Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Sometimes, well a lot of the time, a Mom needs a kick in the pants. Motherhood is definitely not as easy as I thought it was going to be. And I have come to discover I am not naturally talented in the area either. There are so many times when I think that my kids are too old to start changing things around for the better. That I screwed up and it is too late. A lot of days that turn into months I lose perspective and forget that My kids are young compared to the eternity that I have to be their mother. I have many friends that inspire me beyond measure. But two ladies in particular feed my soul. Lisa J. and Jamie C. are the mothers that I want to be. They both used to be neighbors. And as they have moved away and I have started spending every spare moment on my photography business I have stopped checking in on their blogs. Another super amazing friend Rachel P. reminded me last night what I was missing out on. So last night I payed both of these friends a cyber visit. And now with tears in my eyes I can tell you that they filled my soul! I wanted to share something with all of you from Lisa's blog. (hope she doesn't mind) If you want an extra jolt of motherhood caffeine, visit her here!

MARCH 1, 2011

Developing, Nurturing and Maintaining Good Relationships with Our Children

A month ago I was asked to present a class at our weekly Relief Society meeting about “Developing, Nurturing and Maintaining Good Relationships with our Children.” I was so excited… I’m pretty passionate about this topic so I really enjoyed studying, reading and preparing my thoughts… and now that it’s over I figured I’d post it here too.


I was listening to a Mormon Channel conversation with Sister Julie B. Beck, general Relief Society President, and her daughters… when this quote really struck me. She said,

“I wanted to raise people who would be my friends when I was old. That means we had to do things when they were young that would build them into the kind of people I would enjoy when they were older. We had to teach them manners, and cleanliness, to be thinkers, to laugh, to enjoy life. That meant I had to be their parent when they were young so that I could be their friend when they were older.”

I love that. She goes on to say that PARENTING is hard and takes a lot of revelation and help from above… so of course the number 1 thing we can do in order to develop, nurture and maintain a good relationship with our children, is to seek the guidance of our Heavenly Father.

Gene R. Cook, in one of our very favorite books called, “Raising A Family Unto the Lord” says, “If you want to be successful, get the Lord involved.”

That said, I have divided my thoughts into four sections…


Developing, Nurturing and Maintaining a good Relationship with your Children – Part 1


Before we can ever put our daily choices and patterns into place, we need to know the big picture. Where are we headed? What is our long term vision for our family? Where do we see our family in 5, 10, 50 years?family motto2

For Chris and I, our first long term vision for our family is summed up in our family motto… Every morning and night after our family prayer, we put one hand in together and repeat our motto. (Sometimes Luke says “B-Y-U” instead and Chris grins while I roll my eyes. We’ve allowed a compromise though, now he gets to lead a BYU chant after our family motto is over.) Even little Matthew knows the drill and is excited to stick his hand in and mumble the words with a smile.

The kids know that this means we’re headed for the Celestial Kingdom together and we want everyone there. Hopefully, by saying it every day, we’re reminding ourselves of the big picture and that all of our other goals and plans need to, in some way, help us get there.

Secondly, our family timeline helps both Chris and I, and our children have a vision of our family life.

family timeline3

This fabulous idea came from my Dad. He had our family timeline on a big piece of poster board drawn in pencil and hidden behind the tall file cabinet in his office downstairs. Once a year we’d pull it out, wipe off the cobwebs, lay it out on the kitchen table and check it out. {Ours used to be hand-written on graph paper… but recently Chris and I sat down and made it digital… using iNumbers.}

Each child in the family has their own ‘line’ underneath the ‘year line’. Each child’s line starts on the year that they were born. On their line we’ve filled in all important milestones and when they will take place… a mark on their line for when they’ll start kindergarten, be baptized, receive the priesthood, go into beehives, Mia Maids, Laurels, Deacons, Teachers, Priests, start to date, go to University, go on a mission… All in pencil.

