What You Should Expect from Your Kids

the best

Expectations. They’re the root cause of so many frustrations in life. We expect one thing, and we get another. And we’re disappointed.

How many times have you sat at a sporting event for one of your kids and been disappointed that your kid was checking out the pretty butterfly instead of scoring the winning goal? How many awards assemblies have you sat at watching child after child pick up academic award after academic award while your child is there for perfect attendance?

The world today is full of competition and comparison. I think Instagram and Facebook make it very difficult to appreciate the lives we have, the children we have and the spouses we have. We’re bombarded with the daily accomplishments of other people in our lives. No one is posting that they haven’t managed to get a shower yet today and their house is covered in a 2-inch-thick layer of dust. No one posts pictures of the days when every kid in the house is crying because you lost your temper. No one is bragging about how their kid tripped over the base and cost their team the winning run.

And it is so, so easy for us and our kids to get caught up in the comparison trap. It is so, so easy to raise the bar on our expectations for our kids to a level that they were never designed to meet.

My kids are both athletes. They are fairly decent at the sports they play. But you know what? My younger daughter can’t draw a stick figure, and her handwriting is terrible. My older daughter struggles to spell words correctly and can’t cut a straight line with a pair of scissors to save her life.

God created me and my kids different from the way He created you and your kids. He gave us different gifts and talents than He gave the members of your family.

When we place expectations on our kids that aren’t realistic for their gifts and talents, we tell them that we aren’t satisfied with the way God made them. We tell them that we don’t appreciate the gifts and talents they do have. We tell them that they simply aren’t good enough.

It would be ridiculous for me to expect my older daughter to win the spelling bee or for my younger daughter to win an art competition. Those are unrealistic expectations. But sometimes we as parents get so caught up in being able to say “My kid is the best” that we forget that not every kid has to be the best. They simple have to be their best.

So, here’s a list of the five things we expect from our kids. These are expectations that teach work ethic and respect. They are not targeted at being better than everyone else. They are simply aimed at making our kids the best they can be so they can do the work God intended for them.

1. Give 100% to everything you do. Live out the words of Colossians 3:23. What you do is a reflection of your love for God.

2. Be respectful of everyone. Practice the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12.

3. Ask for help when you need it. We can’t all be good at everything. Not asking for help is a sign of being prideful, and pride is destructive (Proverbs 16:18).

4. Offer help when it’s needed. God gave you gifts and talents to use for Him. If someone else needs your help, offer it and give it cheerfully.

5. Remember your gifts and talents come from God. Give Him the glory when things go well and seek His guidance when things don’t go your way.

Our kids need to know that we appreciate who they are. They need to know that we don’t expect them to excel at everything. But they also need to know that we do have expectations of them — ones that they can meet no matter what their gifts or talents are.

Because being the best isn’t the goal. Being their best is.

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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When Your Child Struggles

struggling

I hate watching my kids struggle. I hate watching the tears roll down their faces. I hate watching them put everything they have into doing something well, and it’s still not enough.

But sometimes that’s what I need to do. I need to watch. When my kids struggle, my first instinct is to step in and help. That’s what moms do, right? We help our kids. But sometimes, what they need is to struggle. Sometimes what they need is to learn to be an advocate for themselves. Sometimes what they need is to learn that not every effort leads to success. Sometimes what they need is to find that success often only comes through struggle.

But it’s so hard to watch. My older daughter is going through a struggle right now. And I can see how to make the situation improve. I can see the words that need to be said and the actions that need to be taken. But she has begged me not to step in. She has asked to handle the situation on her own. She’s almost 14, and because it’s not something that impacts her safety or her physical well-being, I need to let her.

I can stand by and offer support. I can offer suggestions. I can point her in the direction of people who can help her. But at this point, I can’t step in. I can’t save her from the struggle. And it is so very hard. As many tears as she has shed, I’ve shed more. I hate to see my kids hearts hurt.

