Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ask a Question - Get Entered to Win a FREE Book!

What are the biggest parenting issues you face right now? What are questions you really want answered? What information would make mothering easier for you?

Ask as many questions as you want by posting here. One name will be chosen at random from those posts to win a free copy of my book, Mothering Like The Father: Following God's Example in Parenting Young Children. Keep it for yourself or gift it to another mom. The drawing will be held on November 16, 2012.

Your questions will be answered in the coming months here at Mom of All Trades and in my e-newsletter, Monthly Answers for Moms. If you are not a Monthly Answers subscriber, send your name and e-mail address through the Keep In Touch page at to start receiving great information every month for free.

I look forward to seeing your questions!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Choices Are Like Votes

Happy Election Day! My favorite part of this day is knowing that tomorrow I won't have to watch any campaign commercials and no pollsters or political action groups will call during dinner. I will have at least a week off before the hubbub of the next campaign season begins again.

However, we never really get a break from voting, because every choice we make is essentially a vote. I am constantly bombarded with options, and I make selections. I may not do it with a ballot, but my actions make known what I believe in and what/who I support on a daily basis.

There are things we all do regularly to live out this "vote," and we call these actions traditions. Some are daily rituals and others mark special occasions, but our traditions often tend to say, "This is something I value - it is important to me."

We are quickly moving into prime tradition season, since most of us celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve/Day in similar ways every year. So I ask you, what traditions do you like? Which ones do you dislike? What do you want to change about your traditions? How can you change traditions? What do your traditions say about your values?

If you get my newsletter, Monthly Answers for Moms, we've already explored some of these questions together. I can't wait to hear your thoughts as you comment here. If you don't get the newsletter, send your name and e-mail address through the Keep In Touch page at and I'll make sure you start receiving it.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your traditions!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pleasing Picky Eaters

“I don’t like this!”
“I don’t want to try a bite!”
“I want ________!”

If these phrases are familiar at meal time, you probably have a picky eater. Keeping fussy kids nourished can be a challenge, but here are some strategies that might help.

Keep yourself sane by having everyone in your family eat the same meal rather than preparing different dishes for each person. It can be tricky to make one meal when different members of the family like different foods, but everyone will survive the experience and you won’t turn into a short order cook.

For example, when packing school lunches for my kids, both girls get the same items. One of my daughters loves peanut butter and jelly, but the other isn’t crazy about it. Therefore, they only have it once a week. That way one gets her favorite and the other doesn’t have to deal with it too often.

I know moms who give each member of the family his or her favorite foods every day, and it takes too much of their time, is too expensive, and results in picky kids (and husbands) who have limited taste palates and unbalanced diets.

At meal time, encourage everyone to try each item on the plate (within reason—don’t make the kids eat spicy sauces, overly pungent items, or anything that will hurt their mouths). If a child doesn’t like something, he doesn’t need to eat it as long as he tries a bite every time it appears on the plate. A child who didn’t like broccoli last week still has to try it this week since many tastes are acquired after several exposures.

If a child doesn’t like anything on the plate, or eats but is still hungry, he is welcomed to get something else. In my house this means the kids can select something from the meat drawer in our refrigerator. This drawer is stocked with acceptable substitutes, such as lunch meat (keep it nitrate/nitrite free if they eat it often), cheese slices/sticks, cups of plain Greek yogurt they can flavor with fresh fruit or nuts, baby carrots, pea pods, and other things the kids can eat in place of (or in addition to) the dinner I prepared.

In order to replace a dinner, or add to one, with items from the drawer, kids must clear their dinner dishes, get the new food items themselves, and clean up after themselves. Selecting this choice should not make extra work for mom—the kids need to do it independently. Fill the drawer with things that make independence possible.

Make sure the kids ask before going into the drawer, or before getting anything to eat themselves. That way you can monitor what they eat, when, and how much they consume. Also, teach your kids to respect the fact that everything in the fridge isn’t theirs. You may have plans for groceries you’ve purchased, so set clear limits on what the kids can take from the refrigerator or pantry.