It’s our family PLAN. We want our children to know what the plan is… and that we EXPECT it to happen. We don’t say IF you decide to go on a mission, they see it actually on their line like it’s part of the plan. Once it has happened then it goes in pen. For ours, which is on the computer, it will change from yellow ink, to black.

Another neat thing about this timeline is seeing how the kids lines match up. How old will Matthew be when Ryan goes on his mission? How long will Katie, Emily and Megan all be in young women’s together? What grade will the kids be in when we get out of the army?

When we were deciding if we should move to Germany we pulled out our family timeline and looked at the next three years. Viewing our family life in the ‘big picture’ made us realize that three years wasn’t really that long. We also noticed what things would be taking place in the next three years… Ryan receiving the priesthood, Katie going in to Young Women’s, Emily and Megan being baptized.

Part of developing a good relationship with our children is creating that vision together.

My Dad still pulls out the family timeline to record events and uses it often for presentations. Thanks Mom and Dad for your great example… in everything.

Lastly, Chris and I fully plan on and expect that we will have great relationships with our children as they grow older… and we’re working towards that every day. I spend a lot of time helping my children envision our future relationship as well. When I’m doing the girls hair or driving in the car with one of them I’ll say, “Emily, I’m so excited for when you go to your first dance and then you’ll come home and sit on my bed and tell us all the details and who you think is cute…” I want her to envision telling us every detail. I want her to envision sitting with the both of us to talk about her fears or her problems or her joys. I want her to envision or EXPECT that having a great relationship and talking to your mom and dad is just what you do. …We talk about how exciting it is going to be to go to kindergarten and how good they will be in their class, about how proud we are that they will be choosing to get baptized, about our feelings and actions around dropping our kids off at college, about how they will look over at us in the temple when they get married – to see us crying, about the joy of visiting them and their children when they’re married… you name it, we talk about it, and I think it help our kids envision our relationship throughout their lives as well as build the necessary communication skills for a successful close relationship.

Developing, Nurturing and Maintaining a Good Relationship with our Children – Part 2

communication word

I am a communicator. I like to talk. I follow Chris around the house telling him about my day, and where I went, and who I talked to, and funny things the kids said. He sometimes teases me by wandering around the furniture just to see if I’ll still follow him, which I do without even thinking about it… so it will come as no surprise that I love love LOVE talking to my kids. I tell my kids when I’m feeling frustrated because of something, or when I’m sad because of something I heard on the news, or something funny that my brother said on the phone, or when I’m disappointed at myself. I spontaneously bear my testimony or squeeze in a mini lesson about some gospel principle any time I can. I take every opportunity to share my feelings and turn anything into a conversation. It’s amazing what powerful discussions can occur after watching episodes of Little House on the Prairie… Often time we have to pause to have lengthy discussions about friendship, or dating, racism or the word of wisdom. I just love it.

When my older kids were each ready to learn about sex… Chris and I took them out for a special date night and explained everything together. We want it to be completely natural for Ryan to ask me questions and for Katie to ask Chris questions. They also know that anything told to one of us will be shared with the other.

I plan on having lots of open and deep conversations with my teenagers but I’m sure those deep conversations will not ‘just happen’ if they have not happened all along the way… and if I have not opened up to them about my feelings, then how will I expect them to open up to me?

I have deep (of course not inappropriate) talks with my children when they are very young. I’m amazed at what my 3 and 5 year old understand. I talk to Megan about how to choose a man to marry, or that some children don’t have enough food, or about some of the gory details about giving birth. I explain to Luke that I’m feeling sad or frustrated and in turn he is starting to really communicate his own feelings… “Mom, I feel like I’m going to cry when you don’t say “YEAH!” after I go to the potty.” {Oh boy, that whole topic deserves it’s own post.}

Often the best time for some one on one communication is at bedtime. I’ve enjoyed asking 5 questions to my little ones from time to time as I tuck them in. Usually I have to either run and tell Chris or jot down their answers because they are just so cute.

