“Four Elements of a Committed, Happy, Loving, Marriage!”

elements of marriage By the time I was 16 years old, I was a senior in high school and I’d received seven marriage proposals.  I couldn’t figure out why a bunch of guys wanted to get married – marriage wasn’t attractive to me at all!  All of the marriages I knew about were, damaged or doomed, including my parents and married siblings.  When I whined and complained about my predicament, after explaining that some girls might find this situation flattering, my mother’s only suggestion was that I take a night class on marriage at the local community college.  Not having a solution of my own, I took her up on it, not knowing it would give me a life-long thirst for studying relationships and a curiosity about what does or doesn’t make them work. I’ve been committed and married to the same man, Hal (the wonderful), for 38 years and have coached hundreds of couples over the past 20 years and learned a lot from them, from my own experiences and education. When couples ask me “what is the most important thing in a marriage?” I like to smile, and say, “The two individuals and how they define Commitment most often determines whether or not they will have a happy, loving, lasting marriage.”  So, let me share what I have found to be “Four Elements of a Committed, Happy, Loving, Marriage!” It is all about Commitment.  When you step over the threshold together, into your new life as a married couple, make sure you shut the door tightly behind you and remove the doorknob!  If either of you believe there is a back-door, or a way out available to you, you haven’t jumped in with both feet! That’s not commitment and it takes COMMITMENT to make a marriage work! Elements of Commitment:
  1. Shared Perspective:  A long-term perspective that allows partners to weather the inevitable ups and downs in marital satisfaction: Every human being changes over time and in response to new environments. How we will change, is unknown. As partners, each of us can recognize this truth and anticipate that change; choose to embrace it; and find joy in the new again.
  2.  Shared Core Values:  When spouses commit to governing their relationship from Shared Core Values, with mutually agreed upon definitions, there is solidarity, unity and foundation for all decisions to be made as a couple.
  1. Shared Future: When a couple dreams together; then puts in place plans, goals, and details of what their future will be like together; that is what signifies commitment to a Shared Future as a couple.
  1. Shared Choice to give up SOME Choices:   For example:
    1. Making the choice, as partners, to choose happiness over “being right.”
    2. Making the choice to give up control of all of my time.
    3. Making the choice to give up control of all of my finances.
    4. Making the choice to give up control of…some of my choices.
I love this quote by Scott Stanley, PhD, from the University of Denver: “It is the formation of commitment—a clear series of decisions about choices and the future—that brings security to a relationship … commitment brings evidence that one can actually trust that that security exists.” readmore

Parenting Is Hard!

ipod1 Parenting is hard. Parenting tough kids is harder. Parenting an ENTITLED kid is hardest. The disease: Surrendering to the increasing demands for the newest, latest, and shiniest "tech gadget".  Satisfying the cravings for the instant gratification of being constantly entertained, being fed, and amused.  The unspoken understanding of being rescued from any emotional, social or physical discomfort.  The result of these produces a society which breeds entitlement! Sadly, what makes it much more painful, is the truth, that, we parents and grandparents, members of society...are the greatest contributors to children and young adults who have ENTITLED PERCEPTIONS AND BEHAVIORS! *Kids who want what they want, when they want it, and expect you to give it to them...Now! So what is the remedy?
  1. We need our actions to give power and meaning to our words through using methods that are kind and compassionate, both to our children and ourselves.
Begin with Gratitude!  Living it, modeling it, and providing opportunities to develop it. * Observe and befriend those who live simply and appreciate it. *Serve where it is challenging to do so, allowing self-worth to be ignited in both the giver and the receiver. *Find beauty in nature and BE in it...Without the aid of modern conveniences.  Gratitude for Mother Earth and her generosity can be developed as well as the ease with which life flows without the use of "screens" and other helpful gadgets, has greater value. *Spend quality time together...without any distractions.  Playing, laughing, and connecting. *Make a habit of expressing your appreciation to family members for the contribution of others in your community/world to the happiness, comfort and joy in your life! Enjoy! Keri   readmore

Summertime’s a Comin’ – It’s Just Around the Corner!

nixie Has your summer count down already begun?  I was flying into JFK recently, talking with my seat companions, only to have it confirmed in a BIG WAY that no matter where you live or what your profession may be, if you are a parent, the “what to do with my out-of-school-kids during the summer” conversation has already begun to take place.  Soon to follow will be a planning schedule, a bevy of registration packets, and, perhaps worries that it is too late for: camps, summer school, season passes for summer fun, etc.  If that sounds overwhelming or perhaps a bit like, “same thing…different year!”, or just doesn’t sound quite as exciting this year.  If you are up for a change, a little slower pace or maybe I should say, a more personalized and collaborative approach (my favorite for building deep and lasting relationships) – take a look at this mom’s great idea for summer!   Enjoy – Keri

