake–Everyone makes mistakes.  No one is perfect.  Admit what you did.  Build trust instead of break it.
  2. Apologize–Say: “I’m sorry.”  Ask for forgiveness.  Be sincere.
  3. Always Offer to Help Fix It–Take ownership.  Solve the problem.  Figure out a solution and follow through.
  4. Avoid Making the Same Mistake–Learn from your mistake.  Mistakes build character and can make you stronger and more wise.  Learn, grow, and move on!

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE

Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we all did this?

After we teach these steps and we walk our kids through them over and over, then we just have to be there for them without judgement…without punishment…and without any “I told you so’s”.  So the next time our kids come to us with a mistake, we can say—

  • “Thank you for admitting your mistake. That really builds trust between us.”
  • “Thank you for apologizing for it and yes, I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you for offering to help fix the broken window because yes, you will pay for it out of your own money.”
  • “And I know you feel badly and will not throw the ball in the house again.  I love you.”

Lord, check our hearts for perfectionist ways and perfectionist expectations of ourselves and of our children.  Fill our hearts full of grace–especially in our words and our reactions.  Remove the pressure of perfection and remind us that Your word and Your ways are perfect and flawless NOT OURS…and certainly not our children’s. 

Here’s to building better families–
Christine

14 Ways to Love Your Wife Like a Girlfriend Again

Ok husbands…can we be real for a moment?  How have you changed since you got married?  Do you still woo your wife with cards, letters, flowers?  Do you still shower her with love and affection?  Or has kids, bills, stress, and life gotten in the way a bit?

We get it!

Well, here at Real Life Families, we believe very strongly in the power of teamwork in families.  And the best way to build a strong family team is to first build a strong marriage team.

Starting February 1st, we are inviting all husbands to join us in a 14-Day Challenge to love your wife like a girlfriend again by bringing some fun and romance back to your marriage in easy, practical ways.  If you’re not sure what that looks like, don’t worry.  Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day, we will send you a short email with a fun idea!

Let’s focus on our wives and build stronger families!

THIS CHALLENGE HAS ALREADY BEGUN.  WE WILL DEFINITELY DO THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR.  IN THE MEANTIME, YOU CAN SIGN UP TO RECEIVE OUR WEEKLY EMAILS WITH PARENTING TIPS INCLUDING OUR POWERFUL TEAMWORK PARENTING APPROACH.

SIGN UP HERE!

 

14 Ways to Love Your Husband Like a Boyfriend Again

How different were you to your husband before you got married?  Admit it…weren’t you just a little bit more flirty…easy-going…fun when you were a dating couple?

Well, Real Life Families is all about helping families work as a team and we believe that a strong family team begins with a strong marriage team.  But let’s be REAL for a minute–sometimes our husbands can take a back seat to the craziness of life–taking care of our kids, and the house, and the meals, and the shopping, and the laundry, and the laundry, and the laundry.  Is it just me?  Or do you ever look at your husband at the end of the day and think…”And you are???”

Well, no more (at least not during this 14-day challenge!)  Let’s focus on our man.  Let’s show him a little bit more love and attention.  Let’s take a little time to be more flirty and giddy and agreeable and available!  Let’s take some time to build that marriage team…14 days…14 emails…14 fun and practical ideas are coming soon!

 

 

THIS CHALLENGE HAS ALREADY BEGUN.  WE WILL DEFINITELY DO THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR.  IN THE MEANTIME, YOU CAN SIGN UP TO RECEIVE OUR WEEKLY EMAILS WITH PARENTING TIPS INCLUDING OUR POWERFUL TEAMWORK PARENTING APPROACH.

SIGN UP HERE!

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

Back-to-School Prayer for Your Daughter

My daughter starts kindergarten this week and I don’t even want to talk about it.  My heart is breaking to send her out into this world.  It really is.

And every time I say: “But God, I want to keep her at home and protect her from this world forever.  I want never want her to experience a broken heart and I never want her positive, joyful spirit to be crushed.  I want her to do cartwheels, sing songs, and paint pictures just because.  I want her to ask me to “watch this” 50 times a day.  I want her to swing on her tree, play with her stuffed animals, and hold my hand as we walk to the park.  I never want her to be told that she’s not smart enough or pretty enough or good enough.  I never want her to feel rejected or insulted.  I never want her to be exposed to the negativity and hate in this world.  I need her at home with me all day every day and I never, ever, ever, ever want her to be out in this world, OK?”

But God says:  “I understand…but this world needs her.  Trust me.”

But that’s so hard especially when you’re a mama bear wanting to protect her cub, but then I have to remember whose cub she is in the first place.

We have to choose to trust the Lord.  We have to give our children to the One who created them, loves them, and chose them to be exactly where they are in this time and place.

Oh that’s hard.  Deep breaths.

Lord, bless my daughter as she goes into the world each day. Be near her
and help her to be strong. Remind her that in You there is no fear, but
instead there is the power to be confident, loving, and brave. Protect her
feelings and emotions. Help her to make good choices and give her an
assertive voice to share her own opinions and know that they matter. Help
her to be able to stand alone and always do the right thing and encourage
others to do the same. Give her a helpful heart and a kind spirit. Put
positive friends in her path, but also allow her to show love to those who
need You in their lives. Give her a heart to include others and encourage
them. Show her how to use the gifts that You have given her to be all that
You created her to be. Give her a healthy body image and allow her to see
her unique beauty and appreciate how she is wonderfully made. Protect her
each and every day. I know that You love my sweet girl even more than I
do. God, I give her to you. I trust her in Your loving, protective care.
In Jesus’ name…Amen!

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A Prayer for My Daughter