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My children are my most precious gifts.  I almost wrote possessions, but I don’t really own them.  They are free spirits, each so unique and different, and each one reacts to life’s challenges differently.  My oldest is a typical oldest.  He wants to be good and does what he is asked.  He tends to not toe the line or not go too far from what we expect and hope for him.  Some of my other children are line pushers.  They need to test the world out for themselves.  Sometimes that means they need to fall hard to learn a lesson.  My word is not enough for complete understanding at times, and they need to test things out for themselves.

This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly that we need to set up boundaries for our kids to help protect them from the scary world they can at times be exposed to, the images they will see and the things they will be exposed to in this computer/personal device driven world we now live in.  I understand I can’t control everything that will influence them, but I can sure do my best to set up safety precautions that will.

Over a year ago I wrote about the importance of communication with our children and how to help them look away when they are exposed to the less than desirable and the down right horrible. You can find that article here. I believe open communication is the most important tool we have to help protect our kids against both pornography and difficult situations.

When my children were still young I got my first cell phone.  I was slow to the game and it took me many more years to get a smart phone.  I could not imagine at the time the world it would open.  It wasn’t until I worked with some youth of my church, my kids didn’t have their own devices at this point, that I learned how devastating the effects of both social media and pornography could be on these young developing minds.  Ryan and I decided at this point that we needed to set our kids up for success.  When they would get their first smart phones or when they would have access to computers or iPads, they would be kept as safe as we could keep them.

The tutorials below show some of what I have learned over the years.  I will add more tutorials as I make them.

In this first video I show how to set up parental controls on an iPhone or iPad.  I have been very pleased with Apple’s controls.

This next one is how to set up controls on Google.  This can be done on any personal device or computer.  It’s not 100% and I still am a firm believer that family computers should be set out in the open and children should never be allowed unattended screen time, either in their rooms or when no one is home.  We have a very protected password, and my kids know the moment I leave the house the computer is locked down.

I don’t allow my kids to have social media, but if you do, heck even if you have an Instagram, I discuss some of the things to be aware of and much of it applies to Facebook as well.  I will be adding a tutorial on that at a later time

This last one is how to set up safe search on YouTube.  It’s very simple to do, and although not 100%. I am happy it’s available.

I am an Apple girl.  I love my computer, my IPhone and iPad.

For those who use android and other devices, I have found these links for you and they look rather helpful.  I had no idea you could set up separate accounts on an android phone just like you would on a home computer.  That would be great for when you are handing off to a small child.

How to set up parental controls on Android smartphones and tablets

Quick Guide: Parental Controls for Android Devices

5 Best Free Parental Control Apps for Android

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Trying to get an over-tired-fussy baby to sleep used to feel hard, overwhelmingly hard. I might have shed a few tears as I prayed for peace and guidance and rest for both them and me.  But those days are gone, only to be remembered with fondness and an aching longing for the sweet smells of baby skin.

Back then I had trouble imagining the teenage years, and I was very afraid of what that would look like. Would they yell and scream at me. Would we fight all the time?  Would they disobey and rebel in ways I wouldn’t understand? Would they began to hate us as parents and wish they could just move out?

What no one told me was how lovely and desirable this phase really would be. We get to cheer them on in sporting events while we observe them trying harder than they ever have before. We watch as they learn how to become self motivated and then excel because of it. We participate in late night conversations where we start to see them as so much better than the person we are, and we cannot help but feel in awe that we get to be their parents.

And yet there are still moments that I cry out in pleading to my Heavenly Father for them. I see their suffering, and I pray that it will one day be turned into triumph. I know I can’t fix all their woes anymore. I can’t just rock them a little longer waiting for them to finally fall asleep. It’s time for them to find solutions and all I can do is offer gentle guidance and then they do whatever they feel is best. Most of all I want them to know how much they mean to me and I want them to feel deep inside their hearts.

I hope and pray that when they look back at their childhood they will know I was there whenever they needed me. But I know I let myself get distracted by technology more often than I would like, and it takes away from what’s really important to me. My little and not so little people.  It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to a friend, looking something up, or scanning through blogs or social media. They deserve all of me.

Since I am already treating Valentines untraditionally with my husband, I thought  I could give to my children something that would mean a little more.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson

For the rest of this month I am going to stay off of my phone and computer while my children are home. They may not even notice my phone is tucked away or that I’m more present, but I do hope they feel more love from me. They might not even recognize why. This gift is one of time, for I want them to know they are worth all that I have to give. Susan

The best thing to spend on your children is time.” – Louise Hart

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No one ever wins in a power struggle. I used to feel like I had to win. I couldn’t back down. But I have painfully learned that even when I win, I don’t feel like I have.

