Parenting is not about quantity time but about quality time

         During my time in school, my mother would worry that I did not spend enough time with my children. She would note that I worked 56 hours a week at the office, attended school 8 to 12 hours a week and did homework 20 hours a weekend. How in the world did I get time with my children?

Parenting is not about quantity but about quality

 

One researcher suggests that small children only need 15 minutes of one on one time per day and another author suggests the more time a teen spends engaged with their mother, the fewer instances of delinquent behavior. And the more time teens spend with both their parents together in family time, such as during meals, the less likely they are to abuse drugs and alcohol and engage in other risky or illegal behavior. They also achieve higher math scores.

If you are like me and wonder if your children are getting enough of time and attention from you, don’t worry anymore. Here are 5 things you can do to spend quality time with them.

 

  1. Engage in an activity with them they enjoy

This maybe reading a book, playing with Legos, kicking a soccer ball around, wrestling, painting your fingernails, playing barbie dolls, shooting guns, I think you get the hint, whatever your child enjoys, find 15 minutes out of your day and engage in the activity with them.

  1. Sit down and converse

I am lucky, all my children love conversation so this is the easiest one for me to do and it usually happens while we are riding in the car. I let them talk to me about whatever they want and I engage and listen. They get undivided attention. I get my ear talked off and everyone is happy.

  1. Have meals together

I know life is extremely busy but family meal time should be the last activity dropped off your calendar. Plan at least 3 to 4 times a week to eat together and during this time put your devices away and enjoy each others company.

  1. Plan family date nights

This is the one night a week my husband and I valued while we both were in school. No matter what, Friday night was family- fun night. We took the kids to the park, Dave and Busters, bowling, to fairs, carnivals, out to eat, to the mall, wherever we could think to go we went.

  1. Do a project with them

Invite your child do help you do something. Make this time fun, engaging and full of conversation. You can paint the porch together, build a hunting blind (My husband did this with my children), put a pool in together (the girls and I did this). Oh, and my favorite memory, the girls and raked the driveway gravel together. Children enjoy stress-free, family time that is engaging even if it involves work.

Next time you start feeling guilty about the amount of time you don’t spend with your children, put away your guilt and engage in one of these simple activities. All it takes is about 15 minutes!


When a family member is hurting you do these things

I spent 2016 learning how to be a therapist. I sat with many people who were hurting. Most of them had something in common, they have been hurt by family. Someone somewhere caused pain that left them feeling hopeless, depressed, scared or alone. The holidays are over and a New Year is here. Here are some tips to dealing with the family members that are causing conflict or pain in your life.

  1. Be a good listener.

Find out what the person you are in conflict with wants and how they expect you to meet those expectations.

  1. Repeat back what you hear them saying to make sure the message you hear is accurate.

It is so easy to have a rebuttal in our heads going the whole time someone is talking instead of listening

  1. Decide if you can meet the expectations.

Sometimes you can and sometimes you cannot. Only you can decide.

  1. Express the feelings you experience as a result of the way you are being treated.

This is not easy and takes vulnerability. Vulnerability is difficult because it means you can get hurt. Call them on the phone and ask them to listen, write an email, letter, however, if you can get your feelings across, do it!

  1. Try to compromise. Compromising is a part of life. There is always a happy medium if two people are willing to find it.
  1. Draw boundaries when necessary.

Until I became a therapist I use to believe that no matter what it took family was family and you worked it out no matter. I have learned this last year that it takes two. Relationships are never one sided. It takes two people who want a better relationship to make it work. If you are the only one fighting for your relationship, then it is time to draw boundaries.

  1. Do not allow yourself to be treated poorly no matter how much you love the person.

Here are the ways to recognize if you are being poorly treated:

  • The person calls you names.
  • They blame you for the relationship break- down.
  • They manipulate you by withholding love from you. I see this lot. It is often done through silence. The person refuses to talk to you, answer calls or engage in an adult to adult conversation with you.
  • They punish you for not doing what they want.
  • The create unrealistic rules to follow.
  1. Be intentional without being controlled.