How To Create a Do-It-Yourself Summer Camp For Kids

By: Saren Eyre Loosli

Power of Moms

  Last year we finally got summer right. We always spend most of July doing family trips and family reunions, but before last year, June and August had typically ended up being either boring or stressful. One year, we tried just lounging at the pool and doing whatever came up. After a week or so, we were bored and frustrated and started scrambling for more playdates and day camps to join. The next year, I ran the kids around to a bunch of classes to keep them busy, but I found the classes to be mediocre at best, and felt we were wasting our time and our money while stressing ourselves out with trying to get to certain places at certain times. Then the following year, I actually conducted classes for the kids and all their friends. Doing our own tuition-based summer school with classes of 10-12 kids was so fun but so much work! So last year, I decided not to take the kids to classes all over town and not to invite the whole neighborhood over for classes. Instead, the kids and I came up with our own plan for the “Loosli Learning Adventures Camp” that lasted throughout June and the parts of July and August when we weren’t traveling. Together, we brainstormed a list of things that would be good to do each day to keep our bodies and brains active and our house clean. Then we brainstormed a bucket list of fun activities we’d like to do together. We ended up with a good list of six “Must-Do Daily Activities” that the kids agreed to complete individually each day (usually in the morning) and a list of ideas for group activities (or “Daily Adventures”) that we’d chip away at (usually in the afternoon). Following are some details on what we came up with: MUST-DO DAILY ACTIVITIES: Each morning, we began the day whenever we woke up (usually by around 7:30 a.m.), had a leisurely breakfast that finished by around 8:30, and then did our individual activities for a couple hours until lunchtime. They did the stuff on their list, and I got a couple hours of work done for Power of Moms — with a few interruptions here and there — but they became quite self-directed after the first few days. Here’s what we decided would be on the kids’ required individual daily activities list:
  • READING: Read for 20 minutes. (Some read for longer — that’s fine!)
  • WRITING: Write a page in your journal. Write about whatever you want. Write a story, write about what happened yesterday or pick a writing idea from a list of writing prompts we’ve got. Younger children can work on learning to write letters.
  • PHYSICAL EXERCISE: Do a physical activity. It can be individual, or it can be done as a group — ride bikes or scooters, play tag, go for a walk, play at the playground, jump rope or shoot hoops.
  • PRACTICING: Work toward one of your summer goals by practicing a skill for 20 minutes: piano, basketball, guitar, typing, etc. Each child has their short list of skills they want to develop.
  • HOME: Do a job from the job list. We have a list of five-to-10-minute household jobs that need to be completed each week (i.e., dust the living room, weed one flower bed, vacuum the stairs, wipe down the kids’ bathroom sink, etc.).
  • EXTRA: From the approved list of ideas we brainstormed together, pick an extra activity to do on your own or with siblings. For example, do online reading or math games, play a board game with siblings, do extra reading or writing, paint or draw, or work on learning Spanish. We’re loving the free online program Coffee Break Spanish, which offers 15-minute lessons.
The kids and I created simple charts that could be printed out for each week where they had checklist of what they needed to do each day, and then on Saturday, they got paid $.25 for each thing they’d accomplished that week (so they could make $1.50/day for doing their 6 things or $7.50/week for doing the 6 things each day for the 5 week days). They saved that money up for a big family activity at the end of June. We went to an amusement park, and they needed to save $35 each to help pay their way on that. DAILY ADVENTURES: One of our Power of Moms readers sent in a great idea for having specified days for different things. We used her idea to group our long “bucket list” of brainstormed activities into categories for fun family activities each day after the kids finished their “Must-do’s”:
  • Make-it Monday: Building projects with K’nex and Legos or the wood we have in the backyard for the kids to use in building forts, craft projects, art projects, a visit to the library to learn about artists and inventors and engineering. Art and building and invention are big things in our family.
  • Take a trip Tuesday: The Park, a museum, a bike ride, a field trip to a historic place, a factory tour, a picnic, a friend’s house, etc. We often invited other kids or other families along.
  • Wet Wednesday: Swim, go to a splash pad, play in the sprinklers — often with friends and neighbors.
  • Thinking Thursday: Research something from our “wondering list” — a list of things we’re wondering about. Last summer we had a great time finding out how to make yogurt, how cars are made, where baby carrots come from and how monster trucks work thanks to YouTube, Wikipedia and library trips.
  • Friend Friday: Everyone can have a friend over. It's nice to do it all at once and protect our family time during most of the rest of the week. Plus, we always have Family Movie Night on Fridays.
I love being my kids’ teacher. I mean all moms are their kids’ teachers in many ways, but it’s great to do it in a little more formal way sometimes. I so admire moms who home school. While I don’t know if it would be the right thing for us long-term, I feel like summer’s the perfect time set up a special sort of summer “home school” where I can teach my kids about things I really value and love while we really enjoy each other’s company. QUESTION: What are your ideas for making summer fun, fulfilling, interesting and non-stressful? CHALLENGE: Sit down with your kids to talk about what they’re excited about doing this summer and what they think everyone should be doing to keep their brains and bodies and the house functioning well. Create your own family “Learning Adventures Camp” if you want! readmore

Helping Your Senior to Cross The Graduation Finish Line!

I wanted to share this great article I came across in "Your Teen Magazine." The end of the school year  is nearing, and many of my clients are stressed and panicked about making sure their teenager is on track for graduation. I hope this helps if any of you are fighting the same battle right now. Just one month remains in my college career. It’s a nostalgic time for all seniors, and I’ve begun to think about the friends I’ve made and the good times I’ve had. But I’ve also thought back on my experiences in high school before graduation. After all, it’s the only other major academic milestone I’ve experienced. I remember two main phases in my final month of high school. First was a period of stress. I was struggling in my AP classes and feeling anxious about college funds, along with fearing the impending end to many friendships and relationships I’d formed in high school. But the second phase that came after the stress was apathy. This was probably the most problematic part of my end-of-high school experience—simply not caring. For most of my high-school career, I was a very involved student, participating in theater, band, academic team, ski club and science club, all while taking advanced classes. But once I was accepted into the university I wanted to attend, and with graduation quickly approaching, I wondered, What the point in working so hard anymore? Senioritis hit, and it hit hard. Teens deal with stress differently; in my high school, some kids handled stress by working even harder, some by tearing their hair out. During this time in my life, I dealt with it by stepping away from the activities I’d previously spent my time on.
For many teenagers, stress and apathy are the hallmarks of the end of senior year.
I needed a few breaks, and I took them. I used all of my sick days (we got five per semester) and my parents allowed it. While juggling all of my classes, extra curriculars and college preparations, sometimes the quick fix to my stress was a day spent binge-watching Saturday Night Live, eating an entire box of mac and cheese, and sleeping in past 7 a.m. More important than the lazy days was the fact that my parents supported my choices. They were understanding when I needed to take a day off to stay level-headed, and they were also understanding when I had to stay up until 2 a.m. working on an essay. At the same time, once motivation is lost, it’s difficult to restore it. And I know that from experience. While I didn’t fail any classes, I also didn’t get the same A’s and B’s I’d been used to, and I was okay with that. My parents were okay with that, too. But I think what helped me most was the effort my parents made to communicate with me during those final weeks of high school. I felt comfortable talking to them about everything I was feeling. We chatted about my friends, the end of my relationship with a long-term boyfriend, and my stress. We talked about it during my bad weeks and during my good weeks, and it helped me keep going despite the life-changing events happening around me. By:  Anne Nickoloff
Anne Nickoloff is a senior at Case Western Reserve University. She worked as the director of print for the school’s newspaper, The Observer, and the editor-in-chief of its humor magazine, The Athenian. She has had articles published in USA TODAYCleveland Scene MagazineAlternative Press and Cellar Door. In her free time, Anne enjoys skiing, knitting, and exploring Cleveland.