But going through a struggle makes our kids stronger on the other side. They learn that they can survive. They learn that they can solve a problem themselves. They learn that the things you have to work hard for are the things that are worth having. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

When our kids struggle, they are going through their own refining process. God may be using those struggles to teach them something they’ll need to know in the future. He may be using those struggles to strengthen their faith. He may be using those struggles to point them in a different direction.

If we always step in and save our kids from the struggle, our kids will never learn those life lessons. They may never learn new skills or head in a different direction.

When our kids are struggling, they need us to be a soft landing place for them. They need to know that we’re there to offer hugs, to wipe up tears, to offer advice and to let them know that they are unconditionally loved. They need to be reminded that their self-worth doesn’t come from the thing they are struggling with but from knowing they are a dearly loved child of God. But they may not need us to step in.

Because every kid is going to struggle. If we save them from the struggle, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn how strong they really are. And we may be robbing them of an important lesson God is trying to teach them.

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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A Birthday Prayer for My 12-Year-Old

Birthday prayer

My younger daughter turns 12 tomorrow. I have no idea where the time has gone, but watching her grow up is one of the great joys of my life. This child has taught me so much. She has challenged me in ways I didn’t know I could be challenged. And she has always shown me that it takes courage and strength to be the person God created you to be.

So as this precious child of my heart turns 12, this is my prayer for her.

A Birthday Prayer

I pray you know more joy and laughter this year than you know tears and sorrow.

I pray you never forget that God created you to be you — no matter what anyone else says.

I pray you continue to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

I pray that you will never lose your zest to learn something new.

I pray that you will learn to look before you leap but that you will never lose your enthusiasm for doing the things you love.

I pray that you will continue to look around you and see the needs of others. And that you will then meet those needs.

I pray that you will be surrounded by good friends who will make you laugh, carry your burdens and encourage you to seek God.

I pray that you will continue to grow closer to God and that you will make Him a priority in your life.

I pray that you will be healthy and strong.

I pray that you will never lose sight of what’s important in life.

I pray that you will never be swayed by anyone telling you the things that you are passionate about aren’t the right things.

I pray that you will be a good friend to others.

I pray that you will never believe anyone who tells you that who you are isn’t good enough.

I pray that you will always know that you are loved.

Precious child of mine, I pray that your coming year is a great one. I pray that even when you are lonely, frustrated, scared or sad that you will know that we have your back and more importantly that God has your back. I thank God every day that He gave you to us. Our life is richer and full of so much more joy with you in it. No matter what this year holds, remember you are precious and you are loved.

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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What Do You Need to Succeed?

Succeed

I’ve been learning a lot about success from my older daughter this week. I wrote last week about how soccer has been a rough go this season. She changed coaches. She’s been hurt. She’s struggling to pick up everything new she needs to know to compete.

And this weekend it all came to a head. She made a mistake in an important game that led to a goal. She made the same mistake in the next game. She came home discouraged and frustrated. She felt like she would never get it. She felt like the worst player on the team. She felt like she had let her teammates, her coach and herself down.

After the tears had been shed (a lot from her, a few from me because it’s never easy to watch your kid struggle), I asked her this question: “What do you need to succeed?” The answer to that question could have been anything. She could have told me she was done playing soccer. She could have told me she didn’t know. She could have told me she needed me to be quiet.

But she didn’t tell me any of those things. As we talked, she identified that she needed to figure out where she was having trouble, and she needed more practice to fix it. So, we made a plan. She asked to talk to her coach and went in prepared to hear what he had to say. Some of what he told her was hard to hear, but he clearly identified three areas she needed to work on. He told her what she was doing wrong and how to fix it.

Next, we addressed how to get her more practice. We added two practices to the schedule each week to increase the amount of time she has to get touches on the ball. She’s committed to putting in the practice to get better, to learn how to not make the same mistakes.