Luke’s from yesterday…

  1. What is taller… a giraffe or an elephant? a giraffe
  2. What is faster… a car or a bike? a car
  3. Who does Mommy love the most? a giraffe
  4. No, in the family, who does Mommy love the most in our family? Dad!
  5. Then who does Mommy love? an elephant --- it took a while and quite a few fabulous ‘Lukey faces’ to come up with all the kids names too, in order of course.

(Asking questions is totally from my Dad too. He’s still a ‘question asker’ and my kids just love it.)

These days, when I haven’t completely lost all patience by bedtime the kids get a ‘tuckle and a talk’… which is a tuck and a tickle combined, and then some questions if I’m in a good mood… which, believe me, is not every night.

I try to tell my children often that I LOVE being their mother, that I’m so lucky to have them as children, and that I’m SOOOOO in love with their Dad.

As my children have continued to grow, our talks are just getting better. Ryan sits in the front seat of the van on the way home from church and almost always makes comments about other people’s poor choices, or asks a question about when I was a teenager. Then it’s my job to KEEP TALKING and KEEP THEM TALKING. I use every opportunity I can to share my feelings, ask what they think, use personal experiences, talk about silly things I did as a teenager, listen, and most of all, bear my testimony. That doesn’t mean that every conversation is about spiritual things… it’s not. But our conversations usually celebrate good choices, teach, and most importantly, tell them that their thoughts and feelings are valued and that they are loved.

Many times when we get home, and walk into the kitchen for our traditional ‘before-dinner nachos’ the kids just stand there and say… “KEEP TALKING MOM!”. It’s like they hardly even care what I say next, they just want the feeling of the moment to continue.

In January for FHE we studied the Proclamation of the Family. I printed out the entire Proclamation for each member of the family but with enough spaces between the paragraphs that we could take notes, and draw pictures throughout. I was amazed at what kinds of questions were asked and talked about when we read and explained each sentence of that amazing proclamation. We used 3 FHE’s in a row sitting around the table, just talking. On one of the nights we paused and put the younger three to bed so that we could continue to talk with the older ones, and ended up going to bed way too late because no one wanted to stop talking.

A couple days after one of our Proclamation nights my sister in law called to tell us of someone she knew who had five kids, pregnant with her sixth, who accidentally drove over her toddler, killing her. After talking with her for a while, I went downstairs and immediately called my kids to the kitchen where I poured out my heart. I told them of the experience, and of that poor family and what they must be feeling. We talked about what the brothers and sisters must be feeling. I was emotional and so were Ryan and Katie. When I stopped talking and turned to make dinner Ryan rushed upstairs. I sensed that he went to his room to pray for that family... which he did. Around the dinner table a few minutes later he was still quite emotional as he explained that he couldn’t stop thinking about that happening to his brother, Luke. Over dinner, we talked about the Plan of Salvation, and the blessing it is to know Heavenly Father, and the idea that we need to be strong in our testimonies so that when hard times come we will be able to rely on the Lord instead of turn away from Him… all things that we had talked about just days before in our discussions on the proclamation. I share this because it’s an example of the kind of positive communication that I want in my home all the time. I could have chose to not bring it up, it’s too sad, they are too young, we don’t even know the family. But instead, we felt a true emotional and spiritual connection to each other. We developed a trust. We shared OUR feelings and provided an environment where they would want to share theirs. We grew closer… and that’s what it’s all about.

“Children never outgrow a need for quality conversation with parents and other adults. Learning how to communicate on this level will serve them well in their own future relationships, including marriage. It will teach them how to build friendships and relate to work associates. It will show them how to process their own thoughts and to communicate in a positive, caring manner that respects the ides of others.

Because your children will learn more from talking with you than you will probably ever realize, it is crucial that you spend time in healthy conversation with them, no matter what their age. If you limit your talking with them to correction, your children may never learn the value of positive, focused attention. Negative attention alone can not meet their need for love.