You can open the door for a better relationship to happen without being controlled or at someone else’s beckon call. Being intentional means I will not allow the person to control me or manipulate me but will be available when they want to talk.

  1. Have self-respect.

Self-respect says I will not allow someone to belittle me, blame me for problems or treat me poorly.

  1. Do not sweep problems under the rug.

Problems that are left undealt with only get worse. If you have a family member that ignores you for long periods of time and then pretends everything is ok is manipulating you. The only way to not keep repeating the same patterns over and over again is to talk about them. Do not allow anyone to treat you poorly and then pretend something never happened. Being an adult means you hold people accountable, help them grow and invite them to take ownership of their actions.

  1. Forgive over and over again.

Someone cannot keep paying for the same mistake. Offer forgiveness whether they ask for it or not. Forgiveness sets you free. The only person held captive by not forgiving is you. Forgiveness does not mean you invite someone back into your life to be hurt, it just means you are letting go of the hurt they have inflicted on you.

  1. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye

This is the hardest one for me to write but I truly believe, if someone is manipulating you, hurting you, abusing you or continuing to inflict emotional pain on you then you need to let this person go. It doesn’t have to be forever but you cannot allow yourself to be treated this way.

  1. Realize that life is short

Do not give up easy. Fight hard. Try to get along. Seek help from professionals. But if someone doesn’t want to change realize that life is too short to be treated “this way”. Do not succumb to emotional or physical abuse to mend a relationship. The opposite is also true, do not hold on to anger, pain, and hurt when you could just get along. Life is too short.


I had to prove I was not the dumb girl from high school

I often hear from people “Erica I do not know how you did it, how did you run a business, go to grad school and take care of four children? The answer is simple. I was out to prove something.

I grew up in Ohio and attended a Christian school my whole life. I struggled, really struggled. If you asked my teachers, no one would accuse me of being the sharpest knife in the drawer. Academics and learning did not come easy for me. In 5th grade, I had to attend tutoring the entire summer to move on to the 6th grade. My sophomore year of high school I failed Geometry. My teacher worked with me every study hall and he came to a conclusion “You are never going to get it, so I am going to pass you along.”

You are never going to get it were words that I heard from that point on every time I tried to do something.

I was super excited to graduate from high school and had no intention of EVER attending college, yet I did. I struggled through my first two years of college and was excited to meet my husband and get married. He saved me from what I perceived to be more failure. The next nine years, I worked hard but Joe and I continued to struggle financially. I watched my husband work 3-4 jobs while I took care of our children at home. While I cared for the girls, Joe was working and pursuing a master’s degree. He was working so hard for our family. One day, I received news that rocked my world and changed my life.

One spring day I heard that an elementary friend passed away in a sudden car accident leaving behind his wife and four children. His wife was like me and had no college education. I began to wonder

How is she going to do it?

How will she support her four children?

At this moment I began to analyze my life. I had dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up yet I had no confidence in my ability to do them because I was not that smart. Heck, I was voted the second dumbest kid in my class during high school. I knew I could end up like my friend’s wife if I did not do something, so I decided to ask my husband about his thoughts of me trying college once more. He loved that idea and had honestly always seen something in me that I never saw in myself. In the fall of 2008, I enrolled at Strayer University to get my bachelors in business administration and continued from there to get a master’s degree in counseling that I just completed in December of 2016.

How did I do it?

I had something to prove. I had to prove to myself that I was smart, that I could make good grades and I could do this.

Quitting was not an option. No matter how hard it got, when I went back to school, I decided that giving up was not an option which taught me endurance.

I learned to endure. I learned that anything in life that was worth something was hard and was worth the fight. I wrote papers while caring for sick children. I studied, did projects, and read countless hours while running my kids to sporting events, helping them study and caring for them while they were sick. No matter what life threw at me, I stayed focused on what I wanted. I wanted to succeed therefore being stress was not an option.

I practiced self-care. My husband might argue with me on this one.:) I would not allow myself to get overly stressed out about school. I planned ahead and realized that stress was not my friend. Being anxious or worked up would not get my school work finished but only work against what I wanted. Instead of being stressed or anxious I asked for help.