So, now she has a plan and the work ethic to follow through, but what I learned this week is that we all struggle with something in our lives. Our kids all have something on their plate that isn’t going the way they want it to. And too often, we try to solve that problem for them. We try to identify the issues and fix them. What we should be doing, though, is teaching them how to identify the issues and to figure out what they need to fix them.

We need to be asking our kids “What do you need to succeed?” about everything in their lives. Because what they need to succeed may not be the same thing that you or I would need to succeed in the same situation. God made each of us different. He gave each of us the ability to tackle problems in a different way. We have to recognize that each of our children may need something different from us to help them succeed.

Success in any endeavor is ultimately up to our kids. They have to put in the work and the time to succeed. But we can help by providing them with the things that they need to succeed.  We just have to ask them and help them identify what those things are.

So the next time your child is struggling with something, set aside the temptation to simply fix the problem. Instead, ask “What do you need to succeed?”

Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.

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Everyday Truth: The Book

3d coverI’ve often been asked when I was going to write another book. The truth is I already had one written. That book you see at the top has been sitting on the back burner, just waiting its turn to be published.

I’m not really sure why it took me so long to put it out there. Publishing these days is pretty easy, especially if you publish it yourself. I think the biggest reason was the one that holds so many of us back from our dreams: fear. What if I put it out there and no one wanted to read it? What if no one but my mom likes it? What if it’s a huge failure?

But here’s the thing. God has called me to be a writer. He’s given me the talent and the drive to go after this. He’s led hundreds of people to this blog every day, and a couple thousand to the Everyday Truth Facebook page (which you should go check out if you haven’t already). So, who am I to balk at the next step He’s asked me to take?

2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” If I let fear keep me from taking the steps God is asking me to take, if I let a timid spirit hold me back, then I’m letting fear control my life instead of my love for God. And that’s no way to live.

So, here it is, the next step on the Everyday Truth journey — Everyday Truth the book. It’s a hybrid Bible study/parenting book, and it’s packed full of scripture and practical things you can do to take the everyday stuff in your life and turn it into teachable moments to turn your kids’ hearts and minds toward God. It’s probably most useful for those of you with preschool and elementary-age kids, but you parents of teens will probably find some useful tidbits as well.

If you want a sample, you can check out the first chapter here. I love this book. It’s my baby. It’s the parenting book I wished existed when my girls were younger. It not only teaches you what the Bible says, it gives you step-by-step help to put it into practice. My goal for this book is that those who read it will be blessed and finish it feeling encouraged and empowered that they can teach their kids about God.

So, here it is. My book. Right now it’s available in paperback, but the Kindle edition is coming soon. I hope you like it. I hope that even if you don’t read it that you are encouraged to not let fear hold you back from taking the next step that God is calling you to. But if you want to buy it and read it, click the link below.

Buy Everyday Truth now

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What a Girl Needs from Her Mom Review ($10 Family Christian Certificate Giveaway)

What a girl needs

Disclosure: I received a review copy of What a Girl Needs from Her Mom and an appreciation certificate from Family Christian. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Somehow, I thought raising girls would be easy. After all, I was a little girl and a teenager once. I know what it’s like. This shouldn’t be that hard, right?

But then I ended up with two girls in my house who not only aren’t much like me, they are so far apart from each other on the personality scale that it takes an entirely different set of parenting ideas to raise each of them.

And don’t forget the world has changed a bit since I was a little girl and teenager. Instead of talking on the phone for hours, these girls are spending all their time texting and using social media. Some of the dangers we had to go looking for are right there in the palm of their hands.

Raising girls isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter that I was once their age. Nothing prepares you for the raging hormones and constantly changing personalities of the tween and teen years. I often think “I was never that bad.” (My parents assure me I was.)

Raising kids — boys or girls — takes all the energy we can muster and all the help we can get. If you have girls, you should check out Cheri Fuller’s new book What a Girl Needs from Her Mom.