The Bedtime Battlefield

bedtimebattle   Do you ever feel like you’ve just gone through a battlefied getting your kids into bed instead of sending them off to dreamland with a smooth transition, hugs, and kisses? If so, you’re not alone! What to do about “Bedtime” is one of the more common questions I get asked – How to make it go smoother, what to do if it goes awry, and how to stay calm and help kids become more independent in getting to bed are just a few of the phrases I hear from parents and grandparents!   To help things go right, about an hour or so prior to bedtime, make sure that you are creating an environment that invites a smooth transition – things should be calmer, less stimulating, and as consistent as possible so that young brains pick up on cues that say “it’s getting to be ‘that time’ of night” and will anticipate what is going to happen next. This is when parents may want to turn off the TV (DVRs are great, aren’t they? They can record any show for later after kids are in bedrooms, falling asleep!), shut down the computers, play a quite board game, finish up homework or talk about the day with their child. Then, at the same time each night, you can start bed time with a wonderful transitional phrase (a choice):   Parent: “Hey sweet ones, it’s almost time for bed, what would you like….3 minutes or 5 minutes to finish up what you are doing before we start your other choices?” Child: 5 minutes Parent: Do you want me to set the timer or do you want to? Child: You do it!   Next, offer choices… lots of choices!! Collaborating with your child about their bedtime routine will help them take ownership of getting each task accomplished and ending up in bed in a timely fashion. The younger the child, the more detailed the choices should be and the more involvement will be required of the parent, due to the child’s age and capability. ** Here is an example of using choices for collaborating with your child at bedtime:   Parent: Would you like to brush your teeth first or take your shower first? Parent: Would you rather have a song or a book? Do you want me to read it or daddy? Parent: Do you want to sing the song or have me sing it with you? Parent: Would you rather have the light on or the light off? Parent: Would you like 5 minutes or 10 minutes of talk-time tonight…with me or daddy?   Some children need more structure than others. They want to know ahead of time what is going to happen next. Creating a supporting tool to help meet your individual child’s need for structure might feel overwhelming, especially if you have several children! This is why collaborating with your child is so important. When they participate, they choose what works for them, you are much more likely to get “buy-in” from them (their ownership of the solution), and they are putting forth some of the actual effort in producing the tool to help solve the problem.   If your child likes to check things off a list or if verbal choices don’t seem to be doing the trick, try visual ones. For example: take a picture of your child doing each bedtime activity, like brushing their teeth, reading a book, sleeping, picture of a clock with the start time for bedtime routine, etc. Take the pictures and put them on cards.  Then each night, have them choose the order of their routine (always beginning with the picture of the clock and ending with the sleeping card – they choose the order of the cards in between). Allowing them to choose the order of the routine often squelches any tantrums since you are sharing the control with them by collaborating together. Most children will choose one order/routine that feels comfortable to them and stick with it. A few will want to “change it up!” These are the kids that need variety in their lives, they have active minds and bodies and are constantly “on the go!” Choices are a win/win for this child and for parents by providing the diversity desired along with the firm, loving limits the child needs to feel safe and loved.   **Note: I recommend turning over responsibility to the child when I can determine that they are able to independently complete each task, using only a visual or verbal cue for their chosen support tool, i.e. Keri’s “ Morning and Bedtime Routine Boards”, a daily “To Do” list or responding with clarity and action when they hear you ask, “What’s next on your plan for today/tonight?” as described above. Still, there are a few kids whose DNA pushes them to test the waters and see what will happen if you do (or don’t do)…. something. If that happens, and they decide to throw a fit, (Peanut Butter parenting…Pause….and…Breathe…) then, with lots of genuine empathy, lovingly say: Parent: “Ohhhh…. man….It looks like we’re alllllll done for tonight.”   Very gently scoop them up into a hug and take them into their room. Give them a squeeze and a kiss; while still giving the child choices followed with a powerful I WILL STATEMENT which tells the child what you are willing to do, not what you won’t do, for example: Parent: “Do you want the light on or off? The door open or closed? I will be happy to leave the door open for kids who stay…quietly… in their bed….” “So, sweetheart, I’m happy to leave the door open for kids who do what...? (Wait for their response, which should be to repeat the main focus of your “I will statement.” If they don’t respond, no worries, you’ve made your statement, now follow through!)   Child: “I know, kids who stay quietly in their bed…”   Regardless of how well or if there are a few hiccups when you first implement this bedtime routine, remember, there’s always tomorrow to try again!  Ending the bedtime routine in this way should only need to happen for a few nights – the child generally gets the idea that they are welcome to be with you and get to do the routine with the choices they like, when they can be calm, cooperative, and sweet to be around.   Remember a few weeks ago, I talked about Responsibility and Accountability? I said that we had to first teach children what they needed to know prior to being able to hold them accountable for the responsibilities we expect them to take on. This applies to bedtime routines. Make sure they are clear about your instructions, that what you are asking is age appropriate and that they have mastered it prior to you having them take in on independently. Really important: Have a practice session during the daytime! Have lots of fun and role play how the bedtime routine might go…. Then finish it off with a treat! Here’s how it might go: Parent: “Hey guys, let’s do something really silly…. Let’s pretend its bedtime, right now, during the day and see who can do their whole routine the fastest. Then when we are all done pretending, we’ll make some ice cream sundaes. Ready? Okay, it’s time for bed. Let’s get our bedtime cards out….. etc.”   In this role-play with small children, I like to trade places with them and play the child and have them play the parent. It often gives me insight as to how it feels for them during our bedtime struggles. I’ve learned a lot!   Once in bed, when a kid falls asleep will depend on the individual child. Some kids fall asleep quickly; others struggle with an active mind that wants to keep on going… Trying to “MAKE” a child fall asleep, in my experience, is a futile effort. I wish I could make myself fall asleep whenever I wanted to….but alas, I can’t even seem to do that! Sometimes my brain just doesn’t seem to want to shut off – that’s true for our children, too! Soothing, soft music (ear buds or headphones are helpful), white noise machine or a fan going in their room can help, allowing them to read can help. Melatonin can be very helpful, make sure you check with their pediatrician, first, however.   Make sure you continue to give lots of choices that night (and every night) after the practice session. If this doesn't improve after a week, there may be something else going on. If this is your concern, please send me an email and I’d be happy to discuss it with you Have fun parenting! Keri readmore