If a child won’t try a particular food, don’t fight about it. Simply let your child know that he does not need to eat, but that there won’t be any other foods available until he tries a bite of everything on the plate. If he fuses about this, let him cool off in time out. Food is not worth arguing over.

Is meal preparation stressful for you? If so, what can you do to make it easier? What resources do you need?

Get more ideas for making meal time pleasant in a Smarter Parenting Teleclass. Register today at on the Parent Coaching Page.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Make The Most of Meal Time

Whether it is dealing with picky eaters, kids who won’t sit still, spilled food at every meal, or some other issue, most moms have a challenge on their hands at meal time. I have never heard of a family in which everyone liked the same foods, or in which all family members were hungry at the same time. It is also very common for mom and dad to disagree on meal time rules, such as how much children need to eat or what qualifies as appropriate table behavior.

The strategies we will talk about here are based on the assumption that your children are healthy and are growing at a reasonable rate. If that is not the case, disregard this post and make a meal time plan with your pediatrician and/or nutritionist.

A pre-meal time routine is a great way to signal to your family that it is time to start shifting gears in order to prepare to eat, especially at dinner. Five or ten minutes before the meal will be served, call the kids in to wash their hands and set the table. They can start helping at around 18 months of age by putting out the napkins. Don’t look for perfection, just participation. Older kids can set out silverware or get drinks.

Once the table is ready, ask the kids to sit down and talk with you while you get everything plated. This keeps them from getting underfoot and gives them a few minutes to settle in and prepare to sit through the meal. Young kids often don’t eat much, so they may finish their meals in only a few minutes. This routine gives you a little extra time to bond as a family.

No healthy child will allow himself to starve to death. Given this truth, consider what your priority is for each meal. In my family, I hope to physically nourish my children with food at breakfast and lunch. At dinner I want to nourish family relationships. Dinner is the only meal my kids have with their father, so spending meaningful time with him discussing the day is more important than what they eat.

If the kids misbehave at the table, they get one warning. If the behavior continues, they go to time out. This is not a big deal if you use the time out system effectively throughout the day. If they don’t, you will probably have an unpleasant meal as your food gets cold while you repeatedly re-deliver your child to the time out spot (without talking, of course). Remember that discipline is an investment, and a few lousy meals are an acceptable price to pay for the long-term benefits of teaching your child how to behave.  

If a child tries at least one bite of everything on the plate, and eats half or more of what you provided then says he is full, that counts as eating a meal. Remember that a healthy child will not allow himself to starve, so it is okay if he doesn’t eat a meal. However, we don’t want him developing the habit of snacking between meals instead. Tell a child who doesn’t want his dinner that it is perfectly fine for him to get down from the table, but that he will not get any more food until breakfast tomorrow morning. When he starts crying about being hungry in an hour or two, don’t give in. Simply remind him that he chose to wait until the next meal, and remind yourself that he will not starve. Feel free to offer him a glass of water instead of a snack.

Next time we will talk about what to do when your child is hungry but doesn’t like what you’ve prepared.

Is meal time pleasant in your home? If so, what makes it that way? If not, why?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Go for the “Yes”

Do you ever feel like the word “no” makes up 90% of the vocabulary you use with your kids?

“No, you can’t have cookies for breakfast.”

“No, we can’t go swimming right now—it is 5:00 in the morning.”

No. No.  No. Sound familiar?

I’ve noticed that sometimes I get so used to saying no that it automatically flies out of my mouth without thought. However, that is not the kind of mom I want to be, and I don’t want the general sense of negativity the word produces floating around in my house. Whenever possible, I want to be a yes mom.

There is a big difference between a yes mom and a permissive mom. A yes mom does not let her kids get away with misbehavior, nor does she give in to their every whim.  Rather, she is thoughtful enough, and emotionally present enough, to meet her child’s requests with positive options she can support. She can redirect her child without using the word no. For example, consider this dialogue:

Child: “I want to wear my raincoat as a dress today.”

