Category Archives: Elizabeth’s Parenting Corner

To The Mom Who’s Overwhelmed- 3 Ways To Lighten Your Load

By Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Sprague

To the Mom who’s overwhelmed:

{3 simple ways to lighten your load}…

I know where you are.  I have been there many days myself….many more days than I imagined I Overwhelmed?-2would before I became a parent.  It’s funny how we picture it, and how idealistic we create the vision in our head… But why would the transition from responsibility for just ourselves…to  being entrusted with these little people who are completely reliant on us for everything…be easy?  It’s no wonder it can be burdensome- they literally cannot survive without us.

Yet it’s not the “keeping them alive” that wears us out.  It’s not really feeding, bathing, and clothing them, because this comes as second-nature to most parents.  Where I find myself getting burdened is when I go from doing the “mom stuff” to the “super mom stuff.”  Having the tidiest house, the happiest husband, the most well-behaved kids, and the best-smelling laundry.  How well does my daughter perform in school?  How many soccer goals did she make this season?  How well-organized are our closets?  How well do I accessorize my outfits and how recent was my last pedicure?

It’s not just the temper tantrum that overwhelms us, but the temper tantrum that happens at the grocery store that screams to everyone watching: “This mom has no idea what she is doing!”  It’s not just the unfolded laundry that has to be tumbled and dewrinkled for the fourth time, but it’s the neighbors’ kids whose clothes are always clean and neatly pressed.  We feel like giving up when we feel inadequate.  And we feel inadequate when we are always looking at everyone else to see if we measure up.

Want to lighten your load in a  hurry?  Three simple words of advice: Stop, Learn, and Prioritize.  

  1. Stop comparing yourself to other moms.  Stop comparing your kids to other kids.  Stop comparing your home, your vacations, your vehicles, your landscaping…refuse to define yourself and your success as a mom by anyone else’s standards.  When your child is behind in math or misbehaves in public or strikes out in a baseball game, relieve yourself of the pressure to make him fit into a mold that is unattainable.  Do yourself a favor and embrace the failures, the meltdowns, the disappointments as learning opportunities and refuse to fall into the trap of one-upmanship.
  2. Learn to say “No.”  If you feel like you have too much on your plate, it is probably because you do.  A mom who always runs at full-speed and feels like she never has enough time in the day will inevitably be overwhelmed.  We tend to over-commit, because we feel like saying “No” to something reveals weakness.  We fall into the habit of people-pleasing and maintaining the image of being able to juggle a million things at once.   It feels like saying “Yes” is good and saying “No” is bad, but really- isn’t it better to do a few things really well…than do twenty things and constantly be lagging behind and stressing out?  Saying “No,” even to things that are good, frees us up to say “Yes” to the things that are most important.  When I feel overwhelmed, it is often because I am neglecting the important for the urgent.  I may skip quality time with my kids so that I can deliver a meal to a friend or return phone calls.  Ask yourself, “What can I say “No” to so that I can start saying “Yes” to what I value most?”
  3. Prioritize your life.  Really think about that last question…What do you value most?  Spend some time alone,  pray,  and even write out your thoughts on this.  Don’t rush through discovering what really matters to you.  As the saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Who do you want to be?  What do you want your family to represent?  How do you want to be remembered?  Organize your life by these things and plan your days around them.  Plan for the important stuff.  Leave room for what fulfills you and brings you enjoyment and satisfaction.  Create margins in your schedule for the unexpected situations that tend to pop up, but do not live in auto-pilot mode of simply responding to things as they come.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone.  In fact, we all are, if we’re honest.  But you don’t have to stay there all the time.  There is no magic formula for de-stressing your life or taking the chaos out of your days.  But following these three simple steps is guaranteed to make your load feel lighter and your days more manageable.