The TRUE Meaning of Charity…Teaching it to Your Children

gratitude Hello Everyone! In my last newsletter, I talked about focusing on the Season of Giving instead of getting.  The article we are sharing with you today is all about giving… your love of humanity: “9 Ways to Teach Your Child Charity.”  By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller The term “Charity” has taken on more than one definition in today’s culture, so I checked in with good ol’ Webster for the “Full” definition and found just what I was looking for: what I believe is the definition of true Charity: 1.  benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity.”  If we have Charity, we will act in the manner or ways described in the second definition listed: 2.  generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need.” Charity, all too often, is seen as only giving money or doing something for people who are disadvantaged in some way.  I disagree – and so does Webster!  Christmas is the perfect time to remember the true meaning of Charity – to have benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity: showing kindness, love, friendship, being patient with a tired child, smiling, softening the hurt of a broken heart, extending a listening ear, seeing the good in each other, choosing not to take offense, being a peacemaker, looking for a positive solution when conflict arises; doing/being these ways toward another because we recognize our one common characteristic…our humanity.  We all have it, regardless of our status in our community, our stage in life, our bank balance (or lack thereof); the beauty others see in us, or not;….we still share our humanness. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did – and, although it focuses on Charity being expressed through acts of service, these acts are diverse in nature and intent - not only in how they touch the lives of others, but those fortunate enough to participate in gifting them. I hope you are inspired to embody true Charity this Season, and as you do, motivate your children to embrace it as part of theirs, and together, carry it into the New Year by sharing with them the inspiring tips in “9 Ways to Teach Your Child Charity.” Merry Christmas!



9 Ways to Teach Your Child About Charity

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller  Inspired Giving Charity and the spirit of giving have been elevated to a new level in the past few years, following natural disasters, war in Iraq, and terrorist attacks around the globe. After witnessing the horrific images of pain and suffering streaming steadily across their TV sets, more people than ever before have dipped deeper into their own pockets to offer needed relief to the survivors of unprecedented tragedies. Many parents are using the destruction delivered by these catastrophes as an opportunity to help children learn about charity and the importance of reaching out to others in their time of need. They have made generous family donations, often involving their children in picking out the charity, writing the check, and preparing and mailing the envelope. They have allowed their children to witness turning the pain and grief of unimaginable loss into a time of extending love and compassion to unknown people half way around the world. Clearly, recent devastation provides an opportune time to teach children about charity. But what if parents want lessons about charity to be more than a one-time occurrence? What if they want the spirit of giving to be a way of life for their children? How do they make charity become a habit? To help your children acquire the habit of charity, consider implementing as a family the strategies which follow. 1. Donate clothes. Periodically go through your closets rooting out clothes you haven't worn in a while, which can be given to the Salvation Army or Goodwill for distribution to the needy. Encourage your children to do the same. Allow them to select which clothes or toys they wish to donate. The value of this activity is diminished greatly if you go through their closets for them without their presence. For maximum benefit, get your children involved in choosing the appropriate items. Take your children with you when you drop the items off at the charitable destination. 2. Help neighbors. Regularly engage in a service-oriented project. Rake the leaves of an elderly couple. Bake cookies for a serviceman or servicewoman. Bake bread and deliver it to the homeless feeding station in your community. 3. Give blood. Take your children with you so they see you as a model for giving. Talk to them about why you choose to donate blood and what you hope it will accomplish by doing so. 4. Make birthdays charitable. Set up birthday parties as a time for giving to others. At your child's first school-age birthday party, ask guests to bring a gift of a book (new or used) to be donated to a local charity. Talk to your son about the books he has and about children who have no books. Explain that one way to celebrate a birthday would be to give to those who have less. Involve the birthday boy in the decision of whether not to give the books to a woman's shelter, a doctor's office, or some other appropriate organization. When you deliver the books with your son, record it on camera, and revisit that movie (or those pictures) on future birthdays. 5. Include pets. At regular intervals, buy dog or cat food and take it to the humane society. Allow your children to spend some time with the recipients of the gift. 6. Deliver nutrition. Build food baskets around the holidays and give to a needy family suggested by your church or school. Involve your children is selecting canned goods, fruit, and other treats to include. Decorate the gift package and deliver it together, as a family. 7. Change for a difference. Create a charity jar to be used by the family when allowances are distributed. Invite children to share some of their allowance with others through donating to the jar. As the jar fills, decide as a family where to contribute the contents. You may choose to save a whale, buy gloves for needy children, or contribute to a cancer charity among others. Read about various charities on the Internet and share this information with your children to help them make an informed decision. 8. Help elders. Do things for the elderly that they have trouble doing for themselves. Pick up sticks in your neighbor's yard after a big windstorm. Mow the grass for Grandma. Wash Grandpa's car. Clean their windows in the spring. Help them plant flowers. 9. Pitch in. Get on a regular service schedule at your church or synagogue. Sign up for a time to mow the grass and trim the bushes. Take your turn ushering and allow your child to assist. By implementing some of these ideas or others like them, you will be teaching your children that charity is not reserved only for emergencies. You will be helping them appreciate that reaching out to others in need is a way of life, rather than a moment in time when a catastrophic disaster occurs. Remember, while you are giving to others, you are giving your children important messages about your beliefs concerning the spirit of giving. Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. Moorman is a former classroom teacher and the currect director of the Institute of Personal Power.     readmore

Seven “E”z Tips for Holidays Filled with Fun, Family and Freedom from Stress!