Sadly few young people today understand how to handle their feelings, especially anger. This lack is a primary reason for drug use, inappropriate sexual activity, and antiauthority attitudes and behavior. Many years of warm and close bedtime talks, which include relaxed sharing of feelings, can help prevent most of life’s deepest problems.

Don’t be a victim of the urgent. In the long run, much of what seems so pressing right now won’t even matter. What you do with your children will matter forever.”

Gary Chapman, Author of ‘5 Love Languages’.

Developing, Nurturing and Maintaining a good Relationship with Your Children – Part 3

love word

Earlier in my marriage I read the book called ‘The Five Love Languages’ written by Gary Chapman. I really enjoyed the concept that people give and receive love in different way and that finding out what your spouses’ love languages are would enable you to ‘speak love’ to each other more clearly. I immediately applied the concepts to my kids trying to determine what their individual love languages were.

Now I own and have read his book “The five Love Languages of Children”. Also fabulous... and so I’m just going to summarize each of his ideas and pass them along…

First of all, CHILDREN NEED ALL FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES TO FEEL LOVED. I found this rather interesting. Even if you see your child having one or two main love languages, they still need ALL FIVE.

words- physical touch

This is one I can see clearly in my Emily. She wants to be hugged, and tickled. She wants to sit close to Dad and drape her arm around him and snuggle into him. She wants to lie on my lap and have me tickle her back. She is somewhat like a cat… and I don’t particularly like cats… so I have to remember that this is how she feels loved.

“Our children need plenty of touches during their first few years. As a baby grows and becomes more active, the need for touch does not lessen. Hugs and kisses, wrestling on the floor, riding piggy-back, and other playful loving touches are vital to the child’s emotional development. Children need many meaningful touches every day and parents should make every effort to provide these expressions of love.”

Practical Ideas:

    • Hug and kiss your child every day when they leave and return from school.
    • Put your hand on their shoulder or back as you approach them or tell them something.
    • Stroke your child’s hair or rub their back when they’ve had a difficult day or are upset.
    • Shortly after disciplining them, take a moment to give them a hug and tell them that you still love and cherish them.
    • Snuggle closely together on the couch when watching a movie.
    • With younger children, read stories together with your child on your lap.
    • Occasionally yell out for a group hug for your entire family.
    • Tuck them in at night – (I vividly remember feeling loved by my mother when she sat by my bed to talk as I went to bed… and I know my kids feel that too, but I need to do better.)

words - words of affir

This one is my Katie. She loves to hear that I’m proud of her or that I think she looks beautiful or that I think she made a smart decision. Who doesn’t?

“In communicating love, words are powerful. Words of affection an endearment, words of praise and encouragement, words that give positive guidance all say, “I care about you”. Such words nurture the child’s inner sense of worth and security. Even though such words are quickly said, they are not soon forgotten. A child reaps the benefits of affirming words for a lifetime. Conversely, cutting words, spoken out of short-lived frustration, can hurt a child’s self-esteem and cast doubts about his abilities. Children think we deeply believe what we say.”

Practical Ideas:

    • Write love notes to each child several times a year.
    • Put a post-it note in their lunchbox with some encouraging words.
    • Take a picture your child has created and frame it with a note of why it means so much.
    • Make a poster of praise to put on their bedroom door.
    • When a child makes a mistake trying to do something helpful, first use words that recognize that you knew of their good intentions.
    • Leave a note on a cereal box, bathroom mirror or other place you know your child will look.
    • Make a habit of mentioning something specific you’ve observed that highlights your child’s accomplishments.
    • Make mention of each child and their accomplishments during Family prayer.

words - quality time

This is one of Ryan’s main ones. He’s always wanting to play games with us, watch movies, and stay up and talk to us. He craves attention from the both of us.