Fuller delves into the complicated world of raising girls. She gives helpful advice about the wired world we live in and how to connect with your daughter. The most convicting chapter to me was the one about being present and engaged with our daughters. They need us to put down our phones or our computers and completely engage with them. Because they need to know they’re important enough to have our complete attention from a young age.

Fuller also talks about the importance of being an encourager and a prayer warrior for your daughter. She covers everything from helping your daughter learn to manage her emotions to helping your daughter achieve her dreams.

Fuller has raised two girls of her own and is now a grandmother. She weaves her own personal stories into the book along with anecdotes from other moms who are currently raising girls in this overly wired world.

If you’re wondering just what it is your daughter needs from you, check out Cheri Fuller’s What a Girl Needs from Her Mom. Because being a girl doesn’t make you an expert at raising one, and in this crazy world, we need all the help we can get.

Get your own copy of What a Girl Needs from Her Mom with a $10 appreciation certificate from Family Christian. It’s easy. Just enter below, and check out Family Christian’s Facebook page for encouragement and more deals.

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When Sports Aren’t Fun Anymore

Fun

My older daughter’s soccer team has had a rough start to the season. They have lost two games by a lot of goals. That’s made for some pretty grumpy Sunday afternoons around here.

It’s been a rough sports year in this house. Our hockey season was something of a mess with my younger daughter. My older daughter went through a coaching change back in the fall followed by about four months of nagging injury. The frustration level surrounding sports has been pretty high.

As we were driving home from practice the other day, my older daughter was talking about how much pressure she felt to do well in soccer, to do well in track and to keep her grades up at school. When we got home, I stopped the car and looked at her. “If this isn’t fun, then let’s not do it,” I told her.

My daughter is 13. She has high hopes for playing soccer in high school and maybe college. But the reality is that she’s a 13-year-old girl. She has a dream she’s chasing, yes, but she also has a family and friends. She has school and church.

She loves soccer with a passion. I have no doubt that God gave her a talent and a passion for the sport, and I want her to follow that talent and passion as far as she wants to. But I also want it to be fun. At 13, if it isn’t fun, you shouldn’t be doing it.

We as a society have created this merry-go-round youth sports culture where there seems to be no in-between. You can either pour tons of money and time and stress into your kids playing sports or you can play at a level where the coaching isn’t great and your child doesn’t improve. And the parents at the first level are often pushing their kids hard to see a return on their “investment.” When you have a kid who is driven to succeed, it seems there is no middle ground.

I can’t change the culture where I live. I can’t suddenly create a less stressful environment for my daughter. But I can remind her that this is a game, and it’s supposed to be fun. When the game causes more tears than smiles, it’s time to reevaluate. It’s time to take a step back and look at the priority my daughter is placing on it. Because I want her to succeed at whatever it is she attempts. I want her to work hard and be the best she can be at whatever she sets her hand to. But I want her to do it for the right reasons, and I want her to do it with joy.

I want her to be striving to succeed because she’s living out the words of Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” And I want her joy in using her God-given talents to shine through when she’s playing. If that’s not the priority, then we need to reorganize.

Because the reality is that someday my daughter’s playing days will be over. When they are, I want her to have learned life lessons about winning and losing and doing your best. But I also want her to have memories of fun and joy and laughter. I want her to look back at these years and think it was worth it because of the friendships she’s made and the fun she had.

Because in the end, this is a game, and it’s supposed to be fun.

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Nobody Told Me It Would Be Lonely

community

I’ve been told a lot of things about having a teenager. I was warned about the hormone swings. I was told about the attitude. I was given great advice about choosing my battles.

But nobody told me it would be lonely.

Nobody told me that many of my mom friends would go back to work and with the schedules of teenagers who can’t drive that we would see each other once every three months even though we live down the street from each other. Nobody told me that being the mom of a teenager would be as isolating as being the mother of a newborn was.