I woke up the other day with a very familiar feeling, and in trying to discover what it was...  I realized it’s - that  BEGINNING OF THE END feeling!  Some of you may recognize it yourself – that little bit of exciting/ but doomsday feeling, that “can’t wait until it’s over/ but over the moon -  thrilled it’s finally here!” feeling.  You know, October is almost over, SO…that means the Holiday season is officially about to begin!  When I say Holiday season, I mean, well….. HalloweenVeteransDayThanksgivingAdventChanukahChristmasNewYear’sEveNewYear’sDay!  WHEW!  Putting it all together like that, feels kinda overwhelming, no?  And that’s just saying it in one breath -  not actually living it - day to day, week to week, over the next,  2 ½ months! Moms regularly comment to me at this time of year, they want their holidays to include more family time, more fun, and more freedom from stress.  Unfortunately each year come January, these same moms seem more discouraged, broke, and worn out from their well-intention, over-stretched, stress-filled lives from the prior October through December! I decided to share my Seven “E”z Tips for Holidays Filled with Fun, Family and Freedom from Stress! 1.   ENVISION: (End in Mind)

a. Find a quiet place for you to be alone and take three slow, deep breaths, close your eyes and Envision: WHAT YOUR “END IN MIND” IS FOR EACH HOLIDAY!

                             i.    Be clear, specific and detailed about what it will “look” like:

                            ii.    #1 Top Priority? – What is it and Why?

                             iii.    Be extremely descriptive so you can remain focused on what you are truly trying to achieve: The feeling, environment,                                                    connection, etc.


 a.    Encourage your family to share their ideas, top priorities, hates and must haves to join you in collaborating for a shared End in Mind.  It also offers an opportunity to get to know each other better and to encourage “buy-in” or “ownership” for this process from those who are helping to create this shared vision.

 3.   ENLIST:

a. Once you have a shared vision, you will need to ENLIST your family members as “teammates” or “partners” to plan and carry out the “End in Mind.”  Enlisting is “getting them on board!”  All human beings desire to feel needed, valued for the importance of our contribution.  The key, then, to Enlisting each teammate is by having them chose how they will contribute, which tasks to carry out, and vocalize how achieving our shared “End in Mind” helps them feel valued and important.  Allowing family members to engage in choosing how they participate is important for true enlistment – they have to want to get to the End, or they won’t necessarily continue with the plan through to the End.

4.   EASY:

a.    Keep your plan as EASY and simple as possible.  The Holidays are busy enough without adding more chaos to them!  If things feel chaotic –           its time to EVALUATE!

b.   Give step by step instructions whenever possible.

c.    Have a buddy system to help with accountability and follow through.

d.   Have clear, defined times, dates, assignments, etc., WRITTEN DOWN.


a. As a team, EVALUATE your plan:

                         i.    What could possibly go wrong?  Are there any holes that need plugging?

                              ii.    Is this item necessary to the “End in Mind?”  If so, how?

iii.    Is it EASY and simple enough?

iv.    How are we helping each other succeed?

v.    Are the time deadlines reasonable so everyone can be successful?

vi.    When do we meet again to re-evaluate?


a. No one reaches “The End in Mind” without taking action!  After Evaluating your plan – put it into action immediately!   “A thing done, when           thought of, needs no further attention!” (Thank you, Betty!  My sweet Mother-in-law)

7.   ENJOY:

a.    Take a deep breath!  You and your family have things in hand!  You have a Plan, Stick to it and you will succeed!  Fail to plan and you plan to           fail!

b.   Remember: What I give returns to me tenfold – share the joy that comes from relaxing, enjoying the time you get to spend with your family,            the fun you are having and the freedom from the stress of chaos and contention that used to come with the holidays!

 One mother, I had the opportunity to work with, wanted to change the “lack of feeling” around Thanksgiving.  I invited her to try my 7 Ez Tips.  She decided her “End in Mind” for one Thanksgiving was to “encourage the development of gratitude in her family along with providing learning opportunities for recognizing abundance in their lives.”  As a single mom, she didn’t have many financial resources or available time.  She called her two grade-school daughters and teenage son together to Encourage them to share their ideas about creating a game to play for the month of November.  She had already made a mock-up of her idea - an Advent-type calendar that had a word to be revealed beneath each day of the week – to see what they thought, and to collaborate on: what words to use, how to use the calendar, and if they wanted to use the calendar.  A discussion ensued with the calendar being agreed upon.  Next, the mother Enlisted each member of the family by asking them to volunteer for particular assignments in creating the actual calendar that would be used and choosing the words to use with it. The words ranged from kindness, to laughter to service.  When they decided on how to play the game, they kept it Easy and simple, so they could stay with it until the End. In their Evaluation of their plan, they determined the purpose of the game stayed true to their goal, and the time frame for the game (breakfast and dinner) fit everyone’s’ schedule so it was less likely for things to go wrong.  The family then went to work Executing their decisions and taking action – making the calendar was fun for the girls – they consulted mom, when they needed her help, but did most of it on their own.  The older son and mom worked together to find words that would appeal to all members of the family.  When November rolled around the following week, and the family of four came together for their first Calendar Breakfast - the word for the day was revealed, “living.” Each family member was to discover how it applied to “gratitude” and to “abundance.” Later, at dinner that night, they would each discuss what they found out.  On Thanksgiving, each individual shared what they had Enjoyed learning through this process.  This game brought their family closer, with more time spent together and they discovered how differently they each experienced the people and world around them.  It also provided them shared opportunities to serve others outside their own family, resulting in a realization of the abundance in their own lives. readmore