 

4 habits to start with your Toddler if you want a Respectful Teen

By Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Sprague
In today’s culture, it is rare to find a confident teenager who has a marked level of maturity. One who 4 habits to start early if you want awill look you in the eye, offer a handshake upon an introduction, or carry an adult-level conversation with intelligence and charisma. It is pretty easy to find a teenager who is egocentric, sloppy, and as interesting to talk to as a tree stump.Have you ever met a teenager who impressed you? One who left you wishing you could meet his mom and beg her for parenting advice? Most parents have looked at their young children and tried to envision what they will be like when they grow up, especially into the teenage years. Maybe you are terrified because you have a strong-willed preschooler who will not listen to a word you say and you anticipate his defiance growing. Maybe you have friends or family members with disrespectful teens and you have just accepted that this too will be your fate.Many parents paint a picture that the teenage years are something to be dreaded, and that nothing you can do will prepare you for what lies ahead. They will tell you that no matter how you raise your kids, you will face a storm when your son or daughter turns 13 and it will not subside until they move out of your house. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The teenage years can be peaceful, rewarding, and even enjoyable for the parent who lays a proper foundation early in life.As a former counselor for troubled and at-risk teenagers, I met a lot of parents who had thrown their hands in the air and given up all hope, not knowing where they went wrong. They were up to their eyeballs with drug addictions, promiscuity, rebellion, and attitude. Every single one of these parents would go back to the toddler years and start over if given the opportunity.

I have also been privileged to know several “impressive teenagers”…. ones who have compelled me to seek out their parents in hopes of gleaning from their wisdom and experience. I have sat with mothers whose teenagers respect and admire them and asked, “How do I get my kids to end up this way? What did you do to make them love you so much, to seek to please you and earn your respect?”

Here are 4 Tips I have learned that you can begin applying now to prepare your child for a lifetime of healthy relationships.

  1. Outline Clear Expectations and Boundaries. One reason why so many kids get in trouble all the time is because they have not been clearly guided on what is expected of them. It is very important (even from the age of crawling/beginning to walk) that children know what is permissible and what is not. They say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, “An ounce of training is worth a pound of discipline.” Show them what to do and how you want them to do it. Reward them when they do it well and correct them- every time- when they do not meet your expectations.
  2. Teach them How to Serve. If there is one thing that makes a teen stand out in a crowd, it is having a servant’s heart. I want my children to not just do as they are told, but to look for opportunities to be helpful and to serve those around them. You can train them very young to look for needs and then to do what they can to help meet those needs. Teach them to seek out these opportunities instead of waiting to be asked to help. Opening doors at restaurants and letting others go before you in line at the grocery store are ways you can model this for very young children. As they grow into the preschool and school-aged years, allow them opportunities to be proactive themselves. Take them to the neighbor’s house to ask if they can pick up sticks in their yard or sweep off their sidewalk. Help them make a meal for someone who is ill. Learning to serve takes children (and future teenagers) off of the their own throne and teaches them to put others first. This is a key to respect!
  3. Respect Them. Yes, you read that right. You cannot expect your children to respect you if you do not show them the same courtesy. The “Because I said so” and “Because I am the parent and you are the child” will not be effective in raising respectful children. At a certain age (likely the teen or pre-teen years) they will begin to think logically and wonder why you expect something from them that you do not reciprocate or model yourself. They will be right for questioning this. As the parent, you must earn the respect of your children. It is not something that is given freely. Much like trust, it is difficult to earn and easy to lose, but the rewards of building it and keeping it are more than worth the effort! Be polite in how you discipline them. Do not manipulate them or give empty threats. Do not talk to them in a way that you would not talk to an adult. Being stern and firm are good and necessary, but yelling and criticizing and belittling them are not. This behavior will reproduce itself in how your children treat others, and you, in the years to come.
  4. Be Consistent!!! I cannot stress this point enough. You will be endlessly frustrated, and they will be endlessly frustrated, if you are fickle in any of the aforementioned strategies. You will gain no ground in raising respectful children if you are wishy- washy. In fact, I believe inconsistency in parenting is the #1 contributor to rebellion in later years. You must be confident in your boundaries, in your discipline, in your techniques, and in your own attitudes and behavior. If you make a rule, you must stick with it every time. If they cross a boundary, you must give them a consequence every time. If you tell them to do something and they do not obey you, you must discipline them every time. Demand first-time obedience. (Please, please, please…do not ever count to 3! Unless you only want them to obey you when you count? I certainly do not want to have to count for my children to listen to me.)

And here is one bonus pointer-
When you blow it, and you will…I do daily… Say you’re sorry. Teach them humility by acknowledging your fault, apologizing, and specifically asking for them to forgive you for what you did. This will not only teach them respect, but it will also win their hearts. When you are vulnerable with them, they will learn to be vulnerable with you.

You cannot make someone respect you any more than you can make someone love you. Your children will learn by your example how to treat others by how they are treated. Love and respect your children in a way that will cause them to reciprocate that love and respect to others!