I learned to rely on others. Anyone who knows me knows that I am independent and strong willed. I hate asking others for help. I realized during this season of my life, if I were going to accomplish goals, I would have to rely on others for help. Becoming humble taught me that I could accomplish more.

I had to swallow my fears and pride. To accomplish my goals, I had to put fear aside. Fear had become my best friend for many years but every time he showed up, I would tell myself I was not afraid, and I could do this.

I had to focus on what wanted not on the discomfort at the moment. During my 7-year journey through higher education, I endured pregnancy sickness, giving birth, shingles, the flu, the stomach virus and the death of a family member. No matter how painful or hard life was, I continued to focus on what I wanted not the discomfort at the moment which caused me to learn things about myself I never knew.

I learned my learning style which changed everything. In high school, everything was done through lecturing and reading. In grad school, I learned that I was a kinesthetic learning. Once I realized I learned best using my hands, it changed everything.

By concentrating on these things I have now learned:

I can make good grades. I finished my undergrad with a 3.6 and made the Deans list. I finished grad school with a 3.0. So the girl who got a 0.6 GPA in 8th grade could make good grades.

I am not dumb. Going back to school increased my self-esteem because I proved to myself I am smart.

Failure is not final. I failed many times through middle and high school, but that was not the end of my story. I was able to try again and succeed.

Hard work pays off. I realized that through enduring hard work does pay off. Don’t let who you were in high school be the narrative of your whole life.

If you have a desire or a dream, go for it! Find a support network, believe in yourself and create a new story moving forward. YOU CAN DO IT!


I need to change

At the beginning of the year I started Practicum class. Practicum is when, as a student, you begin seeing clients. During the first class Professor Bell handed us are syllabi and I glanced to the required reading and noticed a lot of books on self-care. To be honest I was not overly excited to read them but I did. I was not sure how a mom of 4, a student, counselor and business owner was going to engage in self-care but I figured I would at least toy with the idea.

            As soon as my eyes open in the morning my mind is going? I am thinking about all I need to accomplish in a day.  Who do I need to call? What crisis do I need to manage? How will I continue to grow our business? How can I help my clients? I am also checking my email, voicemail message, text messages and social media messages several times a day and usually respond immediately. My mind is constantly going.

            My husband swooped me away this summer to an island in the middle of Lake Erie. We rented a golf cart, set up camp and was looking forward to several days of relaxation. We were there about an hour and I begun to feel restless. I was constantly checking my messages, responding to my staff and just wondering what was going on at work, with my kids and with my clients. My husband says something to me along the lines of

 “Have you ever noticed that you have problems relaxing.”

Me? Have trouble relaxing? Why would he even think is? Does he not realize how important I am? I just can’t unplug and be disconnected from life.

I kept my thought to myself and went for a little walk. I kept replaying his words in my head and came to the conclusion that the idea of relaxing was a matter of opinion and some people just cannot do it. I was one of them! BAM! I solved that ridiculous, unhelpful chatter in my head. However, I decided while I was away with my husband I would try to relax, even though I was not sure what that meant.

            Fast forward to this month. My husband and I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference. At the last session we attended on Friday my husband was poking me in the side, making noises and grinning ear to ear. What was the topic you asked?

How good leaders take time to relax, unplug and refill. The speaker even made a joke that he knew it was hard because as we were sitting there most of us are composing at least 6 emails. How did he know?  

I finally heard the message.

I need to change.

I need to learn to relax, have fun and recharge.

Parents often ask me in therapy “How many times do I have to tell my kids something before they get it?” To which I respond “The same amount of times you have to tell yourself before you change.” I had to hear this message three times before even considering beginning the process.

Change happens when:

  1. I realize there is a problem
  2. I create a plan to work on the problem
  3. I execute a solution.

I have a plan! I am currently on vacation and I am going to try really hard to relax, have fun and refill my energy bucket this week. I know this will involve constantly changing my thoughts, not responding to messages right away and most importantly constant self-talk but I want to be a great a leader so I am willing to begin the change process this week. I will let you know how I do!:)


100 reasons why I love my husband

My husband and I decided about 10 years ago that celebrating Valentines Day would no longer be feasible. You see, we now have three birthdays in the same week of February and our anniversary the week after. Since we have not found the money tree, something had to go.