Nobody told me it would be hard to find five minutes to do anything for myself. Nobody told me that in a time when I needed the support of other moms more than ever, that support would be harder to find.

Because this is the truth about having teenagers: They suck almost as much of your time as a newborn does (but at least they sleep through the night). And they take a whole lot more of your emotional energy than younger kids do.

At the same time, a lot of the mommy support system you had in the elementary years changes. There are no more playdates where the moms sit around and talk while the kids play. There are fewer school activities that require your presence where you can interact with other parents. There are simply fewer opportunities to surround yourself with other moms who are dealing with the same things you are.

And you can end up feeling all alone.

We all need support. We can’t do this motherhood thing on our own. We need other moms who are striving to raise Christ-following kids to share our struggles and our victories with. We need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a friend to laugh with. No matter what age our kids are, we need community with other moms.

As the ages and stages of our kids change, though, our community often changes. When that happens, it can be easy to step back and decide we don’t have the energy or the time to create a new community. It can be too easy to simply try to go it alone. And that doesn’t help us be good moms. When we go it alone, we’re relying on ourselves — on our own energy and wisdom. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough of either one to be a good mom for very long.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that even God knows we need community. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who fall and has no one to help them up.

I’ve been in a season where I’ve been trying go it alone. I’ve been trying to do this mom thing without a good support system in place. I don’t recommend it. It will leave you feeling burnt out and frustrated.

But what do you do when your community changes? You build new community. You reestablish relationships that have fallen to the side, and you look for new ones. I guarantee that there are plenty of women in the same stage of life as you who are feeling as isolated and frustrated as you are. Reach out to them. Form a group that meets regularly for the purpose of simply sharing your struggles and victories as a mom and praying over your children. Find another mom to walk with or go to coffee with regularly. Reach out a hand of friendship to someone else. You’ll be surprised at how many other moms are feeling the same way you are.

Create community around you because being a mom shouldn’t be lonely.

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Do Over Review and Giveaway

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I received an advance copy of Do Over from  Family Christian and an appreciation certificate in exchange for a fair and honest review of this book. The opinions contained in this review are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

I spend a lot of time in this space talking about my role as a mom. It’s what this blog was designed to be about. But I don’t spend much time talking about what it’s like to be a working mom. Some of you may not even know that I work part-time.

In the hours that I’m not driving kids to a hockey rink, school, a soccer field or any of the other myriad things we do, I’m working. I do freelance editing and writing, and I teach writing at a homeschool enrichment program. I love the flexibility of my job. I set my own hours. I can say no to the work I’m not interested in. It’s a job that lets me be available for my family when they need me.

But it took me awhile to find my way. When I decided I wanted to add some work to my schedule when my younger daughter went off to first grade, I struggled to know how to find the work I wanted. I never really defined the “career” I wanted to have. I simply stumbled into some freelance work. Even now, I often feel like I should have a better grasp of where I’m going and what I want the work part of my life to look like.

When Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review Jon Acuff’s new book Do Over, I wasn’t super interested. I wasn’t really sure that it applied to me or to you, my readers. I was, however, interested in reading it for two reasons: 1) I’d read his book Quitter and was impressed with his writing style and his information and 2) back when I was about 7 years old, Jon’s dad was a pastor at our church (I only vaguely remember Jon, and I’m sure he doesn’t remember me at all, but it’s always fascinating to see people you once knew become successful.)

As I was reading Do Over, though, I realized that working is a part of many moms’ realities. It’s part of what we do, and just like any part of our lives, we need to address it. We need to recognize that chasing our own dreams is important even as we help our kids chase theirs. And that’s why Do Over is a great read for any working mom who wants to change her career or chase her dreams. It’s even a great read if you’re not in a season of life where you can chase your dreams because someday you’ll be in a season where you can.