“Did you see her outfit – was it sooo “sick” or what?  I mean, her skirt is like –“presh”!  I love it!  An’ the way she looks, the guys will totally be spittin’ game at her all night long!  That means  ‘No chance for the rest of us gurlz!’” This was one-half of a phone conversation overheard by a mom during the carpool drive home after school one recent Friday afternoon!  Listening to her daughter discuss what to wear, how to wear it, what’s in and how to impress others in her peer group is a common pastime of adolescents.  For parents, setting clear, consistent, and reasonable limits for tweens and teenagers can be, well…challenging at times.  Three rules of thumb –1) Say what you mean, mean what you say, AND do what you say you will!  2) Model what you say – your actions give your words meaning; and 3) Remember, the more empathy you respond with, the more likely you are to have a good relationship and good influence! I hope you enjoy this three part series by Michele Borba Ed. D (The Big Book of Parenting Solutions)  THE QUESTION  "My kids are obsessed with what they wear and their appearance. 'I have to have a Coach Bag. All the girls have one!' " The shirt has to have an alligator on it, Dad. That's what the other guys wear. ' But I'm more concerned about the image that wearing those clothes can portray. Is there a happy medium?" THE ANSWER Don't get hung up arguing with your kid about "style."  If you need a reality check, take a look at your old school photos to help you realize that fashions have never been the most flattering, but just part of the culture children are trying to fit into. Instead, hold the line on bigger issues that can have a real impact on your child's reputation and attitude. Kids have always wanted to fit in; what they wear is a big part of how they form identity and let others know which group they hang with. This is why you see them in groups wearing almost the identical "look" - from backpacks to shoes to clothing styles. The problem is that achieving that desired 'look" these days comes with a price. First, these name brands that are all the rage can be ridiculously expensive. Second, clothing styles these days are often sexually provocative even for the preschool set. Messages printed on kids apparel are often in poor taste (and that's putting it mildly). Here are six ways to help you navigate today’s pricey, sexy kid fashion industry: 1. Make sure your child adheres to the school dress code.  Each school district sets clear rules as to acceptable and unacceptable attire; these are usually published in the school handbook. The general belief of educators is that a child's appearance - including gadgets, attire, and makeup - should not distract from learning, and I'm a firm supporter of that philosophy. Many schools require uniforms to avoid those clothing hassles. Get a copy of your child’s school handbook (check the school Website), review those rules with your child, and then set a clear rule that anything worn on school grounds or to a school affair (games, field trips, dances, competitions) must follow those standards. If you have any hesitation about the acceptability of your child's attire, it's better to be on the safe side and have her change so that she is not disciplined (or sent home). Beware: wearing certain colors may be prohibited as a safety issue because they represent gangs in a nearby area. 2. Hold a firm line on sexy attire. These days some kids clothing is so provocative that it's been aptly name the "come-hither look." And designs are sized for even the preschool set. "The sleaze look" appears to be catching on: in just one year, seven-to twelve-year-olds spent $1.6 million on thong underwear alone. Beware: most adults frown upon such attire, and wearing such a sexy look could well affect your child's reputation. It also send a message to your child that you approve of sexual apparel, which could influence your child's attitudes and behavior. One rule to consider adopting in your family the sets clears parameters on provocative attire is my "Three B Rule"- It simply means that apparel revealing any anatomy beginning with the letter “B -bottom, boobs, or belly button” - may not be worn. You might extend the rule to include that no underwear or bra straps may be shown either. 3. Beware of distasteful messages. T-shirts, hats, backpacks, sweatshirts, and the like are laced with "attitude" and distasteful wording, logos, or drawings. Those messages range from mild ("Cute but Psycho,""#1 Brat," and "Math Never Spells Fun")  to outright distasteful ("you can look but you can't touch" or "FCUK"). Be clear that you will not tolerate any apparel that is offensive or provocative or that that shows your child in a poor light. Such slogans as "Professional Drama Queen" may seem cute and harmless, but those images can stick and become self-fulfilling prophecies, especially as others comment about them, and they could influence your child's reputation or her attitude. Set a rule that your child must receive your permission to purchase or wear apparel with writing on it (other than a nationally known sports teams or Logo). Even then, you might want to get a second interpretation of the message. One tween bought a shirt touting "I like boys who vote" with her mom's blessing. Both mother and daughter assumed the message was patriotic. The mom was mortified when a father explained to her that wearing the shirt meant the ten-year-old preferred men eighteen and older, and encouraged her not to let her daughter wear it. So when in doubt, ask for a second opinion. 4. Set a clothing budget and stick to it. Designer labels are no longer just for adults, but are now aimed even at infants. Studies also show that our kids are more materialistic than ever.  Don’t be afraid to set a realistic clothing budget for your child and stick to it. And don't give out loans. Teach your child to be a comparison shopper, prioritize her shopping needs, and shop for sales. Also, set clothing limits. For instance, you will buy one pair of "have to have" but your kid has to earn money to buy the second. Or just feel free to say no to brand-name items altogether. (Just make sure you're not drooling over those hot name-brand items yourself and sending a mixed message to your daughter.) 5. Help your child make a good first impression. First impressions do make a difference, so take a serious look at the way your kid presents herself. Kids do need to learn that how they choose to dress and behave does create an image that can turn folks off or on. Don't assume that your child knows what image her attire is sending or even what the message implies. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, finds that girls respond much better to the word "image" than "reputation." So your daughter may be more receptive if you say, "you know, I'm afraid you'll project the wrong image if you wear those jeans so low." (Keri’s suggestion:  “Mind if I ask a question?  Have you considered what image you might be projecting when your “boobs pop out,” “your belly button shows” and/or “your butt peeks over your pants?”  Is there a possibility that the person who sees you for your interview might see it differently than you do?) 6. Get on board with other parents. Is your child pushing you to let her wear make-up? Does your son say you're the world's meanest parent because you won't let him wear shirts covered with those "in your face" messages? Consider talking with parents of your child's friends and hear their views. Chances are they share your dress standards, and standing together as to what is acceptable attire will reduce those "You're the only parent who feels that way" guilt trip. (Keri’s note: When we get to know other parents and share our values we can support each other in helping to hold firm to those  values.) Any Child can be well groomed, have good hygiene, and dress in a style that allows her to fit in with the rest. Just remember that first impressions do count. So every once in a while, take a more objective look at your child and ask yourself what kind of image she is projecting. If there is just one things you can tune up - a more conservative haircut, less tightly fitting jeans, a slightly less baggy look - consider making the adjustment. Remember that regardless of the peer and consumer push, tweens do seek guidance from their parents. So use your influence!  (Keri’s Note: Remember:  Influence comes with a good relationship AND a positive model!). PART II NEXT WEEK! Have a great week readmore

Old Yeller!