Yes mom: “You may wear your raincoat over a dress, or you can wear it as a dress when we get home from having lunch with Grandma.”

Both options mom presented are reasonable and appropriate, and rather than automatically dismissing her child’s request, she incorporates it into the choices given.

Sometimes there aren’t two good alternatives to a child’s request, but we can still present a choice.  For example, during the school year, my daughter typically needs a jacket for her morning recess, but she doesn’t like wearing it in the car. Carrying it guarantees the jacket will come home on the floor of my SUV. Therefore, her choices are to wear it or put it in her backpack.

She does not like either of these options, and she has valid reasons for disliking them. However, we simply don’t have a good alternative. This happens to all of us sometimes, and we have to learn to make the best of an imperfect situation. As parents, we can stay positive and focus on teaching our children to consider the options and select one, even when it isn’t the solution they’d hoped for.

When we make a point of being yes moms, we force ourselves to consider our kids’ requests and craft thoughtful responses.  When our kids know we hear, and process, what they ask, they are validated and are more likely to behave in positive ways.

Smarter parents keep things positive when they can, even when denying a child’s request.

Under what circumstances to you find yourself saying no without really considering other possibilities?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pick Your Battles

Last time we talked about giving kids choices. Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by the volume of choices we make in a day and it can be hard to decide which to hand over to our kids, which to make ourselves, and when to hold firm to our decisions when our kids want something different. We call this “picking our battles” because it just isn’t practical, fun, or relationship-building to argue over everything.

If we question everything our children do we will be in constant conflict. We want our kids to develop the ability to think, to assess situations, and to make appropriate decisions based on those assessments. This takes lots and lots of practice, trial and error, and the experience of making mistakes and learning from them. Let your children fail so they can learn from those encounters. It is one of the hardest things for parents to do, and it is one of the most educational for kids.

Take a few minutes to think about your values and your vision for your family. What is truly important to you? When your children are grown and they leave your home, what character traits do you want firmly planted in them? These will help you pick your battles. If your child makes a decision that conflicts with one of your core values, you will definitely want to address it. If he makes a choice that you don’t care for but it doesn’t impact his values, you can often let his choice stand.

Smarter parents give their children the opportunity to make smart choices, then pick their battles, focusing on the issues related to their values.

Do you feel like you can evaluate situations well in order to pick your battles wisely?

Learn more about picking your battles in a Smarter Parenting teleclass. Go to today to get details and register.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Give Choices You Can Live With

Learning how to make decisions for yourself is part of growing up. Likewise, learning to let kids make their own choices is part of growing as a parent. It is important to start letting kids make their own choices, with limits, as early as possible because this is an area where kids and parents both need a lot of practice.

When letting your children make choices, give them two or three selections to pick from. Keep the offer simple with similar options. “Would you like to wear the pink shirt or the blue shirt with your jeans?” “Would you like to bring crackers, oranges, or carrots to snack on at the park?”

Make sure you can actually see the choices you are offering. This prevents problems like giving the pink shirt as a selection when it is in the laundry, or presenting oranges as a snack option because you don’t know your husband ate the last one at breakfast.

If your child takes a long time making a selection, give her a time limit. Say, “I am going to count to five and then you need to decide or I will pick one for you.” If you end up picking and she gets upset, remind her that she had an opportunity to choose and didn’t take it.

Your child may also have a different option in mind, like, “Can’t I wear the yellow shirt?” If you approve of the selection, allow it. If not, or if it is not available, simply say, “That is not a choice today.” Explain your reason for saying no if you can, but keep it short and to the point. Don’t get drawn into a debate.

Eventually, your child will grow to the point of deciding things for herself without your input. You will wake up one morning to find your child dressed and playing happily in her room. When this happens, give positive comments about her independence and praise her selection if you can. If she has not done a good job getting dressed, simply say something cheerful to acknowledge the effort, such as, “Hey, you got yourself ready!”

Do not criticize her selection, and do not undo it unless absolutely necessary. You don’t want to give your children the message that they are not capable of making good choices. As kids get older, they need to know they can be trusted to make good decisions all on their own.