In Do Over, Jon Acuff breaks down what you need to change your career path. He tells you how to declare a do over and start from scratch. The book breaks your do over down into four investments that you need to strike out on a new road: relationships, skills, character and hustle. He explains these with a nifty little chart that places each item on a scale of negative to positive and voluntary to involuntary. His basic premise is that relationships + skills + character x hustle = your career savings account.

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When you declare a do over, you draw on that career savings account to launch yourself in a new direction. Jon talks about how to identify the relationships in your life that can help you succeed — from acquaintances to close friends who will advocate for you. He shows you how to recognize the tangible and intangible skills you already have and the ones you need to acquire. He points out the character qualities you’ll need to successfully navigate a do over, and the hustle you’ll need to apply to get there.

Sounds like just another career self-help book, right? Wrong. With humor and intelligence, Jon gives you all the tools you need to call a do over on your career. He doesn’t just tell you what you should be doing, he orders you to get out the note cards and Sharpies and start doing it. He gives you a plan to follow and exercises to do to get you to where you want to be.

So, why is this such a great book for moms? When we become moms, we often give up on our own dreams. We pour all of our time and energy into our families. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are seasons when our families needs as much time and energy as we can give them. But there are those other seasons — the ones where our families don’t need all of our time and attention. And a season is coming (although it may seem a really long way off) where your little ones will be grown. When that season comes, it’s important that we’ve built up a career savings account, so that when it’s time to follow those dreams that God gave us, we’ll have the resources to do so.

If you’re a mom with a dream — even if that dream is currently dormant — pick up Jon Acuff’s book Do Over. It’s available on April 1, but you can preorder it at Family Christian today. Start building a career savings account because someday it will be your turn to chase your dreams — and you want to be ready.

You can own your very own copy of Do Over by entering to win a $25 appreciation certificate from Family Christian. Just enter below.

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Glimpses of the Future

future

My younger daughter was walking to the mailbox. She had on shorts, her hockey warm-up jacket and a St. Louis Blues hat with her hair in a pony tail. I looked at her and was overwhelmed by how much I love this young lady who is truly her own person.

My older daughter was sitting in the movie theater with two of her friends. Bright smile on her face, talking up a storm. I looked at her and almost didn’t recognize this almost-14-year-old girl who has come so very far from the awkward, shy 11-year-old she once was. And I was overwhelmed again by how much I truly adore the young lady she is becoming.

I had those two moments almost back to back last week as we simply enjoyed a week off for our spring break. I’ll be honest. There are moments in parenting these two girls that make me want to tear out my hair. There are moments when I think I am never going to get through to them. There are moments when I just want to walk away.

But then God gives me these 5-second glimpses of who my kids are. He gives me a split second to realize that they are truly amazing. He gives me just a glimpse of what they may look like in the future. And it gives me hope.

Because when you’re stuck in the middle of the mess that is motherhood, it can be easy to look at other people’s kids and wonder why your kids can’t be like those kids. Whether it’s the infant years, the toddler years, the elementary years or the teen years, it can be easy to wonder if you’re ever going to survive (or if your kids will survive).

But here’s the thing: God sees the whole picture. He sees who your child has the potential to become. He doesn’t just see the mess. He sees the beauty beyond the mess. He sees where this whole parenting thing is leading. And every now and then, He lets us glimpse it, too. It may just be a glance that lets you see that the strong-willed toddler kicking and screaming as you put him in the car seat will become a teenager who can stand up to peer pressure. It may be a short conversation that lets you see that the shy, unsure sixth-grader will become a kind and compassionate high schooler who draws people to her because of her gentle spirit.

When we’re in the mommy trenches, we don’t get to see the big picture. A lot of days, we can only see what’s right in front of us. We can only look straight ahead. But even in the midst of those battles, even in the middle of the very long days, keep an eye out for the glimpses of the future. Be looking for just those small glimmers of hope that what you’re doing is going to matter in the end. Because they are there. God gives them to us to encourage us and to remind us that He sees the future — even when we can’t.

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