Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How to Avoid Temper Tantrums when Shopping with your Children

I’ve heard from many parents about the nightmare they have when taking their children shopping with them. It seems that every aisle has something that kids want. And face it, it’s hard to distract kids in a store when they know full well that there are things to be had in there! I know some parents who either ask their spouse to watch their children when they have to shop, or they will actually hire a babysitter. Some children will cry and scream for something that they have set their eyes on. So what’s the answer?  Here’s an easy solution when shopping with children that works every time.
  1. Decide if a reward has been earned. Is there something your children have done that is worthy of a reward? Or have they saved up enough of their own money that it’s time to let them spend a little of it? If so, decide ahead of time how much they can spend. If you want to allow them to spend $3.00, then anything labeled $3.00 - $3.99 is allowable. When children are small, it’s difficult to figure out exactly how much is $3.00 - so anything in that range is acceptable. On the other hand, it’s perfectly fine that they may have no money to spend - so there will not be anything they will get this trip. This was often the case with my kids.
  2. Explain the rules BEFORE you walk in the store. Once I parked the car, I would have a talk with my kids before we all got out.  They weren’t always allowed to buy something.  On those occasions when we were shopping for a birthday present for a friend, I would remind them that we were shopping for their friend, not for them. But I understood they were probably going to see something they wanted. So I told them that if they saw something they really wanted (and only ONE thing), they could bring it to me and I would write it down on their Christmas or birthday list. Then they would have to put it back. If they got upset and wanted it right then, I not only would not write it down, but they would most likely not get that particular gift. With the smart phone technology we have these days, it’s easy to pull up the note page and create a Christmas list where the child can see that we are actually writing it down. 
  3. Help them decide.  When given choices, kids usually always are able to make the right choice. If this is a trip where they do get to spend money, and they can’t decide from one toy to the next, let them know this is their decision and they can choose one. Give them about a minute to choose. If they get upset because they can’t have both, remind them that they can either have one or none. And in the cases where the kids aren’t allowed to get anything that day, remind them that if they show you their choice and allow you to write it down, they will have it on their Christmas list. If they decide to get upset and cry, then they are choosing to not have that gift at all.  Kids are smart. They will test this new rule to see if you will follow it. And when teaching this rule to your kids, always be willing to leave the store if a temper tantrum ensues. This will show your kids that you are serious. If they do have a tantrum, no need to punish them or get upset. Simply tell them, “You’re really upset with the choice you made this time. Maybe next time, you’ll make a better choice.”  
It may take some work at first. But eventually your kids will understand these boundaries and begin to show respect inside a store.  And imagine their surprise when something they asked for earlier shows up for Christmas.

Learn to Love Your Spouse For Who They Are

My husband and I have led marriage seminars, helping couples take a fresh look at their spouse. The focus is on learning what is right with your spouse and what motivates them, then changing your pattern of behavior from a “what have you done for me lately” approach, to “how can I encourage you to show you I love you” approach. When couples start to realize that their spouse is actually very different than they are and are motivated by different things, then it’s easier to understand them and meet those needs in a way that builds them up rather than tears them down. 

It is so easy to spend all day out in the world being nice to others, then come home and take all our frustrations out on our spouse. But this is not the way it’s supposed to be. Your spouse is the person you should be closest to, not your dumping ground when the day is over.  Here are some things to help turn your negative patterns into positive ones:
  1. Pray for your spouse every day. Stormie Omartian has written several books on how to pray for one another.  “The Power of a Praying Wife”, “The Power of a Praying Husband” and “The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage” are excellent places to start if you aren’t sure exactly what to pray for your spouse. If you really would like your spouse to change, begin by praying for him/her every morning.
  2. Be grateful for your spouse. If you feel that you and your spouse have been in a negative downward spiral lately, then start to list the things that you are grateful for and you will find that your attitude will begin to change. When I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I will think of things I’m grateful for about my husband as I drive home. That way, I’m in a much more positive mood when I walk in the door and I avoid taking out my frustration on him.
  3. Do something kind and unexpected for your spouse. When I work with couples, I often have them each make up a list of things they would like their spouse to do that shows their love for them - at no cost or expense. For example, if you get up to get a drink of water, offer to get one for your spouse. For those couples who are struggling to get along, I tell them to “act as if you loved each other”. Believe it or not, a simple act of kindness goes a long way toward communicating that you care about each other. After a while, this behavior becomes second nature and you will find yourselves being much more considerate of each other and the love will eventually return.
In the Bible, we are never commanded to treat others the way they have treated us. We are commanded to treat others the way we would like them to treat us. This means that someone has to be nice first. A difficult concept in today’s society, because everyone is selfish and looks to meet his own needs first. As Christians, we are taught to set aside our own needs for the needs of others. This has to start in the home - with our spouse who is entirely and completely different from us. Embrace these differences and learn to love your spouse for all the things that are right about them. 