“The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together. Quality time does not require that you go somewhere special. You can provide focused attention almost anywhere, and your most nurturing quality times will often be at home, when you are alone with a child. Finding time to be alone with each child is not easy, and yet it is essential. In a society where people are increasingly spectators rather than participants, focused attention from parents is all the more critical. It takes real effort to carve out this kind of time in your schedule, and yet making the effort is rather like an investment in the future.”

“Quality time should include pleasant, loving eye contact. Looking in your child’s eyes with care is a powerful way to convey love from your heart to the heart of your child. Studies have shown that most parents use eye contact in primarily negative ways, either while reprimanding a child or giving very explicit instructions. Most of your eye contact must be pleasant and loving.”

Practical Ideas:

    • Include your child in your daily activities such as laundry, grocery shopping, or washing dishes.
    • Stop what you are doing to make eye contact with your child as they tell you something important.
    • Cook something together for a snack.
    • When a younger child is showing you something, crouch down to their eye level or gather them into your arms.
    • Seek opportunities to spend time together as a family.
    • Share more meals together as a family.
    • Open up a photo album that has pictures of your child’s earlier life. Sit together and talk about the fun and emotion of the events in the pictures.
    • Ask very specific questions about your child’s day that do not have a yes or no answer.

words - gifts

“The grace of giving has little to do with the size and cost of the gift. It has everything to do with love. Today we parents don’t always think of necessities as gifts but as items we must supply for our children. And yet, we often give these items with loving hearts for the sincere benefit of our children. Let’s celebrate such gifts. Unwrapping a present provides an emotional thrill for a child, and you can demonstrate that every gift, whether a necessity or a luxury, is an expression of your love.”

As I order or buy things my children ‘need’, such as new clothing, I usually save them in a basket above my closet. For Valentine’s day my children all received a new item of clothing wrapped in red paper… all from the purchases I had done in the last couple of months and saved waiting for a special event. I could of just given it to them earlier but the excitement of seeing the presents wrapped made everything more exciting. It’s not the PRESENT that’s important; it’s how things are PRESENTED. To go along with our Valentine’s gifts we had a Valentine’s Day Dinner with all red food. Then I hung “love note” hearts down from the ceiling to hover over the table. When Luke came in to the dining room and saw what I was doing he exclaimed, “Oh, Mom, I love you!” He could just tell I was doing something special… and could really feel it as an expression of my love, even as a 3 year old.

Practical Ideas:

    • Give personally made coupons for your child, good for some of their favorites, such as an extra half hour of time with you before bedtime, or a small treat next time you are shopping together.
    • make after school snacks memorable by serving them on a special plate in a funny place.
    • Create a scavenger hunt for a gift that includes a map and clues along the way to the main surprise.
    • Hide a small gift in your child’s lunchbox.
    • Give hints leading toward a special upcoming gift. A countdown of notes help create huge anticipation and a tremendous amount of love for those who especially enjoy receiving gifts.
    • Keep a chart and some fun stickers to keep a record of accomplishments. Reward your child with a gift after a set number of stickers are earned.

words - service

This is one of my main love languages. If anyone volunteers to help with laundry or dinner then I really feel loved… as this is what occupies most of my time.

As a love language for children, it’s a little different…

“Loving service is an internally motivated desire to give one’s energy to others. Loving service is a gift, not a necessity, and is done freely, not under coercion. When parents serve their children with a spirit of resentment and bitterness, a child’s physical needs may be met, but his emotional development will be greatly hampered. Because service is so daily, even the best parents need to stop for an attitude check now and then, to be sure that their acts of service are communicating love.” I thought that was note-worthy. I need an attitude check every now and again… and I also need to verbalize that I do what I do because I love them.

Acts of service can become a model for your child’s service and responsibility. You may wonder how your children will develop their own independence and competence if you serve them. But as you express your love by acts of service to your children, doing things they may not yet be able to do for themselves, you are setting a model. This will help them escape their self-centered focus and help others. That’s our ultimate goal as parents. Thus, acts of service has an intermediate step. We serve our children, but as they are ready, we teach them how to serve themselves and then others.”