This last week I had a couple of parenting moments that reminded me of this very point.

One child had his feelings hurt and another was overly stressed out. I did not respond my best. When it’s my will against theirs, I find myself feeling frustrated, and occasionally a little bit angry. My voice will raise and then theirs will match it. The more I struggle to maintain control of the situation the harder they fight to maintain ground. When I am in this parenting mode and I get them to do what I think is right I see defeat on their faces. And a tinge of sadness. Which usually means I will feel regret for the poor way I handled things.

But I also recognize I cannot give my children whatever they want just because they put up a fight. Then what? What I really want for my children is to learn to become amazing adults who can handle the challenges of adulthood. Who can love and be loved. Adults that can allow God into their hearts so that everyday challenge become more manageable. Fighting with them doesn’t show them any of that.

This morning as I sat outside in the beautiful city of Nauvoo reading my scriptures I came across a simple passage that states

 Trust in the Lord

If my will is not the way and letting the kids have their will is not the way, that only leaves me with the Lord’s will. When I trust that He will guide me in my parenting I am calm. When I remember they are His children before they are mine I am kinder. When I know what He would have me do I am more confident.

Laura told me this last week that when I don’t know what to do in my parenting I should tell the kids such and step away for a minute. Now after reading this scripture with parenting in mind I see the NEED of prayer and supplication to God to understand His will. Maybe I won’t have a long time to do that because of life demands but God knows that. I’m sure I can certainly retreat to the bathroom for a couple of minutes and strive to be right with God so that I can be right by my children. To give Him freely my will and let Him guide me to His will.

There are moments I have done this and experienced the parenting joys that come as the reward. Peace follows instead of guilt, even when the child doesn’t love what I’m saying or doing.

I imagine this will take practice, lots of trying before I have this down. But my children are worth all of my efforts. God loved them before I ever did, and I know He is just waiting for me to ask so that He may intervene on their behalf.  His will is the only will that can win every time.

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This past weekend, I had the opportunity of singing in a special women’s choir at church. There is nothing more wonderful and uplifting than being a part of a group that learns and grows and shares together.

As I was learning this wonderful song, I had to work really hard at NOT thinking too much about the words, because it would make me cry, and crying is not a good way to sing! But now that I’m not singing, I wanted to share the words with you, and a bit of the back story.

Here is the song “How will they know?”

How will they know?

1. How will they know, the ones for whom we care,
That God is love and with us ev’rywhere,
That life is good, with blessings all can share?
How will they know unless we teach them so?
2. How will they learn that, though they go astray,
God will forgive and help them find the way?
How will they feel the Spirit day by day?
How will they know unless we teach them so?
3. How will they grow in wisdom and delight?
How will they choose to follow what is right?
How can they trust the future will be bright?
How will they know unless we show them?
4. How will they live when they at last are grown?
What will they give to children of their own?
Will they reflect the values we have shown?
How will they know, as on through life they go?
How will they know unless we strive to teach them so?

This beautiful song was written by Natalie Sleeth, at the request of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for use on a Mother’s day.  She said

When my son had young children of his own, I became aware of how the way he was raised (by my husband and me) was reflected in the way he and his wife were raising their children… I generalized this idea into an expression of the need for teaching those within our care what we feel is important in life.”

At first I questioned my own parenting, wondering if I have not done enough in the past.  Have my kids grown up knowing the full extent of my belief in God, and the strength and power of the atonement?  Did I teach them enough?  Did I do enough?

I’m sure that I did the best I could with what I had. But I realized that the past is past. The only thing I have control over now is my present and how it can affect my future.

I can choose today to share my beliefs and my love of the Savoir. I can help my children learn what I believe and know to be true, but I can also share my values with my friends, and my children’s friends, or any one that God places in my path.  It is never too late to help a rising generation by sharing the strength that you have learned.

We live in a tough world with a lot of wickedness. But there are also a lot of good people, and if we all work together to share the good and hope in Christ and his atonement, we can overcome the world.

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When Mom is happy, kids know they are lovedAs a mom, we have a lot of responsibilities and can feel like we are being pulled in many different directions. And it is hard… really hard to know if you are doing everything you need to for your kids.