Me and Joe

When we first met, Valentines Day was one of our favorite holidays. The holiday represents love and I was and still am, madly in love with this man. Since we cannot do anything wild and crazy on Valentines Day I thought I would tell you 100 reasons why I love my husband so much!

  1. He pursues my heart
  2. He loves me and the children with all his heart
  3. He gets such a kick out of himself and most days I find him pretty funny too   Hearts
  4. He is passionate about life
  5. He dreams big
  6. He enjoys a variety of food
  7. He is witty
  8. He is sarcastic
  9. He is strong
  10. He is king
  11. He loves people
  12. He is a hard worker
  13. He enjoys conversation
  14. He loves a good book
  15. He is a great conversationalist
  16. He knows me inside and out
  17. He gives the best hugs
  18. He challenges me to be a better person
  19. He dates my children
  20. He tells me all the time how much he loves me
  21. I can trust him with the deepest longings of my soul
  22. He is the cutest deer hunter I have ever seen
  23. He has this intimidating look to him that makes it hard for others to read
  24. He will randomly clean my kitchen for me without me asking him to
  25. He is extremely sexy holding an axe and chopping wood
  26. He is a passionate speaker
  27. He reads me
  28. I trust him with my emotions
  29. He will do randomly weird things with me like play and sing in the rain
  30. He plans romantic getaways for us
  31. He is touches me many times a day (this is not in a perverted way)
  32. He has a passion for orphans in other countries and financially supports them
  33. He is crazy about Nascar
  34. He is wise
  35. He loves knowledge and eats it up
  36. He purses godliness
  37. He says things like it is and pulls no punches
  38. If I need him. He is there. No questions asked.
  39. There is no one in this world I can laugh with and be silly with like my husband
  40. He is competitive
  41. He enjoys trying new restaurants
  42. He builds my daughters self-esteem
  43. He has taught me that loyalty is everything
  44. He is wild and crazy
  45. He will try anything because he will not let fear stop him
  46. He self evaluates constantly
  47. He spoils me
  48. He protects me
  49. He protects my kids
  50. He is incredibly good looking. I just love looking at him
  51. It is fun to watch his eyes dance when he thinks he can beat me at something
  52. He is a wild and crazy driver
  53. He wakes up early
  54. He can fall asleep at the drop of a hat
  55. He has a passion for music and loves listening to it
  56. I have hardly ever seen him wake up in a bad mood
  57. He loved his mom fiercely
  58. He treasures things and keep them safe
  59. He loves animals
  60. He enjoys nature
  61. He believes people can change
  62. He enjoys a good story
  63. He is a good actor
  64. He knows about every sport
  65. He will defend what he believes in
  66. He is a good leader
  67. He is an influencer
  68. He looks sexy in hats
  69. He has a diverse wardrobe
  70. He is wild at heart (Hence his motorcycle)
  71. He loves our son and plays with him
  72. He enjoys playing on the PlayStation and is so cute when he yells at it like it hears him
  73. He will put things together for me
  74. He loves nature and camping
  75. He has helped me not be so uptight
  76. He has believed in me like no one ever has
  77. He has sacrificed for our family so I could be a stay at home mom
  78. He has worked some of the worst jobs to support us
  79. He hardly ever complains about life
  80. His heart hurts when other hurt
  81. He loves his family
  82. He will reach out to people others would never dream to talk to
  83. He is sensitive
  84. He loves buying new clothes and I love watching him pick things out
  85. He likes country music and looks extremely sexy in a pair of cowboy boots
  86. He will do the driving on long trips just because I do not want to
  87. He loves to preach
  88. He loves Fords
  89. He can shoot a gun
  90. He defends his family
  91. He listens to me
  92. He helps me be a better person
  93. He is great at his job
  94. He would give you the shirt off his back if he thinks it would help you
  95. He dreams big
  96. He believes in happily ever after’s
  97. He has the most unbelievable eyes
  98. His eyes tell a story without him even opening his mouth
  99. He gets into weird things with me like oils and Himalaya lights
  100. He life vision is to change his community

The power of positive word

 

Have you ever noticed it is easier to tell someone what they are doing wrong or how they can change instead of telling them what they are doing well? I wonder why this is? Words are powerful!