When your child makes a good choice, praise it. When he makes a poor decision, think purposefully about the situation and decide whether it truly needs to be addressed or not.  If it does require some attention, simply say, “Please make a better choice.” Offer guidance on how to make a different decision, but don’t make it for your child—encourage him to try again.

Remember that our relationships with our children and their growing confidence in their ability to make choices are important – usually more important than what the child chooses.

When do you struggle to let your kids make their own choices?

For more on teaching kids to make good choices, join a Smarter Parenting teleclass. Go to and click on Parent Coaching for more details.

Monday, September 17, 2012

When Others Need to Discipline Your Kids

Welcome to a new week! I hope that sometime this week you will get a little break for some rejuvenation. Hire a sitter and go on a date with your spouse. Drop the kids off at school and do some true shopping, where you take the time to see what’s new, try on some clothes, spray on a perfume sample, read the labels on food items, etc. Let grandma and grandpa take the kids for the day so you can have lunch and catch a movie with some girlfriends. We all need time to enjoy life without our kids, but that means leaving someone else in charge. Most moms wonder how much authority to give caregivers when it comes to discipline. The answer to this question is: it depends.

Instruct regularly-used babysitters on how time out works and give them permission to use it if needed. Remind them to be gentle and to focus on teaching. Don’t bother instructing the occasional sitter unless your child really needs the established routine in order to behave.

Talk to teachers and daycare providers about the discipline they use. Let the teacher/care provider know how you use time out at home and see if there is a way to incorporate the system used at school/daycare into your time out process. If there is and your child has trouble at school/daycare, talk to your child’s teacher about using the same combo-technique for maximum consistency.

The issue becomes sticky when grandparents supervise the kids. If your child’s grandparents watch him occasionally, just let them have fun and don’t worry about letting the discipline slide unless your child’s behavior becomes a problem. If the grandparents have your children often, teach them how to use time out and encourage them to follow your established routine.

Many grandparents don’t want to be disciplinarians; they want to be the fun adults in your child’s life. However, if the child won’t behave then no one has fun and the grandparent/grandchild relationship suffers.

If this is a problem in your family, remind your kids of how to behave before each visit with their grandparents. Depending on the ages, circumstances, and health conditions of their grandparents, these expectations may change with time and with different family members. These changes make it especially important to let the kids know to behave (give specific example or ideas) and how they can help make the visit a good experience. Ask them to be part of the family team so everyone can have fun, including grandma and grandpa.

Kids need to know that most of the rules are the same no matter who is in charge. While you should accept the fact that grandma and grandpa are probably more lenient, your kids shouldn’t take advantage of the situation. Help grandparents learn how to use time out by modeling it for them. Ask them to discreetly watch you put your child in time out so they see first-hand what to do. Remind them that the goal is to build positive, lasting relationships with their grandchildren and that those relationships become strained when the kids misbehave or when grandma and grandpa allow behavior that mom and dad don’t.

By working together with babysitters, teachers, and grandparents, you give your kids a consistent message that benefits everyone.

What do you do to let caregivers know they have the authority to discipline your kids?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Know How to Discipline in Public

You open your refrigerator door to look for breakfast, and realize you are out of milk, eggs, and several other staples. Time to make a grocery run. You grab your list and pack your kids into the car and head for the store.

After getting everyone settled into the cart, you begin, as we talked about last week, gathering your groceries by quickly working from your list, not slowing down to look at what’s new or to read labels. However, your speed doesn’t stop the kids from picking and poking at each other. As their annoyance grows, so do their voices. “Stop touching me!” yells one child. “I didn’t!” screams the other (the response my youngest daughter once gave to the “I didn’t touch you,” answer was, “You touched my atmosphere!”).

Before you know it, the kids are screeching, crying, and making an embarrassing scene. What do you do?

The first thing to remember is to be consistent. You don’t want your children to wonder, “How will Mom respond.” Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you are at home, the store, the park, or grandma’s house, use time out with a few minor modifications (For instructions on how to use time out effectively, see the blog post from August 6, 2012).