We do everything we can for them because we love them and want them to learn all that they can at our hands before they are out in the world on their own.  When they are young it feels like we will be caring for them forever.  People always tell you it goes by fast, but when you’re in the middle of it, that just doesn’t even compute as reality.  How many days go by where you just don’t get enough sleep, and you just long for some adult conversation again?

When my kids were little, I remember feeling like I just needed to be filled up myself. I could give and give to my kids, to the neighbors, to my church calling, to the classrooms that I volunteered at, but eventually, I needed a re-fill of my own.  Spending time with friends helped, but what really gave me the extra jolt that I needed was going to Women’s Conference or Time Out for Women about once a year.  I often learned new techniques for being a better mom, but I also had time with other women doing something for me.  I was able to re-fill my spiritual and emotional bank so that I could give in a better way to my own kids.

I think that of all the things that we teach our kids, the most important thing that they can learn is to feel that they are loved and they are worthwhile.  If we give and give to the kids, but never take time for ourselves, they will notice.  Kids are way more observant than we give them credit for.  If we become run down, it won’t matter how many books you read to them, meals you cook, or times you tell them you love them.  If you’re not happy or content with your life, because you are not taking care of yourself, they will know. And think about how that may make them feel about themselves? My greatest fear is that they will think “If caring for me makes Mom unhappy, then I must not be worth much.”

It’s definitely a tricky balance. You can’t just take care of your own needs at the expense of your kids, but you can’t just care for the family at the expense of yourself either.  Give yourself permission to be happy, and do a few things for yourself each day, and let the kids be a part of it.  Either let them know that you need a few minutes of quiet time to read or study or just to take a bath, or you can let them know that you want to do something fun, and see if they want to join you.

I think each of us have to come up with plans that work with our own family’s needs.  For me, it helps to make sure to do something fun with the kids that I enjoy, so they can see me having fun and being happy to spend time with them.  But at other times, I need to have a little time just to myself, and come back happy to be with them again.

Think about how filling some of your own needs may be of benefit to your kids.  Make that a part of your parenting plans. By taking care of yourself, you teach your kids that you are important too, and give them permission to do the same when they are grown.

ps: our friends at “the Power of Moms” have put together a video training on this topic that you may want to check out here

 

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Now that the kids are back in school, I decided it was time for a revamp of our family economy and behavior chart.

Several years ago I attended a power of moms retreat and I instantly fell in love with the family economy system they presented, as well as a behavior chart April used in her home. You can read more about the family economy  here. I started out using the system as the Eyres described, but I have adapted it to fit my family’s needs, and I made it a little easier for me to follow through with.  

Each child has a clip board (I spray painted them gold to match my house) assigned to them. On the clipboard is a laminated chart for them to mark off what they have completed for the day.


On the back of the chart is a more detailed list detailing exactly what is expected of them in order for the job to be considered complete.

Every Monday they have an accounting and get paid. For every check mark they get a certain amount of money. In our house you can make a maximum amount of $1 per year you have been alive. My oldest is 17 so we divided $17 by 24 (they don’t get paid for Sunday) so each box he has checked off he earns $.71. My six-year-old gets $.25 per box. The catch is they must have a minimum of 80% done in order to get that price. If they have less than 80% they only get paid half of the would be total. And if they have less than 50% they don’t get any allowance.
The money they earn is to pay for anything extra they might want. Snacks at a ball game. Special pencils or art supplies. Books. Toys. Fancy socks. Fast food. Bowling with friends. We require them to put 20% of their money into savings and 10% goes to tithing for our church.

The funny thing is I have some kids who are really good about doing their jobs but completely forget to mark off their charts. And so they have lost out on pay. I do let them go back one day to mark off what they forgot to mark off but anymore than that and they are out of luck.  We have not been using the system for a little while and I know my kids are excited to start earning money again.

I have 6 children so we have 6 different jobs or zones. The youngest two switch back and forth between picking up the upstairs and unloading and loading the dish washer. The other 4 cycle through these 4 jobs. Helping with dinner, dishes, counters, and sweeping the downstairs.

In connection with the economy we use this behavior chart.  (Free printables)    I use two now that I have teenagers and they care about different things. I spray painted clothes pins gold and then wrote their names on one. Everyone begins the day on Behavior Chart. If we catch them doing something extra special they move up the chart. If by the end of the day they are still there they get to pick any reward at or below where they ended up for the next day or for the weekend. On the above chart I have a place for consequences. If they earn something they write it there. Once it is used up they erase it.