Practical Ideas:

    • Help your child practice for their sports team
    • Sit down and help your child as they work on homework.
    • Make a favorite snack when your child is having a difficult day.
    • Instead of just telling your younger children to go to bed, pick them up and gently carry them and tuck them in their blankets.
    • Begin teaching your child the importance of serving others by helping them serve someone else in the family.

It has been interesting to explain the five love languages to our children and ask them what they think they are. My older children really understand it quite well. Additionally, our children need to know what OUR love languages are. By communicating to our children what makes US feel loved they will be more aware of what they need to do to show us love. Chris jokes that since we have 6 kids and each need 5 different love languages… plus each other… that’s 35 love languages to keep track of each day…that’s a lot of love! Sometimes I am aware of my children’s ‘languages’ and other times I’m too impatient to give them what they really need or too frantic to notice until the day is over and I’m reflecting about missed opportunities. But I love the concept and I’m trying to incorporate the ideas more and more.

Developing, Nurturing and Maintaining a good relationship with our Children – Part 4

attitude word

It’s easier to have a positive relationship with positive people.

Luke DOES NOT like to be sad. If he’s frustrated about something, or has just been scolded, then he asks us to find his happy face. He’s done this for a year now and he came up with the whole thing on his own. For a year we have responded by looking around to see if we can find it, while he quickly wipes his eyes and surprises us with a huge smile and then giggles. It works like a charm. As he approached turning three I wondered if he would ever grow out of this. I’m sure his wife is going to just love having to find his happy face all the time. So lately I’ve started to say, “Luke, you need to find your own happy face… YOU find it.” to which he sobs back… “I don’t know how!” So, for now, we’re still finding it for him… but we do appreciate the fact that he LOVES to be happy and HATES to be sad.

I know that your attitude towards EVERYTHING in life determines so much of the outcome. We really try to teach our kids to have a good attitude. I’m constantly telling them that THEY are in charge of the way they react to anything. They’re in charge of being happy. I admire people who look at the glass half full… and try to teach my kids to do the same.

On our summer points charts the kids are given points for each job or responsibility and can spend points on rewards. 10 points for just accomplishing the job… OR 20 points for accomplishing the job with a happy attitude. The kids have learned fast that having a good attitude pays off.

When we decided to move to Germany we explained to the kids how life would be different. Different, not bad. We made two posters… one with “Things we’ll miss” and one with “Things we are excited for”. For the next month anytime anyone thought of anything for either chart we’d write it on there. It allowed the kids to celebrate their emotions. Once we were finished we had two positive charts… One of all the things that we had loved about Georgia and one of all the things that we were going to love about Germany. It helped us say goodbye with gratitude and hello with excitement.

Ideas for teaching a positive attitude:

  • Be a good example of a positive attitude.
  • Be constantly finding the good in the situation and verbalizing it to your children.
  • Have discussions about things you are grateful for and write them down.. and not just in November!
  • Every day at dinner talk about why you are so happy or so grateful. Ask the kids to do it too.
  • Pray for a good attitude.
  • Sometimes when my children say something negative, I have them then say five things positive. It could be about anything or anybody.


Vision. Communication. Love. Attitude. and let me add two more words… PRACTICE and PRAYER.

I’ve enjoyed reading some great books and articles lately. It seemed everything I picked up had to do with this topic in one way or another and I couldn’t possibly fit all of the the wonderful material in. But my testimony is strengthened, I’ve learned a LOT, and I’m excited to be more FOCUSED on creating and maintaining great relationships with my family. I can think of nothing I want more. True happiness. How blessed we are to understand the importance of good family relationships… especially in a world that values the family less and less.

Wasn't that beyond wonderful! No go worth and be better mother's! THANKS LISA! (and Rachel for the heads up!)

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