When a child misbehaves in public, give one warning, just like you do at home. Let him know that repeating the behavior will result in a time out wherever you happen to be. The second time your child acts up, find a spot for him to sit. Try to find an empty aisle of the grocery store (it may not stay empty, and that is okay—don’t move your child if someone enters the aisle), a quiet corner at the park, or an unused room in someone’s house (keeping the bathroom as a last resort). We want an uncrowded spot because we are trying to teach, not embarrass or distract the child away from his behavior.

Take your child to the spot you identified and have him sit for one minute per year of age. In public, you will not leave your child. Simply turn away from him so you won’t be engaged. If he leaves the spot, start the time over again. If you are in a store and he touches the items on the shelves or racks, start over again. If he screams or becomes overly unruly, leave your cart, take him to the car and do your time out there. After time out you can retrieve your cart and finish shopping or just come back another day if you prefer.

When the time is done, have your normal post-time out conversation by asking, “Why are you in time out,” “How can you handle this better next time,” and “Tell me you are sorry.” Then give your child a hug and move on.

Some kids may test you to see if you are really committed to sticking with this plan. Make it clear that you will not accept unreasonable behavior and you will correct your child, no matter where you are. You may have a few really bad outings while he tests you, but before long, he will learn that you mean business and his behavior will improve.

How have you corrected your child in public in the past? Was it effective? What do you plan to do next time?

For more tips and details on how to discipline in public, join a Smarter Parenting Teleclass! Register at on the Parent Coaching page.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Take Active Steps to Manage Stress Part 5 – Know What is Important

No one makes great choices when stressed. It is especially hard to be patient and stay consistent with our kids when we feel under pressure. While we are all likely to blow our tops occasionally, there are five steps we can take to manage our stress so we are in a better emotional place to handle the situations that trigger our unwanted reactions.

The first strategy was to make time for God. The second was to find some quiet, uninterrupted time to do your adult thinking. The third was to take care of your physical needs. The fourth was to use tools to help you manage your time and your day. Today we finish talking about stress management.

The fifth strategy is to know what is important.

I once heard a personal coach say, “What is truly important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom truly important.”  How true that is! 

Take some time to really consider your values. What is most important to you? What do you most want your kids to know before they leave your home as adults? What makes you fulfilled? There is no right or wrong answer as long as you figure out what is important to you and don’t let the urgencies of parenthood stop you from living in accordance with your values. 

Make sure that every day you do one thing that supports your values. It doesn’t need to be something big, just an action that lets you feel like you did something meaningful during the day. Perhaps you prayed with your child, or read a story about kindness, or picked up a few pieces of trash at the park.

At the end of the day, you want to be able to say, “I did a bunch of dishes and laundry. I changed a lot of diapers. I listened to a load of whining and had to discipline more than I hoped. However, I also did something that really mattered to me on a different level.” Doing something meaningful helps fight feelings of stress and gives you more patience.

When you do a better job of managing stress you keep your mind clear and can better use your Smarter Parenting strategies.

Learn more Smarter Parenting strategies in the teleclass. Find out more at and click on Parent Coaching.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Take Active Steps to Manage Stress Part 4 – Use Tools to Manage Your Day

No one makes great choices when stressed. It is especially hard to be patient and stay consistent with our kids when we feel under pressure. While we are all likely to blow our tops occasionally, there are five steps we can take to manage our stress so we are in a better emotional place to handle the situations that trigger our unwanted reactions.

Strategy 4 is to use tools to manage our days more effectively.

When my mind is on one hundred things at a time, I can’t focus on anything.  I spend my time working on a little bit of everything, leaving a day’s work that reveals no visible results.  I end up tired and frustrated because despite all my hard work I have nothing to show for it. 

I realize it sound tedious if you are not a list maker, but keeping a “to do” list really does help.  When I know that phone call I need to make is on my list I can finish the task at hand without worrying I’ll forget about it.  When laundry is on the list I know I will get to it and I don’t have to start a load just because I’m reminded it needs to be done.  The list is my memory and all I need to remember is to write things down and finish what I’ve started before moving on to the next item. This allows me to actually be productive and to see some real results rather than just working all day without accomplishing anything.