My kids only play videos games on Friday or Saturday. They have one hour each. So losing or gaining extra time is super exciting for them. My son Joseph has offered to help make the whole family breakfast the last two mornings so he has now earned an extra 30 minutes which he will use on the weekends.

Having the behavior chart takes the guess-work out of discipline. When they misbehave I give them one verbal warning and then they have to move their clip. If they refuse to move it I will move it for them but it will be moved down twice instead of once. If they argue about it they have to move it twice.

I have a couple of very stubborn children and I have found when we use the clip chart they respond really well. I think that is because they know what to expect. As opposed to me giving them some ridiculous consequence because I don’t know what else to do.

 

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The moment I realize I want to be better seems to be the exact moment opposition begins.

My mothering has not been as I have wanted it to be lately and so I have decided to make some changes. I want to be more present when they are here. I have the day to myself to get all the chores done, so I have decided to make sure when school gets out I’m available for them. Yesterday was the start to a new week and I was pumped.

I worked during today to update our chore system and behavior chart (I’ll share that tomorrow) and then when I went to print I was out of ink. Ugh. In my excitement to get it all done and finished I now “had” to take the kids to the store to get ink. Once we got home and got on homework, I ran to the computer to print real quick the charts, only to discover my printer is actually broken.

Naturally I feel I can fix it, it will only take a second. The kids are coming in and the more problems the printer is having the more frustrated I’m feeling and my fuse became very short. It’s almost dinner time and I had not spent the time I had wanted with them.

I never successfully fixed it but I did end up grumpy with kids who were now also grumpy because I wasn’t available when they needed me. I quickly realized that I had given in to distractions which I believe satan put in my path. And I fell for it.

At first I was really beating myself up, wondering why I gave in so quickly. Could I ever figure things out and be the mother I want to be?

And then I read these lines to the song “The Time Is Far Spent”

Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you; The weight of your calling he perfectly knows. Your path may be thorny, but Jesus is nigh you; His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose.

Yes Satan is aware of my purpose but Jesus’s arm is sufficient. He will guide me when I stay fixed on my mothering purpose. I may stumble from time to time but when I allow my Savior to, He will be what I cannot. He will make up the difference. I simply have to continue diligently trying.

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working on weaknessesI had an epiphany at the beginning of this summer.  But before I tell you about it, we have to step back a little.

There have been a lot of changes in my life over the past 5 years.  Some good, some challenging, and some that are just a part of real life.  I became a single mom, went back to work, made new friends, eventually re-married and I’ve helped my kids transition into adulthood with college, missions and jobs.  Now there are only two of my five still in the house, and that jumping off platform is in sight for the next one to leave the nest.  Now that things are settling down, and slowing down, I have been looking at my life and all of the things that I wish I had done differently. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.

So back to the epiphany.  There are things I have wanted in my life and for my children that somehow got put on hold while I was in the middle of all the other transitions I was going through in my wild adventure of a life.  Then one day (or maybe over a short period of time) I realized that it is not too late to have the home life that I want and do the things that I feel are important for me and my children.

The changes I wanted to make required hard work… they required changing habits… they required buckling down in ways that the kids were not used to, and certainly didn’t want to change.

Well, I tried to make all of the changes at once, often failing at this or that, and resulting in me feeling terrible, instead of recognizing the successes that were being made.

Yesterday I ran across this quote

Let’s help teens become aware of their strengths and build from there.  This doesn’t mean that we should ignore their weaknesses, but just that we are not majoring in them at the expense of their strengths.  They can and should be working on them as well. The rule of thumb here is, I will never require myself or one of my children to work on more than one weakness at a time. “ 1

I have a tendency to go make long lists of things that need to be done before we can relax and enjoy life.  However, the lists of things that we can be working on to be better people can really be endless.  There will never be enough time in a day to do all the good things in the world that can be done.

So when I’m listing all the things I expect from the kids all at the same time, it can be daunting and totally overwhelming.

It reminds me of the time when my son was very young and I stood him in his bedroom and told him “put your toys in the box, put your clothes in the hamper, pick up the garbage and throw it away, make your bed, pull everything out from under the bed and put it away…” and he cried “I can’t do all of that all at the same time.”

Now that he is almost an adult, I find myself in the same desperate mode, trying to get him to do everything, all at the same time, to get ready to be out on his own.