Can Siblings Really Get Along with Each Other?

  Whenever our family would go to relatives’ homes for holidays or special get togethers, I would always hear comments like, “I can’t believe how well your kids get along with each other.” I must admit, my children have always gotten along well and it was obvious that they cared about each other. My daughter (Courtney) is 3 1/2 years older than my son (Adam).  Today, at ages 25 & 21, they live in separate states, yet they remain very close.  

   As I think back on what we did to foster this great relationship, I know it was our faithful prayers for them, our church attendance every Sunday, and our “Family Fun Nights” we had every Monday night. Once we started having these Family Fun Nights, my kids couldn’t wait for Mondays to get here. I believe these Family Fun Nights not only sealed their relationship with each other, but also taught them how to empathize with each other as well as instilling true Christian values and morals. So what is a Family Fun Night?  Let me explain:

   First - EAT  We picked a night that worked for our family - a night that we could all be together at home. We decided on Monday nights. We first had dinner together, but the special thing was that everyone had a chance to pick their favorite meal. Since there were four in our family, we started with the oldest choosing first. So my husband would choose on the first Monday, I would choose on the second Monday, and so forth. The idea was that at least once a week, we would all eat a meal together at home. For larger families, you can double up (parents pick a meal together, or one picks the main meal, other picks dessert, etc).

   Second - LEARN  After the meal, we would gather together for the fun lesson. And I do mean FUN. We used some excellent books published by Heritage Builders Publishing (heritagebuilders.com) called Family Nights Tool Chest. They have several books with different topics.  Our favorite was the Simple Science book. These activities have a purpose and a message from the Bible that really drives the point home for the kids.  

   Third - PRAY  After these fun activities, we would get out the notebook and write down our prayer requests for the week. We would then go around in a circle and pray for the person next to us. I believe this was the most helpful part of our nights together.  To hear our kids talk about someone at school who was bothering them, or praying to do well on a test, and then have them pray about it was not only helpful for us as parents, but it also gave each child the ability to empathize with each other and to see what the other was struggling with.  

   Fourth - PLAY  After our prayer time, we would choose a game to play together. The game was chosen by whoever chose the meal for the week. The adults always wanted to play sedentary games where there wasn’t much moving involved, except around the game board. The kids always wanted to play video games or hide and seek. We would play the game for about 30 minutes or an hour. Then the kids had a few minutes to play or read before being tucked into bed with prayers, bedtime stories, and good night kisses.

   The entire Family Fun Night only takes about 2 hours. Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep every night, you would have 16 hours a day to do as you wish. Spread that over 7 days and you have 112 hours every week. When you think about it this way, spending 2 hours a week building up your family and doing something fun together that will have lasting results is really a no brainer!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Importance of Reading

When is the last time someone read a story to you? Probably when you were a small child.  I have always loved a good story and ever since my children were small, their bedtime routine consisted of reading them a story (or two) every night before they went to bed.  When they were really little, it would be short stories with few words on the page.  I would read at least 3 of those.  Then, as they got older, I would read longer stories, only reading one or two chapters of the story each night until the story ended. 

 (The picture above is of my daughter and me reading a chapter book.)

One time I was reading my daughter a book and the story turned very sad.  I was too choked up to read.  My daughter grabbed the book and said “for goodness sakes, Mom!  I’ll read it!”  So she read it out loud until the sad part was over.  As my daughter grew older, she enjoyed reading out loud, so she took over the role of reading to her younger brother. (See picture below.)

As you can imagine, both of my children grew up to be readers, though my son doesn’t read as much as before since he’s in college now.  My daughter majored in creative writing and she is an amazing writer.  

There are many benefits to being an avid reader. It has been found to increase intelligence, reduce stress, improve writing and speaking skills, increase vocabulary and memory, and many others. Years ago, I worked in a psychiatric hospital in Texas and lead a group on stress management. Their favorite groups were the ones where I would encourage them to get in a comfortable place on the couch or floor and then I would read a children's story to them. They were able to forget their stress as they focused on the lively and uplifting story. This past year, I worked in the school system and counseled children from kindergarten through 12th grade.  Most of them were at or below the poverty level.  Barely any of them read much.  The ones who did were doing better in school. The ones who didn’t were basically failing. They would rather play video games, or watch TV than read. 

It’s tragic that most kids today do not enjoy reading. They rarely ever have a story read to them at home and the books that are assigned in school don’t interest them. If you have kids, take the time to find some interesting stories to read and start reading aloud to them.  There are lots of resources to help you find good read-aloud stories, but author Jim Trelease wrote several that I recommend.  Here is his website:     http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/rah-intro.html

Why not choose one evening a week to turn off the television and have everyone read for an hour?  Reading opens the entire world to a child and can help them in every area of their lives. And who knows? You might just learn something, too!