For some people it works to write down everything needing to be done, for others it helps to write a shorter, modified list that includes only the top five things you need to do.  Or maybe you just list the little projects that keep slipping through the cracks.  Experiment and use the type of list that makes you feel in control of your day. The sort of list you use may change with time, but if your list is stressing you out then it is the wrong type.

Another list I find helpful relates to my least favorite question of the day, “What’s for dinner?”  You can answer this by planning your meals in advance. Whether you go to one of those places where you assemble a bunch of dishes to put in your freezer, cook in advance at home to fill your freezer, use a meal planning website such as, or simply work out a list of meals to make for the week, you will find that knowing what you will make in advance is a big stress reliever.

Knowing what you are going to cook also helps you make a grocery list. Never take your children to the grocery store unless you have your list with you. Know what you need, and grab it. Do not take the time to read labels or compare prices when shopping with your kids. Get what you know works and move on. Find a time when the kids are with dad or at school to do your real shopping.

To learn about more tools to help you feel in control of your time and your day, register for the Smarter Parenting Teleclass at

Monday, September 3, 2012

Take Active Steps To Manage Stress Part 3 – Take Care of Yourself

No one makes great choices when stressed. It is especially hard to be patient and stay consistent with our kids when we feel under pressure. While we are all likely to blow our tops occasionally, there are five steps we can take to manage our stress so we are in a better emotional place to handle the situations that trigger our unwanted reactions.

The first strategy was to make time for God. The second was to find some quiet time to do your adult thinking. Today we move on to strategy three.

The next strategy is to take care of yourself.

I find that when I take care of myself and have a clear head, I can pretty much handle what comes my way with some element of grace and style.  When I am running on five hours of sleep, have a tummy full of junk, am a couple of days past due on a shower and have my mind racing six directions at once, I get stressed out and am not smart in the way I respond to my kids.

Pregnancy changes our bodies, but after the baby arrives we often don’t pay much attention to our own physical needs. I encourage you to take some time, and if necessary, ask your spouse, one of your parents or siblings, or a friend to help you. Figure out how much sleep you actually need and what time that sleep needs to start (once your kids are sleeping through the night, of course). Relearn what foods make you feel good, recognizing that some of your old favorites might not work for you anymore. Determine how much exercise you need, and what type of exercise makes you feel energized.

Keep in mind that your kids melt down when they get tired, hungry, or cranky. So do parents, we just call it losing our patience. When we get enough sleep and eat foods that make us feel good, we are able to better manage our stress and respond to the daily challenges of parenthood in smarter ways.

Also, taking care of our bodies is a way of respecting our families and respecting God.  When we are functioning at our best, we can give our families our best.  Likewise, if we want the Holy Spirit to live happily in us, we need to give it a nice place to live.  We wouldn’t invite God over to our house if it was falling apart, we would clean it up and make it comfortable for him.  Our bodies are no different.

This is also an area where are kids are watching so we need to be aware of what we model.  Love yourself so your kids see how to do it for themselves.  Also, moms, make sure your kids see you taking time for yourself, going out with friends, pursuing hobbies, whatever you like to do.  It is ok for kids to know their moms are whole people who leave the house to go places other than Super Target and church. 

Taking care of yourself is not selfish—it is an important step in refueling yourself and managing your stress so you can give your family your best.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Take active steps to manage stress – Find Some Quiet

No one makes great choices when stressed. It is especially hard to be patient and stay consistent with our kids when we feel under pressure. While we are all likely to blow our tops occasionally, there are five steps we can take to manage our stress so we are in a better emotional place to handle the situations that trigger our unwanted reactions.

Last time we talked about making time for God.

The second strategy for managing stress is to find some quiet time to do your “adult thinking.” 

All adults have things they need to mentally process and work they need to accomplish without interruption. It could be work for a job, it could be a hobby you are passionate about, it could be balancing the checkbook or making a family budget for the month, it doesn’t matter. We all have things we can’t do when the kids are around talking to us and needing us to take care of things. 