When I was newly married I spent the majority of days telling my husband what he did wrong. One day I decided to try something new and affirm him and thank him. It was amazing how I got different results! I noticed he wanted to do things to make me happy and enjoyed hearing me tell him how much he means to me. It even works great with my children!

Before it worked I had to change my thinking from

“I don’t need to say thank you, after all he lives her too!”

                                    To

“I appreciate you no matter what”

 

It did not happen over night, the change that is, it took time, but now it is habit.

My challenge for you this week is to tell the people in your lives thank you or I appreciate ______(this thing you did). Don’t bring up the negatives like “You always do this or never do that” just focus on positives for one week.

            Let me know what happens. Did you get different results? Send me an email or comment on this post.


Knock the confidence out of your kid

         I often hear from teachers and friends “Your children are so well-behaved and confident.” It is true, they are however it has not always been that way.

         I remember the nervous feeling that came over me dropping Kendra off to kindergarten. Joe and I had searched high and low for the perfect school for Kendra. We finally, decided on a Christian school. We were so excited to watch Kendra grow and learn! The opposite happened. The teacher did not like Kendra, at all! Everyday we picked her up and the teacher had a new grievance

“She talked out of turn”

“We met Mr. BORING today” when asked what that meant we were informed that Kendra told her, when asked if she liked an activity, that she thought it was boring.

“Your daughter started talking before I even said AMEN that is not acceptable!”

54ca7b129fc2e_-_kids-tools-10-1208-60579064Soon parent /teacher conferences came around and the teacher explained to us that our daughter was too confident and she was going to knock the confidence out of our kid. She saw it as her mission.

She succeeded that year. She knocked the confidence right out of her.

Joe and I had choices to make.

We could be angry

We could see the situation as hopeless

We could rebuild

 

We chose to rebuild.

 

How did we do that? How did we teach our daughter to be confident?

  1. We taught her that failure is not final.
  2. We taught her that people will hurt you but they do not define who you are.
  3. We taught her that when you get knocked down you get back up again.
  4. We told her everyday that she was beautiful, loved and nothing would change that love for her.
  5. We allowed her to ask questions and express frustration.
  6. We convinced her she had a voice and others needed to hear it.
  7. We taught her at very young age that she had a belief system and we let her form her own.

I will never forget the day my husband had her read a very controversial book. She came to me with all sorts of questions and stated she didn’t know what she believed anymore. I was panicky and called him to find out what she was reading.

He laughs and says “It is ok I purposely picked that book because I want her to start forming her own belief system.”

We allowed her to talk

We invited her to wrestle with life at 9 years’ old

Ultimately we have taught her to be her and our confident girl came back. She is now 13 still confident and beautiful. I am proud to be her mom. I hope she will never stop discovering who she is.


15 minute dates

Clock“Dad where are you going?” This was the question I often asked my dad as he was grabbing his wallet and putting on his shoes. He would reply “To the store.” “Can I come?” I would ask with excitement! My dad never said no. It was his 15 minutes with me. My dad seemed to know something I often forget in the craziness of life and that is one day my children will grow up. Our trips to the store were always an adventure. We talked, played games and reminisced about life. Soon it was not just the trips to the store that allowed me alone time with my dad but also our little bedtime routine. A few nights a week he tucked us into bed and sang us songs, played goofy games, or told us made up stories. You know what though? Those 15 minute dates with my dad played a role in the adult I grew up to be. I love being a parent and often think about the fond memories I have with my parents.

My life is a little crazy right now and a typical week for me could include 8-10 hours in the classroom, 8-10 hours seeing clients, and 20-30 hours of administrative work. Plus, I homeschool our kids and manage our home. I am running kids here there and everywhere. Last year, during one of my classes, my professor said “You only need 15 minutes a day per kid to refill their cup”. I was under the impression I needed hours alone with each child. 4 kid’s times hours of one -on -one time equals another part time job! When I feel overwhelmed I remember my 15 minutes’ dates with my dad.