It’s kind of like when you find out that someone is coming to visit in 5 minutes, and you quickly throw everything into a closet, push the dishes into the sink (or in a pile into the oven), and yell at everyone to quick put away your shoes and backpacks and whatever else you don’t want people to see.  It might make a visit go more comfortably, but that isn’t how you clean house when you have time to do it right.

The same concept applies to learning life lessons or developing good habits. If I try to do it all quickly and at once, it doesn’t really get done right.

I think it might be more important to do a few things the right way in parenting, instead of the throwing band-aids on all of the problems, and not really getting to the heart of the issues.

By working on one problem at a time, I think we will be able to really conquer the root of a lot of the problems.  Or at least develop the skills for how to make a positive change when it is needed.  I suppose the best lesson I could really teach my kids at the teen level is the process of change, rather than forcing the change that I want to see.

I am going to try to be more gentle with myself and my children, by working on one important thing at a time. I’d like to put more emphasis on the changing process rather than the results, so that they will have a chance to develop the skills to help them when they leave me and are out on their own.

 

1 – The quote comes from this book.  A good friend recommended it to me, and I am getting so much out of it, I wish I had read it sooner.  



 

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The Lords hand is at work in our lives

 

Parenting is hard… really hard.

I worry about missed opportunities to teach.  I worry that I was too harsh or too soft.  Was I there when I needed to be?  Should I get involved or let them figure it out on their own?

As the kids got older, I felt like I’ve had less of an influence over their lives, but now, I’m not really sure that is true.

It is true that friends, teachers and church leaders have a bigger influence on them than ever, but at the end of the day, everyone wants to know that their mom loves them and is there for them.

As I struggled this week to find a balance between teaching, disciplining and loving my teenagers, I re-discovered the most important element to this whole parenting thing. I asked for help from the real source.

I have been discussing my concerns with my husband and with my sister, but not until I had reached a point where I truly didn’t know what to do next, did I take my problem to the Lord in prayer.  He gave me a sense of peace and calm.  He gave me a reassurance that my kids are going to be okay, but that it is also very important that I follow through with the important things that I know I should do, but that are hard.  (Hard to me is dealing with conflict. I have a tendency to not discipline when I know I need to.)

He put in my path a friend that helped me, by just listening, then giving me the advice to read Parenting Teens With Love And Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood

I started reading it right away.  I immediately felt a sense of peace, knowing that I have a new tool to help me with the important task of helping my kids transition into being adults.

I recognize that in asking for help from the Lord, He will step in and help.  I just needed to ask.  Of course, I also needed to do my part and act on the things He is guiding me to do.  When prompted to go to lunch with this friend who helped, I had to make that effort.  When told to read this book, I had to have faith enough to get the book and take the time to read.

I have come to recognize that my children are even more valued by God than they are to me.  If I am worried and concerned about them, I know that He is also. By working together, and allowing God to work in my life and that of my children’s, we will all have an advantage in overcoming the difficulties and trials that come into the lives of teenagers in our world.  I am so grateful for His love and comfort to me personally, and for the help He is giving me in raising the wonderful people who He has entrusted me with.

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Standing at the kitchen preparing my dinner, while music is loudly playing and I’m singing along, the tears came out of the blue and my heart swelled up feeling as though it was going to burst right out of my chest. The feeling came on strongly and I was rather surprised by its intensity.

I have shed many a tears over my children. Both happy and sad. But this day the sacredness of my calling as their mother overcame me, and I could not have felt more grateful. Motherhood is the hardest most rewarding job I have ever experienced. These little people need so much time and love and support, and often I feel I am falling short.

Every so often though I feel God giving me a heavenly hug with a glimpse into how He must feel as the perfect parent. It was as if the world stopped for one moment and froze in time so that I could see my life for what it really is.

Kids who want to be good and do good. They want to be taught how to figure out their world; they just need guidance and love. They each came to this world with unique and abundantly giant personalities that are bound for greatness and in that frozen moment I could feel of their goodness. I could sense who they truly are as people not just as my children. How blessed we are as mothers to get to see another with such love, even if only in fleeting passing moments.

I do not always know how to handle parenting situations. I try my best and sometimes succeed and sometimes learn new ways to fail. But I have learned how much I need the Lord in my parenting. I need Him to walk with me so that I can direct these little people into the paths God has for them. Dalin H Oaks put it this way,

We must pray for the Lord’s help and directions so we can be instruments in His hands.”

I want the Lord to feel confident that He can use me as His tool. That I will do whatever he asks and in so doing I will help guide my children back to Him.