But when we don’t get this work done, it starts to irritate us. It almost begins to take on weight as we mentally mull it over and worry about when it will get done. And when our brains are busy worrying about this work, we get stressed and we don’t think clearly about the tones of voice we use, our word choices, or our attitudes. When I have something that requires uninterrupted thought, I have found that the only time I can do it is when the rest of my family is asleep.  For me that is first thing in the morning before everyone is awake, for you that might be after everyone else has gone to bed for the night.

Do not waste this time doing work you can do with the kids. This is not the time to clean the house or update your facebook status. Use this time wisely so you can clear your head and keep your stress level under control.

Learn how to make the most of this time, how it can benefit your family, and what to do when your kids interrupt it with the Smarter Parenting Teleclass. Get more information at and click on Parent Coaching.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Managing Stress Part 1 - Making Time for God

No one makes great choices when stressed. It is especially hard to be patient and stay consistent with our kids when we feel under pressure. While we are all likely to blow our tops occasionally, there are five steps we can take to manage our stress so we are in a better emotional place to handle the situations that trigger our unwanted reactions.

The first one is to Make Time For God

When I am stressed I tend to fly off the handle, but when I am at peace I roll with the punches much more easily.  When I ask God for help in this area, He answers.

One way He answers me is by helping me make time for Him.  Somehow when I take time to consciously be in the presence of my Lord I get the same number of items crossed off my “to do” list as when I just get out of bed and get straight to work, but I am less harried about it.  I feel more peaceful and more patient.  I do a better job of making time for my husband and my children when I first make time for God.  

Each of us needs to be spending time in the Bible and time in prayer every day.  I know that is SO hard with little kids.  I go through periods where I really struggle with it myself.  But I promise you that if you make it a priority God will bless you and He will help you make the time. 

Next time we will talk about the second strategy for managing stress—finding some quiet time to do our “adult thinking.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Use Time Out Effectively

Sometimes moms say, “I’ve tried time out and it doesn’t work.” Other times they say, “I can’t get my child to stay in time out.” Or, I hear, “My child doesn’t care if he goes to time out, he just repeats the behavior anyway.” If these statements sound familiar to you, don’t worry. You are not alone. However, if time out hasn’t worked for you, there is a good chance you aren’t using it correctly. Here is a list of the steps for an effective time out. Do not skip any of them. 1) When a child misbehaves, give him one verbal warning. Calmly, yet clearly and firmly, let him know that repeating the behavior will lead to a time out. 2) If the behavior is repeated, tell the child he needs a time out. Guide him by the hand to the time out spot (make it somewhere he can hear you but not see you, and do not use his bedroom). 3) Place the child on the time out spot, and calmly, yet firmly, tell the child why he is in time out. Tell him how long he will be there (one minute for every year of age), then walk away. Do not get drawn into a conversation. Simply state the facts and leave. Don’t forget to set a timer! 4) If the child is crying or talking, tell him his time will begin as soon as he is quiet. 5) If the child gets out of the time out chair before his time is up, take him back without saying anything or giving a reaction. Simply take him back and set him on the chair. If you must say something, keep it to, “You can’t get up until your time is done.” You may have to repeat this over and over until your child finally takes you seriously and stays put. If he knows you will eventually give in, he will never stay and this will not be an effective strategy. When used consistently, it works extremely well. Consistency, however, is the key. Do not give up! 6) Once the time is up, the parent who put the child in time out should go to the child and calmly ask him why he is in time out. If he doesn’t remember, it is okay to remind him. Ask him how he can handle things better next time, then have him say he is sorry. Then give him a hug. 7) Once time out is over, do NOT bring it up again. If you need to tell your spouse about it, do it after the child has gone to bed for the night. He has “done his time” – show him how to forgive and forget. 8) Do not feel like a bad parent for putting your child in time out repeatedly. Many kids will go through phases when they are in time out ten or more times a day. Remember that you are investing in the future of your child and your entire family by taking the time and effort to establish a system of discipline now. Do not give up! Before long, time outs will be a rare occurrence in your home. Remind yourself to stay calm so you can have smarter conversations with your child and do a better job of teaching. Get more details on using time out effectively through a Smarter Parenting tele-class. Sign up at

Friday, August 3, 2012

Discipline vs Punishment – What’s the Difference?