It only takes 15 minutes!

Think about it, these crazy children of ours really do not have long attention spans. Its not the quantity that matters but the quality. Spend 15 minutes a day

Reading to them

asking them about their day

Playing a game

Baking cookies together

Doing chores together

Taking a run to the store

15 minutes a day helps them feel

Safe

Valued

And heard by you.

15 minutes of quality time will even change their behavior. Just try it. Are your kids angry, acting out in some sort of way? Try to 15 minute dates and see if you notice a change in behavior.


Time to put away those spoons

  Wooden spoon    It was a normal day in my house, mom was cleaning, I was playing with my dolls, and my oldest sister was listening to records on the record player. (Does this show my age?) My sister’s favorite song just came on the stereo, “Take this job and shove it”. I can hear this song still in my head as if it was yesterday. My mom came into the living room, where I was playing, and told me I had to clean my room. How dare she say this! I was playing dolls! They were all lined up ready to hear me preach a sermon and she wanted me to clean my room? I told her, “No! Take that job and shove it!” Boom! I told her!

Not only did I have to clean my room now but I also got a whack with the wooden spoon. My parents were spanked, my siblings and I were spanked. You know “Spare the rod and spoil the child” an ancient proverb that is better translated as “refuse to discipline and you get a spoiled child”. My parents were not abusive by any means but I would argue even they could’ve put away those spoons.

How does discipline work without the spoon?

  • Identify the problem

(You are looking for more than just their sin nature here) Why are they disobeying? Throwing a fit? Or being mean? If you do not know ask them what is going on.  Are they tired?  Are they hungry? Are they feeling sad over a recent event that has affected them or your family? Are they exploring and learning new things? Is it information overload?

Example: Johnny you just hit your sister. Why did you hit her?????

Johnny “Because she took my IPod from me!”

  • Identify the emotion

Is your child feeling sad, angry, depressed, guilty, determined, frustrated, threatened, or lonely? By finding out what the emotion is they are feeling you can better handle the problem.

“When your sister took your IPod you felt ___?"

“I hate her! She is always taking my stuff!”

  • Teach them to change the emotion

Johnny hit his sister because he feels like she is taking her stuff all the time. Most children only know two emotions: love and hate. It is important that children learn to identify more emotions because it will make them much healthier adults.

“Johnny you hate your sister?” When your sister took your IPod what other emotion could you have felt besides hate? How about angry? Sad? Annoyed? Instead of getting angry and hitting her what could you have done differently?

  • Teach them to problem solve

The ability to problem solve is a skill that will carry them through life and help them be more responsible adults. We problem solve when we look at a problem and think of different ways to handle it.

“Johnny instead of hitting your sister what is another way you could’ve responded?” (Have Johnny come up with several different ways and talk through each of them)

  • So what is their punishment?

I am a huge fan of making the punishment fit the crime. Johnny hits his sister and then mom spanks him.  This teaches Johnny that when I feel emotion it is ok to hit. Instead of spanking try:

  • Time outs - Consistency is the key. They sit in time out one minute for every year they are old, if they get up, you say nothing to them, and you just put them back.
  • Take something away - Since the IPod was involved in the incident take the IPod for a reasonable time period. I suggested a few hours to a day.
  • Have them write a note - Sometimes when children are really angry with someone it is punishment enough to have them list all the things they like about the person they are angry with.
  • Talk it out - Children, just like you and I, have bad days and do not know how to express emotions. The best gift you can give them is to teach them life skills that make them a better adult.
  • Give them a hug - sometimes, especially tots, throw fits because they are overstimulated and just need a hug to make everything better. (Remember as adults we also need hugs.)

Spanking them is too easy, it’s a great frustration releaser for the parent but it is not effective in teaching life skills. No one is going to spank them as an adult. You should stick with punishments that model life to them. Take the time to teach your child in the midst of conflict. Also, remember that change does not happen overnight. Just like you and I, it’s a process. Be consistent. Be patient and be loving. It will pay off in the end.