  pbparent It’s only 8am.  I hear the familiar sounds of the day warming up; the milk spills triggering my toddler’s whining which seems to go on and on while my 8 year old twins play their latest game of “who can run the fastest in the house and create the most noise!”  The first thing I wanted to do was YELL at the top of my lungs for peace and quiet!  Then, I remembered you want to be the calm, smiling, compassionate, and understanding mom.  If I could stick to my plan, then I’d be the “perfect mom!”  RIGHT?  What an illusion and unreasonable expectation that label is - “perfect mom!”    It is the quintessential feeling so many of us mothers have, “a good mom: needs to do it all, know it all, stay up on all the latest, well, of everything, and certainly keeps ourselves connected through all forms of social media.”  With that definition of a “good mom” in mind, we moms reach out to each other for support, information, connection, help, and friendship in every way possible.  So, how can we stay present in parenting our children in the midst of all these distractions and expectations? The  P.B. Parenting©  approach came to mind after reading the article I’m sharing with you this week.  This approach is a way of Pausing: taking a break or a "Mama, Time Out,".  It allows you to assess where you are, your heart and your head (are they in synch?), Breathing to calm down, if necessary, and step back to look at the big picture. The article below gives great insight as to how we can allow our own distractions to take us away from being “present” and put us in a situation where even the smallest interruption of the current task, can be the trigger - causing us to explode – often without us even being fully aware of the consequences of our meltdown.  This is where the P.B. Parenting©  approach of, “Pause and Breathe,” can be an important skill in  our parenting tool kit. I will be taking some time this week to practice the P.B. Parenting© approach and I invite you to join me on my journey to Pause and Breath - taking a few minutes  each day to evaluate some of my own choices that may distract me from choosing to “be” present with those whom I am with..  I’m committed to being more aware of what "things" I want to set aside so I can focus on the bigger picture,  to keep the “Old Yeller” patterns from returning and becoming a common occurrence in my home.  You might want to try using the  P.B. Parenting©  approach this week to bring things back to the present and to be a presence of peace in your home. Make it a peaceful week. -Keri -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The important thing about yelling

By Rachel Macy Stafford Hands Free MamaPublished: Tuesday, July 15 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 15 2014 6:43 p.m. MDT
The important thing is … it’s not too late to stop yelling at your children.
What had become of me that I needed to scream at two precious little people who I loved more than life?
This article was originally published It has been republished here with permission. I cherish the notes I receive from my children — whether they are scribbled with a Sharpie on a yellow sticky note or written in perfect penmanship on lined paper. But the Mother’s Day poem I recently received from my 9-year-old daughter was especially meaningful. In fact, the first line of the poem caused my breath to catch as warm tears slid down my face. “The important thing about my mom is … she’s always there for me, even when I get in trouble.” You see, it hasn’t always been this way. In the midst of my highly distracted life, I started a new practice that was quite different from the way I behaved up until that point. I became a yeller. It wasn’t often, but it was extreme — like an overloaded balloon that suddenly pops and makes everyone in earshot startle with fear. So what was it about my then 3-year-old and 6-year-old children that caused me to lose it? Was it how she insisted on running off to get three more beaded necklaces and her favorite pink sunglasses when we were already late? Was it that she tried to pour her own cereal and dumped the entire box on the kitchen counter? Was it that she dropped and shattered my special glass angel on the hardwood floor after being told not to touch it? Was it that she fought sleep like a prizefighter when I needed peace and quiet the most? Was it that the two of them fought over ridiculous things like who would be first out of the car or who got the biggest dip of ice cream? Yes, it was those things — normal mishaps and typical kid issues and attitudes that irritated me to the point of losing control. That is not an easy sentence to write. Nor is this an easy time in my life to relive because, truth be told, I hated myself in those moments. What had become of me that I needed to scream at two precious little people who I loved more than life? Let me tell you what had become of me. My distractions. Excessive phone use, commitment overload, multiple-page to-do lists and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And yelling at the people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control I was feeling in my life. Inevitably, I had to fall apart somewhere. So I fell apart behind closed doors in the company of the people who meant the most to me. Until one fateful day. My oldest daughter had gotten on a stool and was reaching for something in the pantry when she accidentally dumped an entire bag of rice on the floor. As a million tiny grains pelted the floor like rain, my child’s eyes welled up with tears. And that’s when I saw it — the fear in her eyes as she braced herself for her mother’s tirade. She’s scared of me, I thought with the most painful realization imaginable. My 6-year-old child is scared of my reaction to her innocent mistake. With deep sorrow, I realized that was not the mother I wanted my children to grow up with, nor was it how I wanted to live the rest of my life. Within a few weeks of that episode, I had myBreakdown-Breakthrough — my moment of painful awareness that propelled me on a Hands Free journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really mattered. That was two and a half years ago — two and half years of scaling back slowly on the excess and electronic distraction in my life, two and half years of releasing myself from the unachievable standard of perfection and societal pressure to “do it all.” As I let go of my internal and external distractions, the anger and stress pent up inside me slowly dissipated. With a lighten load, I was able to react to my children’s mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm, compassionate and reasonable manner. I said things like, “It’s just chocolate syrup. You can wipe it up, and the counter will be as good as new.” (Instead of expelling an exasperated sigh and an eye roll for good measure.) I offered to hold the broom while she swept up a sea of Cheerios that covered the floor. (Instead of standing over her with a look of disapproval and utter annoyance.) I helped her think through where she might have set down her glasses. (Instead of shaming her for being so irresponsible.) And in the moments when sheer exhaustion and incessant whining were about to get the best of me, I walked into the bathroom, shut the door, and gave myself a moment to exhale and remind myself they are children, and children make mistakes. Just like me. And over time, the fear that once flared in my children’s eyes when they were in trouble disappeared. And thank goodness, I became a haven in their times of trouble — instead of the enemy from which to run and hide. I am not sure I would have thought to write about this profound transformation had it not been for the incident that happened last Monday afternoon. In that moment, I got a taste of life overwhelmed and the urge to yell was on the tip of my tongue. I was nearing the final chapters of the book I am currently writing and my computer froze up. Suddenly the edits of three entire chapters disappeared in front of my eyes. I spent several minutes frantically trying to revert to the most recent version of the manuscript. When that failed to work, I consulted the time machine backup, only to find that it, too, had experienced an error. When I realized I would never recover the work I did on those three chapters, I wanted to cry — but even more so, I wanted to rage. But I couldn’t because it was time to pick up the children from school and take them to swim team practice. With great restraint, I calmly shut my laptop and reminded myself there could be much, much worse problems than re-writing these chapters. Then I told myself there was absolutely nothing I could do about this problem right now. When my children got in the car, they immediately knew something was wrong. “What’s wrong, Mama?” they asked in unison after taking one glimpse of my ashen face. I felt like yelling, “I lost three days worth of work on my book!” I felt like hitting the steering wheel with my fist because sitting in the car was the last place I wanted to be in that moment. I wanted to go home and fix my book — not shuttle kids to swim team, wring out wet bathing suits, comb through tangled hair, make dinner, wash dishes and do the nightly tuck in. But instead I calmly said, “I’m having a little trouble talking right now. I lost part of my book. And I don’t want to talk because I feel very frustrated.” “We’re sorry,” the oldest one said for the both of them. And then, as if they knew I needed space, they were quiet all the way to the pool. The children and I went about our day and although I was more quiet than usual, I didn’t yell and I tried my best to refrain from thinking about the book issue. Finally, the day was almost done. I had tucked my youngest child in bed and was laying beside my oldest daughter for nightly Talk Time. “Do you think you will get your chapters back?” my daughter asked quietly. And that’s when I started to cry — not so much about the three chapters, I knew they could be rewritten — my heartbreak was more of a release due to the exhaustion and frustration involved in writing and editing a book. I had been so close to the end. To have it suddenly ripped away was incredibly disappointing. To my surprise, my child reached out and stroked my hair softly. She said reassuring words like, “Computers can be so frustrating,” and “I could take a look at the time machine to see if I can fix the backup.” And then finally, “Mama, you can do this. You’re the best writer I know,” and “I’ll help you however I can.” In my time of “trouble,” there she was, a patient and compassionate encourager who wouldn’t think of kicking me when I was already down. My child would not have learned this empathetic response if I had remained a yeller. Because yelling shuts down the communication; it severs the bond; it causes people to separate — instead of come closer. “The important thing is … my mom is always there for me, even when I get in trouble.” My child wrote that about me, the woman who went through a difficult period that she’s not proud of, but she learned from. And in my daughter’s words, I see hope for others. The important thing is … it’s not too late to stop yelling. The important thing is … children forgive ± especially if they see the person they love trying to change. The important thing is … life is too short to get upset over spilled cereal and misplaced shoes. The important thing is … no matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day. Today we can choose a peaceful response. And in doing so, we can teach our children that peace builds bridges — bridges that can carry us over in times of trouble. ------------------------------------------------------ Rachel Macy Stafford is a certified special education teacher with a masters degree in education and 10 years of experience working with parents and children. In December 2010, she felt compelled to share her journey to let go of distraction and grasp what really matters by creating the blog Hands Free Mama. Her work has been featured in USA Today,,,, The Huffington Post and Reader's Digest. Rachel recently released her first book, "Hands Free Mama," which is a New York Times best-seller.