There is a distinct difference between discipline and punishment, and parents need to recognize this truth. When correcting our children, we want to discipline because our ultimate goal is to teach. Punishment says, “You are bad and I want you to suffer for it.” Discipline says, “I want you to learn how to do this better next time.” That doesn’t mean discipline is easy on the kids, because it often isn’t. Hebrews 12:11 says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Discipline trains the child and helps him understand how to improve. The conversation focuses on your child. When you punish, your displeasure becomes the focus and the child may not understand that he has a role in the situation, or the power to change his behavior. Always educate. Kids who learn how to behave spend less time pushing your buttons and more time having fun, so you have less parenting stress. To learn more about effective discipline and teaching your child to be responsible for his behavior, join a Smarter Parenting tele-class. Go to and click on Parent Coaching for detail and registration.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pray Every Day

Do you ever feel alone in your parenting? Ever experience confusion or anxiety about the decisions you make for your children? Most parents do. In these times, it is important to remember that we are not alone. Just as you are there to support, encourage, and help your child, God is there for you. You are His child and He wants to help you in all things, including your parenting. Don’t try to do it alone. God wants to be a part of your life, your family, and your parenting, so let Him. We let God help us by praying every day. This regular conversation allows you to build a relationship with God, and the closer you are, the more easily you will hear His direction, guidance, and blessings. Pray daily for yourself, your spouse, and your children.Thank Him for the good things happening in your family and ask for help with your struggles. Ask Him to help you be the parent He wants you to be. When you feel connected to God and can hear His direction and receive His guidance, you will be better able to make smart parenting choices. Want more on the power of prayer and how to let God guide your family? Register for a Smarter Parenting tele-class. For more details, go to and click on Parent Coaching.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter Fun

Easter is my very favorite holiday. It is the day we set aside to formally recognize the amazing sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf when He died on the cross. Pagan traditions associating spring time with birth and renewal brought us the bunnies and chicks, but we can use those images to redirect our attention back to Jesus.

1. Make a connection.

Talk to your kids about the forms of rebirth we can see, such as flowers reappearing after their long winter's sleep. Jesus also reappeared after three days in the tomb, and He came back with the message that we will be with Him again. Go on a walk around your neighborhood to look for emerging flowers and talk about how they "come back to life" and how that reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus.

2. Act it out.

Read Luke 24 with your family. You can paraphrase for young children. Talk about Jesus' return, including how the women went to the tomb and found it open, and their response. Work together as a family to make a skit showing the return of Jesus and how people responded (the women falling at His feet, the disciples not recognizing Him, etc.). Keep it fun and light. Focus on the events after the resurrection, not the Crucifixion itself, particularly with very young kids.

3. Bake it up.

Google a recipe for Resurrection Cookies and make a batch with your kids. These fun meringues are hollow inside, representing the empty tomb.

4. Open eggs.

Get a set of Resurrection Eggs (available at WalMart) to help your kids understand the events of Good Friday and Easter. Each egg contains an object to help kids remember what happened. The included book walks you through the Easter story.

5. Build a veiled cross.

Use craft sticks, clay, pipe cleaners, or any material you have on hand to construct a cross. Tear a thin sheet of fabric and talk about how the veil at the temple was torn, indicating our new ability to interact directly with God. Wrap the veil around the cross and use it to decorate your festivities.

6. Learn about lambs.

Go to a petting zoo and talk about lambs. Jesus is called "the Lamb," but this may not mean much to kids who don't know about the animals. Observe the creatures, pet them if possible, and talk to your kids about why Jesus might be called "the Lamb."

What other fun things can you do to help your children understand Easter?

Happy Easter!