Success vs. Happiness vs. Kindness….Do our Children know the difference?

For today's kids, achievement and happiness trumps caring for others

By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor greatschoolsTM girls hugging Do you want your children to grow up to be kind and caring people? Do they know it? A new study from Harvard University has uncovered a vast disconnect between the message parents think they are sending their children about the importance of caring for others and the messages their  kids are receiving about prioritizing achievement and their own happiness over caring for others.

The survey, conducted through the Making Caring Common project at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, asked a broad range of more than 10,000 middle and high school students from 33 school districts across the country what they thought was more important: "caring for others," "achieving at a high level," or "being a happy person (feeling good most of the time)." 

Only 20 percent of the students said that caring for others was the most essential. That left 80 percent of kids who ranked achievement and their personal happiness as top priorities.

In a moment when the country is engaged in a knockdown about education standards, the middle class is disappearing, and there’s a steady drumbeat about our children’s lack of global competitiveness, this news shouldn’t surprise us. There’s a lot of anxiety about our children’s ability to pay the bills – and academic achievement is perhaps the one avenue most parents can imagine their children treading to avoid the hazards of a treacherous economic future. But the finding that should make parents sit up and pay close attention is what the study calls the "rhetoric/reality gap" between what parents believe they're communicating to their kids and what kids are hearing. The report, "The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults are Sending about Values," states that in a 2012 study, nearly all parents – 96 percent to be precise – say developing moral 
character in kids is "very important, if not essential" and they highly valued their children being "honest, loving, and reliable." The study is part of a multifaceted effort to raise awareness about the importance of cultivating social emotional skills and ethics in our children. GreatSchools recently participated in a workshop (where this report was presented by its author) about how to galvanize a cultural shift in the  messages parents send this generation of children. In the study, Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd and his co-authors found that when the students were asked to imagine how their parents and peers rank achievement, happiness, and caring, two-thirds answered that both their parents and peers would rank achievement above caring for others. Students were three times more likely to agree than disagree with the statement: "My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I'm a caring community member in class and school.” (The majority - 80 percent – of teachers, administrators, and school staff agreed with the kids, saying that they saw parents favoring achievement and happiness over caring for other people, too.) And the older the child, the less they focus on caring. So what's going on? According to the study, it appears our nation is suffering from a caring crisis, which – despite parents’ best efforts to remind their children to play fair and be nice – is also telling our children to look out for number one to get the A, the top-ranking college, and the six-figure job. The news isn't all bad. But if our goal really is to raise kind, ethical kids, the authors say it will take a shift in how we parent. Adults need to "walk the talk," since young people, with their "razor sharp alertness to hypocrisy," notice when their parents say one thing while prioritizing something else. The authors encourage parents to gut-check their messages around happiness and achievement in comparison to their messages around caring and fairness. "Do we regularly tell our children, for example, 'the most important thing is that you're happy,' or do we say that 'the most important thing is that you act with integrity and are kind'? Do we insist that our children are not rude to us or never treat other people offhandedly? Do we insist that our children do the right thing even if it doesn't make them happy or successful? Do we remind our children of their obligations to their communities, for example their classroom and schools, their teams and school choirs, and their neighborhoods?"

While parents and educators might worry that we'll have to sacrifice achievement to emphasize caring, research suggests the opposite. In fact, good kids come out ahead, says Vicki Zakrzewski, a social emotional expert and the education director of the Greater Good Institute in Berkeley, California. 

"Children who are taught social-emotional skills rise in academic achievement," says Zakrzewski, who notes that research has found that children who link their passions to something greater than themselves do better in school and in their careers years later. "Success and achievement doesn't mean you forego those around you. You can extend care and compassion to others and be successful." Follow @LeslieMCrawford readmore